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Huskers' Pelini says he's 'not coaching to save job'

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) Bo Pelini is content to let his record speak for itself.
/ Source: NBC Sports

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) Bo Pelini is content to let his record speak for itself.

Given an opportunity Monday to lay out why first-year athletic director Shawn Eichorst should retain him as Nebraska's head football coach, Pelini wouldn't go there.

The Cornhuskers (8-3, 5-2 Big Ten) are playing for a sixth straight season of at least nine wins when they host Iowa (7-4, 4-3) Friday. Pelini has a 57-23 record at Nebraska, but his prospects for a seventh season in Lincoln have been hotly debated by fans and media after a run of embarrassing losses the last couple seasons and a conference-title drought that stands at 14 years.

Eichorst, who oversees a program that has won five national championships and is one of eight with 800 all-time victories, has held to his policy of not commenting on Pelini until after the season. Pelini will be paid almost $3 million this year and is under contract through 2016.

Asked if he deserves more time, Pelini said that's for "other people" to decide.

"I don't concern myself with that," he said at his weekly news conference. "I'm not coaching to save my job or anything else. At the end of the day, I want to be here, and I want to be here if they want me to be here. If they don't, I'll go on my way. Until that day happens, I'll do everything in my power to make this the best football team I can."

Pelini later said, "I like the direction of this program. I like where we are. I think the future is bright."

Speculation about Pelini grew so intense after the Nov. 16 loss to Michigan State that he held a meeting with players to dispel a rumor that he had turned in his resignation. The rumor originated and spread on social media, and a couple players asked Pelini to address it.

"He said he's not going to quit on us, not going to leave us," linebacker Michael Rose said.

Pelini said the rumor was "the craziest thing I've seen" and that the person who started it "ought to be ashamed of himself."

The Huskers have been hamstrung by injuries on offense and youth on defense.

No excuse, Pelini said.

"I expect to win them all," he said. "Our goal will remain, as long as I'm head football coach, to win the national title. I'm not looking for reasons why. I think we've overcome a lot, and I'm proud of this group. It's not for lack of effort, lack of toughness. Am I happy with being 8-3? I'd be lying if I said I was."

Nebraska went 10-4 in 2009 and 2010 and made it to the Big 12 championship game both seasons, losing 13-12 to Texas and 23-20 to Oklahoma. The Huskers entered the Big Ten in 2011 and suffered humbling losses to Wisconsin, Northwestern and Michigan in the regular season and to South Carolina in the bowl.

The Huskers rebounded from a 63-38 loss at Ohio State last year to win six in a row and reach the Big Ten title game. But a 70-31 loss to Wisconsin, followed by a 14-point bowl loss to Georgia, cranked up the heat on Pelini.

This season the Huskers lost 41-21 to UCLA after squandering a 21-3 second-quarter lead. It was the biggest blown lead by the Huskers in Lincoln since 1920. A road loss to Minnesota and a five-turnover afternoon in the loss to Michigan State followed.

Even some of the wins haven't satisfied the fan base. The Huskers needed a Hail Mary at home to beat a Northwestern team that's still winless in Big Ten play, a late touchdown to beat struggling Michigan and an overtime field goal to defeat scholarship-depleted Penn State.

It didn't help Pelini, long known for his hot temper, when an audio of him using profanity in a rant against fans was leaked to the sports website in September.

Co-captain Spencer Long said Pelini can be assured that he has the support of the players.

"He's done so much for this program, not only for wins and losses or the team but as an individual and a man and developing boys to men," Long said. "A lot of that goes unseen. I just wish people knew all the stuff he really does for our team and our players and how he has our backs. He means a lot to this program."