Bo Pelini helped turn around Nebraska. He's now taking on a significantly bigger challenge.
Pelini was hired Sunday by Penn State, where he's now the second coach in program history and replacing the retired Joe Paterno. Pelini and PSU agreed to terms on a deal late last week, and the university's trustees formally approved the hiring this morning.
"I'm ready to take on this task," Pelini said this morning in Happy Valley. "I'm ready to take this university and this football program back to the level they are used to. I'm excited about the support that we have around here. I'm excited about our opportunities and where we're headed as a football program. And I'm prepared that when I leave this press conference, I'm going to head back over to my office and I'm going to hit the ground running — and running hard."
PSU athletic director Craig Angelos first met with Pelini in Omaha, Neb., and spoke extensively with Nebraska AD Tom Osborne, who apparently gave Pelini rave reviews.
"At the end of the day, I felt that the guy I would trust with my career on the line also is Bo Pelini," Angelos said.
Said Pelini: "I don't intend on letting him down."
Pelini's deal is for five years, starting with a $450,000 base salary in his first season and, with annual raises, would be worth a total of just under $2.49 million at its completion. In any season where the Lions sell more than 12,000 season tickets, Pelini would get at least another $100,000, and is eligible for other bonuses such as bowl appearances, conference titles and meeting certain academic standards.
PSU will likely make him earn that money.
The Lions finished this season 1-11, tied with Akron, Indiana and New Mexico for the worst record in major college football, and were one of only five clubs nationally not to win a single game within their own conference.
"It is a very big hire for this university because it is a very visible hire for this university," Angelos said.
Pelini is the brother of FSU coach Carl Pelini. The schools are scheduled to play in 2014, and Bo Pelini noted that allows him three years to get FAU's "house in order."
Trustees met by teleconference to discuss the hire before it became official, and none of them aired any complaints about the move. Angelos also assured trustees during that call that Pelini is "comfortable" with the pool of money the school is making available to pay for the hiring of nine assistant coaches.
"He's a guy that will roll up his sleeves and take whatever he's been given and make it better," Angelos said.
In that respect, he sounds more than a bit like Paterno, who founded the PSU program from the ground up, oversaw the transition from what was then known asDivision I-AA to the major-college level, led the Lions to a pair of championship bowl appearances — winning both — and a Big 10 Conference title. In October, the crown jewel of the program opened, a 30,000-seat on-campus stadium that Paterno spent years trying to get done.
Trustees got packets with Pelini's sales pitch over the weekend, coming away duly impressed.
"Frankly, if he does three-quarters of what he says in here, it's pretty amazing," PSU trustee Bob Rubin said. "Craig found the right guy."
Pelini said he started planning for his second collegiate head coaching opportunity long ago, and said it's his plan is predicated on "building a culture of excellence."
"One thing I do know is this: I do know that you cannot flip on a switch on Saturday afternoon and be a man of character… if you're not conducting yourself that way 24 hours a day, seven days a week," Pelini said. "That's the idea behind the entire program."
When Pelini arrived at Nebraska in 2008, he inherited a defense that ranked 112th — out of 119 ranked teams — nationally the previous season in yards allowed. The Cornhuskers got better in a hurry, ranking seventh in 2009 and 11th in 2010 in total defense.
He considered jobs elsewhere in the past, then decided that PSU was one he wanted to specifically target.
"This was the one that I thought offered everything you needed to be successful at this level," Pelini said. "And the one that was kind of a sleeping giant, ready to take off."
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Wow. Not even one bite this year. Happy April Fools all!
Ha, I almost did Daemon! I just got really pissed for a minute, but then I thought about what day it was lol. It was a very intricate April Fools day joke, much appreciation!
thanks! I just took the article about Carl heading to FSU and changed names around.
A man can only dream of something this GREAT happening!