Pelini’s fiery attitude a hot topic

BY DANNY PAYNE | AUGUST 04, 2014 5:00 AM

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Kirk Ferentz was across the field when things began to blow up. As Iowa’s 38-17 Black Friday whipping of Nebraska last season progressed, emotions rose on both sidelines as well as on the field.

Both Ferentz and Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini were passionate and animated, but only the latter caught heat following the game. Perhaps it was because of the way each team played, or because of Pelini’s negative remarks about Nebraska fans that year, or because Pelini carries himself in a more-colorful manner than his Hawkeye counterpart.

“I don’t understand all that [attention], but I get it, too,” Ferentz said. “That’s the world we live in … I’ve caught a lot of grief on my end, ‘That guy, jeez he doesn’t show emotion, is he even awake during the game?’ ”

A negative light was shone on Pelini toward the end of the 2013 college football season and after it, but once spring football rolled around, a more light-hearted Pelini was on display. Fans saw tweets exchanged with a parody account. The seven-year head coach carried a cat out of the tunnel during the Cornhusker’s spring game.

The new-attitude Pelini was on full display last week at Big Ten media days in Chicago. Pelini said people’s conception of him is skewed and incorrect.

“When somebody sees me out there on the sideline or in competition and sees me going Veronica on a referee, and you don’t want that to happen, but you’re going out there, getting upset, they think that’s who you are all the time,” Pelini said. “That isn’t who I am all the time.”

According to his players, Pelini is quite the opposite, actually. Running back Ameer Abdullah and wide receiver Kenny Bell had nothing but good things to say about their coach.

They spoke as if Pelini were more a friend than coach. In any sport, referring to a coach with the word “coach” in front of that person’s last name is common. This wasn’t the case with Pelini.

Bell referred to him numerous times as simply “Bo.” It wasn’t a sign of any disrespect but rather one showcasing their close bond.

“There’s not a more influential person in my life than the head man,” Bell said. “… He’s just as influential as any father has ever been to me. You talk about a guy that’ll do anything for you.

“I could call Bo Pelini at 3 o’clock in the morning just because I’m in trouble and he’d be there in a heartbeat. There’s no question; I’ve done it before.”

Of course, it remains to be seen how this side of Pelini will be received once the season gets going. It’s too early to tell if this situation will be a positive or a negative, but it’s certain that the

Cornhusker coach is actively trying to shed light on the idea that he isn’t over-the-top on the sidelines.

“The cameras have been on him just when he’s angry,” Bell said. “Anytime you show a person in his most competitive, upset moments, it’s going to look bad to the public.”

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