OMAHA, Neb. -- Nebraska football coach Frank Solich was
fired Saturday night after winning more than 75 percent of his
games over six seasons but failing to keep the Cornhuskers as the
national powerhouse they were under Tom Osborne.
The official announcement came on Sunday.
"I commend Frank Solich for his long history of service to this university and the football program," athletic director Steve Pederson said in a prepared statement. "He is a man of integrity and he has served the program well in many ways. However, I have asked Frank to step down as head football coach. It is my belief that our program needs different leadership to carry us into the future."
"All I know is we did the best we could. We mustered up nine
wins. To a man, we can hold our heads high," offensive coordinator
Barney Cotton told the Associated Press Saturday night.
Cotton said he had a bad feeling about the situation on the
flight home from Colorado on Friday night after Nebraska's 31-22
"I was happy with the win and proud of how the kids played, but
I didn't know if that win was enough to resolve the situation," he
said. "Steve's decision must have already been made."
Solich's son-in-law, Jon Dalton, said Solich is disappointed.
"I don't know the reason behind it," Dalton said. "Get Steve
to tell you. This is a sad day for the state of Nebraska."
Split end Ross Pilkington, was stunned.
"I'm so filled with emotion," Pilkington said. "It almost
feels like losing my father. After winning nine games, this doesn't
Solich and Pederson could not be reached for comment. Nebraska
spokesperson Chris Anderson would not comment Saturday night on the
Solich had just finished a 9-3 regular season with Friday's
31-22 victory at Colorado. He was 58-19 in six seasons.
Pinnacle Sports Network, the rights holder for Nebraska radio
broadcasts, reported that first-year defensive coordinator Bo
Pelini would be the interim head coach.
The current group of assistants will coach the in Nebraska's
upcoming bowl game. It was unknown whether any of the assistants
will be retained after the bowl.
"Frank just said it was over, and that Steve (Pederson) would
be contacting us," Cotton told the Lincoln Journal Star.
It will cost the university at least $1.8 million to buy out
Solich's contract, which was to run through June 2006. He was paid
an annual base salary of $321,260, with another $518,000 in
guaranteed supplemental compensation.
Solich took over after Osborne retired after the 1997 season.
The Cornhuskers won at least a share of the national title in three
of Osborne's final four seasons.
Solich was 42-9 in his first four seasons. He was Big 12 coach
of the year in 1999 and 2001, won the '99 conference title and his
team played for the national championship after the '01 season.
But Solich's success was downplayed because critics said he won
with players recruited by Osborne.
The Cornhuskers went 7-7 in 2002 -- the team's worst season since
1961 -- and struggled against quality opponents this season.
Their three losses all were by more than 17 points, capped by a
38-9 loss to Kansas State -- Nebraska's worst at home since 1958 --
in the final home game of the season.
Solich's record for his six seasons was 58-19.
The last Nebraska head football coach to be fired was Bill
Jennings, who was removed and replaced by Bob Devaney in 1962.
Solich played fullback for Nebraska from 1963-65. He was
assistant to Osborne for 19 years beginning in 1979.