Nebraska fires coach Bo Pelini

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Bo Pelini was fired on Sunday, ending the seven-year run of the polarizing figure as Nebraska's football coach.

"We weren't good enough in the games that mattered," athletic director Shawn Eichorst said in his meeting with the media that lasted nearly 35 minutes. "I didn't see that changing at the end of the day."

Eichorst said he will not use a search firm to assist him in finding the next coach.

"This isn't a day of celebration for me," he said. "We've got a lot of good, young people in our program who are hurting."

Eichorst said he would not comment during the search on the people involved or the process. He declined to say if he would value Nebraska ties or head-coaching experience in a candidate.

"I've seen people spend a lot of money and not do a lot of winning," he said. "We're going to get it right."

Money will not be an issue, he said.

"Nebraska has everything it needs to be successful at the highest level."

Nebraska assistant Barney Cotton will serve as interim coach in the Huskers' bowl games. Other assistants have also been asked to stay under Cotton.

Eichorst met with Pelini for 20 minutes in the athletic director's office on Saturday morning. Eichorst described the talk as professional and cordial.

"I think we gave coach, ample resources and ample support," Eichorst said. "We didn't meet expectations, both on and off the field."

He said he did not come close to firing Pelini last year after a similar season, though the athletic director said that decision would been the "easy road."

"Sometimes, I don't take the easy road, and that's OK."

Asked for comment, Pelini wrote in a text to The Associated Press, "I'm good. Thanks for asking!''

Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman said he supported the decision and wished Pelini well.

"I am confident that Shawn will find the best coach, teacher and fit for this University and for our football program," he said.

Pelini is owed $7.65 million by Nebraska on his contract, extended after last season through February 2019. Nebraska's assistants are under contract through January 2016.

The former defensive coordinator at LSU and Oklahoma, Pelini, in his first head-coaching job, produced notable consistency but little evidence that Nebraska was set to take the next step as a program. It lost 59-24 at Wisconsin on Nov. 15, surrendering a then-FBS record 408 rushing yards to Melvin Gordon in the latest embarrassing defeat for the program.

Nebraska has lost 10 games by 20 points or more since 2008, Pelini's first season, and allowed 45 points or more in six games since the Huskers joined the Big Ten in 2011.

Pelini improved to 67-27 as Nebraska's coach on Friday with a 37-34 overtime win at Iowa. The victory pushed Pelini's win total past Tom Osborne for the most ever at the school in a coach's first seven years.

In fact, no coach in the history of a Power 5 program had been fired for on-field performance after winning as many games in his first seven years. Only Alabama and Oregon -- first and second this week in the College Football Playoff rankings -- can match the Huskers in winning nine games each year since 2008.

Nebraska trailed on Friday by 17 points with two minutes left in the third quarter.

"I knew our kids would keep fighting," Pelini said Friday.

The Huskers scored three touchdowns in less than five minutes of clock time to take the lead, then fell behind in the final two minutes and tied it on a field goal with eight seconds left.

Quarterback Tommy Armstrong did not support the decision to fire Pelini, taking to Twitter on Sunday to voice his disagreement.

Hours after Pelini's firing, running back prospect Kendall Bussey (New Orleans/Isidore Newman), offensive lineman Mirko Jurkovic and Louisiana wide receiver Stanley Morgan all decommitted from Nebraska.

The Cornhuskers are still an option for Bussey, but he wanted to give himself alternative recruiting choices as the program searches for a new coach.

Nebraska now faces an uncertain future, searching for its fourth coach since the 1997 retirement of Osborne.