Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne rewarded football coach Bo Pelini with a raise and contract extension on Monday for his breakthrough 2009 season. The Cornhuskers finished 10-4 in ‘09 and came within an eyelash of winning the Big 12 championship and playing in a lucrative BCS bowl game.
More than anything else, though, Osborne rewarded Pelini for bringing stability back to Nebraska. And few men know consistency as much as Osborne, who led the Cornhuskers to 25 consecutive bowl games and won at least nine games in each of his 25 seasons on the sideline.
It's a smart move by Nebraska. Pelini has brought respectability back to one of college football's traditional powers in only two seasons. Osborne didn't get ahead of himself by locking up Pelini to a lifetime contract, either. As good as Nebraska's defense has been the past two seasons, the Huskers still have a long way to go on offense.
Whether Pelini and his staff can shore up their team's pedestrian offense will determine whether Nebraska can compete with more established Big 12 programs such as Texas and Oklahoma on an annual basis. While Nebraska's defense kept the Huskers in most of their games last season, its offense wasn't good enough to beat teams like Virginia Tech, Iowa State and Texas.
But Pelini certainly deserved the extension and raise he received on Monday. His contract was extended one year through the 2014 season, and his annual salary was bumped to $2.1 million. Pelini will be the fifth-highest paid coach in the Big 12 Conference next season, trailing Texas' Mack Brown ($5.1 million), Oklahoma's Bob Stoops ($4.3 million), Missouri's Gary Pinkel ($2.5 million) and Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy ($2.2 million).
Pelini also was given a retention bonus, which will pay him an additional $500,000 if he's still coaching at Nebraska on Jan. 31, 2015.
Overall, Nebraska increased the salaries of its football coaching staff by about 15 percent. Defensive coordinator Carl Pelini, the head coach's brother, had his annual salary increased from $208,360 to $375,000 per season. Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson will make $380,000 annually, a raise of $5,000 per season.
"They did a very good job this year and, of course, the financial viability of the athletic department depends heavily on football," Osborne told the Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald. "So we try to make sure that they are rewarded accordingly."
Carl Pelini was targeted by new Tennessee coach Derek Dooley earlier this month. Pelini directed a Nebraska defense that led the country in pass-efficiency defense (87.3 rating) and scoring defense (10.4 points per game). The Cornhuskers also ranked seventh among FBS teams in total defense (272 yards per game) and ninth in run defense (93.1 yards per game).
Osborne told the Omaha World-Herald that Tennessee's flirtation with Carl Pelini was taken into consideration. The Volunteers hired former Boise State defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, who reportedly received a three-year contract that will pay him $650,000 annually.
Osborne said Carl Pelini's coaching performance was more of a factor in him receiving such a substantial pay increase.
"We did reward some people who were given opportunities to go elsewhere," Osborne told the World-Herald. "It wasn't that Carl came and said, 'If you don't do this, I'm leaving.' He might have stayed for a lower salary, but I know Bo wants to give him more responsibility and our defense played very, very well last year.'"