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Saturday, November 29, 2003
Updated: November 30, 3:24 PM ET
Solich's six-year tenure ends

Associated Press

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 victory.

Change For The Better?
When the decision is made to change coaches, usually the reason behind it is painfully obvious (John Mackovic) or blatantly wrongheaded (Tommy Tuberville). But neither describes the decision by Nebraska athletic director Steve Pederson on Saturday night to fire Frank Solich.

After going 7-7 in 2002, Solich came under pressure to revamp his staff and he did so. The Huskers finished the regular season 9-3, a significant improvement. If my math is right, that's much better than 7-7. Pederson disagreed, and in a short meeting Saturday night, told Solich that after 25 seasons on the Nebraska staff, he was done.

Pederson may believe that the Huskers' inability to compete with Texas (31-7) and Kansas State (38-9) in the second half of the season indicate a drop in talent that Solich oversaw and can't rectify. But the athletic director's cure may be worse than the illness.

If Pederson decides to hire a Walt Harris from Pittsburgh, for instance, he will be asking a passing coach to take over an offense built for the run. If you want to see what can happen in that circumstance, go watch a couple of Notre Dame game tapes.

By firing Solich, Pederson must hope that he will accelerate Nebraska's ability to return to the place it held among the college football elite for more than three decades. But change doesn't promise improvement. It just promises change.

-- Ivan Maisel,
"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 happen."

Solich and Pederson could not be reached for comment. Nebraska spokesperson Chris Anderson would not comment Saturday night on the firing.

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.