WASHINGTON, Jan. 9 (UPI) -- The University of Nebraska appears to be getting a wake-up call on the college football front.
When the school that fired Frank Solich after a 9-3 season finally hires his successor, its choice will be a far cry from the one it wanted.
Athletic Director Steve Peterson, who made a bold statement when he said the day Solich was fired that the program would not tolerate mediocrity, now has been rejected three times in his efforts to fill the post. The three rejections came from the offensive coordinator Al Saunders of the Kansas City Chiefs; Houston Nutt, who decided to retain a similar post at Arkansas; and Mike Zimmer, the defensive coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys.
Reports have indicated that the school also has contacted head coach Dave Wannstedt of the Miami Dolphins and offensive coordinator Brad Childress of the Philadelphia Eagles and, after the latest rejection, plans to interview two Nebraska assistant coaches, Turner Gill, a former quarterback at the school, and defensive coordinator Bo Pelini, the interim coach who guided the Cornhuskers to a 9-3 victory over Michigan State at the Alamo Bowl on Dec. 29, and recently fired Oakland Raiders coach Bill Callahan also is in the picture.
Money appears to be no factor for the school. The Lincoln Star-Journal reported that Solich had a financial package totaling approximately $1.4 million annually, and Nutt rejected an offer of about $2 million a year.
One thing clearly not in its favor is the dismissal of Solich after a nine-win season. Solich had an overall record at Lincoln of 58-19, meaning his teams won an average of three of every four games, and most people who support Nebraska football didn't think that was good enough.
Reports are that a number of interested parties have decided against being candidates for just that reason. It didn't help that ESPN analyst Trev Alberts, a former All-America linebacker at the school, suggested on national television recently that Nebraskans feel it is their God-given right to expect to compete for the national championship every year.
One coach sworn to secrecy told United Press International that mentality is a major factor in the school's inability to hire a big name.
"What chance do you have to succeed facing that kind of pressure?" the coach asked. "It's the same way with basketball at UCLA."
Add to that is the longing for the days of Tom Osborne, who is the school's most revered coach. He left after winning the 1997 national title and later was elected to Congress.
At Los Angeles, since the retirement of John Wooden, who won 10 national titles in college basketball in 12 years in the '60s and '70s, the Bruins haven't come close to winning it all again even though the school has had coaches with solid winning records but have been trying to do their jobs in the shadow of Wooden and are constantly criticized by fans and boosters who refuse not to believe that UCLA is supposed to win it all every year.
"You don't make a change like this if you don't believe that you can bring in a great person that can impact the university dramatically," Pederson said. "That's what we're doing."
That indeed may be the case, but time is running out on being able to hire the proven, "big-name" candidate Pederson has been trying to get, which may suggest that whoever is hired will be under a bigger cloud than is fair.