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Nebraska’s disaster at Purdue shows how far program has fallen

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The Nebraska Cornhuskers, like the Miami Hurricanes, have won 5 national titles. Both programs are not what they used to be.

Miami is currently known nationally for the wrong reasons following last week’s 58-0 embarrassment against Clemson. On Saturday, Nebraska has some soul searching to do following a humiliating 55-45 defeat at Purdue against a struggling Boilermaker team.

One of Miami’s bright spots this season, at least it was at the time, was their 36-33 overtime victory over the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Sun Life Stadium. The game was fun, but paled in comparison to their titanic matchup following the 1983 season.

Miami climbed to Nebraska’s level by defeating a heavily-favored Cornhusker team that night giving the Hurricanes’ their first championship. Nebraska would win three more titles after that near-miss, all under legendary coach Tom Osborne. The last one came in 1997.

Nebraska has sought to restore the magic created by Bob Devaney and Osborne since the latter retired following that final championship. These two men led the Cornhusker program for 35 years. They are now on their fourth coach in 19 seasons.

To illustrate the standard at Nebraska, Frank Solich followed Osborne as head coach and won 75 percent of his games, only to be fired following the 2003 season. Bill Callahan suffered through the unthinkable of two losing seasons. Bo Pellini lost four games during every one of his 7 winning seasons.

Nebraska football represents the entire lives of some of their backers. They live for it. Some travel to every road game.

Things have become far more dire in Miami, but Saturday’s debacle at Purdue has first-year Coach Mike Riley hoping Nebraska has hit bottom. Like Miami, there is nowhere to go but up.

Despite their struggles, the Boilermakers handed Nebraska their biggest loss of the season, sending them to 3-6. The Cornhuskers’ other 5 losses were by a combined 13 points.

This is the kind of loss that costs coaches their job if they are not in the first year of their contract. Nebraska is almost certain to have a losing season.

If another one follows next season, Riley’s stay in Lincoln could be short lived. Some fans do not wish to wait, taking to Twitter calling for his ouster after only 9 games. Rodney Dangerfield thought he was performing before a tough crowd?

On the bright side, Nebraska plays in the Big 10’s Western Division, the one that does not have Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Michigan State. It is way too early for the firing nonsense and may be the perfect time to use the story of the fired football coach giving advice to his incoming successor.

“In my desk are two envelopes,” he told the new coach. “When you reach your first crisis, open the first one.”

After fans began to call for the coach’s head following a devastating loss, like losing to Purdue, the new coach went to his desk drawer.

Inside the first envelope was a two word note that read: “Blame me.” The new coach took that advice.

The next season, after another devastating loss, like losing to Clemson 58-0, the fans were again calling for his head. The coach then opened the second envelope. Inside was a three-word message that said: “Prepare 2 envelopes.”

Riley is now opening the first envelope.

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at

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