Big shoes to fill
Nebraska, Solich hope to avoid rare four-loss season
Posted: Sunday December 27, 1998 02:10 PM
SAN DIEGO (AP) -- All season, first-year Nebraska coach Frank Solich has lived in the shadow of the Cornhuskers' extraordinary success and under the weight of the program's heavy expectations.
Why should his first bowl game be any different?
Although there's no national title at stake, the No. 14 Huskers (9-3) enter the Holiday Bowl against No. 5 Arizona (11-1) knowing a loss would give Solich a dubious distinction: Nebraska's first four-loss season in 30 years.
As quickly as it's pointed out, the players rush to defend Solich.
"He's been given a lot of undue criticism," said linebacker Jay Foreman. "He didn't go out and miss any tackles. He didn't drop any passes. I think he did pretty well. I feel he coached at a national level."
All season, Solich has labored to maintain a Nebraska tradition established by Hall of Fame coaches Tom Osborne and Bob Devaney.
Under Osborne from 1993-97, the Huskers were 60-3 and won two outright national titles. Nebraska became college football's team of the 1990s by playing in, and often winning, important games.
Four of the Huskers' last five bowl games have been for the national title. In all but two of Nebraska's last eight bowl games, the winner has emerged as national champion.
But there wouldn't be another in 1998. This year marks the first time since 1977 Nebraska has lost three regular-season games, but Solich said he's not looking for sympathy.
"I knew what I was getting into," Solich said. "I looked forward to it and I understood going in that no matter how well I did, there would be some people you just can't please."
Arizona coach Dick Tomey agrees. Tomey was an assistant at UCLA when Gene Bartow took over for John Wooden, who won 10 NCAA basketball championships.
"It was impossible," Tomey said. "Gene Bartow is a great coach. But of course John Wooden is the greatest coach in the history of college sports, not just basketball."
Likewise, Tomey said, it is not fair to judge Solich against Osborne's 255 victories in 25 seasons.
"The hardest jobs in sports are taking over a big-name guy," Tomey said. "Obviously, Tom's record was beyond belief. Really, when you sit and think about it, Frank has done a terrific job."
In fact, Solich joined Osborne and Devaney as the only Nebraska coaches to win nine games in their first season.
With a bowl victory, Solich can become the first Nebraska coach to win 10 games in his first year and the 15th in NCAA Division I-A history. That would place him among Barry Switzer and Chuck Fairbanks at Oklahoma; Rick Neuheisel at Colorado; and Pat Jones at Oklahoma State.
The important part, Solich said, is maintaining his perspective.
"Bob Devaney had a string of bowl losses there," Solich said. "Then there was that period where Tom couldn't beat Oklahoma. People sometimes tend to focus on that kind of thing instead of all the wins."
Copyright © 1999 CNN/SI. A Time Warner Company.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.