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Let the speculation begin: Could Bohl return to Nebraska?

by Mike McFeely

The Nebraska Cornhuskers of Bo Pelini created a storm-the-field moment for the University of Minnesota football fans Saturday by losing 34-23 to the Gophers in Minneapolis. This means unless Pelini can turn things around sharply and quickly in the remainder of the college football season, the once-proud but increasingly irrelevant Nebraska program will be looking for a new head coach for 2014.

 Bo Pelini is under fire at Nebraska.

Yes, the Gophers appear to have stabilized the past couple of weeks under Jerry Kill/Tracy Claeys, but they are still the Gophers. And losing to the Gophers -- especially for the first time since 1960 and especially if you are already as embattled as Pelini -- can be a job-killer.

So let the speculation begin.

Who would replace Pelini in Lincoln?

Being as I'm a talk-show host in Fargo and the station for which I work is the flagship of North Dakota State athletics, you knew where I was going, didn't you?

Could it be Bison coach Craig Bohl?

For what it is worth, one blogger who writes about Nebraska football is throwing Bohl's name into the mix. Patrick Runge of Bleacher Report (www.bleacherreport.com) lists Bohl as one of five possible candidates to replace Pelini, should the Huskers need a new coach next year.

You can read Runge's entire speculation/opinion piece by clicking here: Nebraska Football: 5 Coaches Who Could Replace Bo Pelini .

Runge makes the case for Bohl thusly:

In 2002, the thought of Bohl as Nebraska's head coach would have been laughable. As Nebraska's defensive coordinator, Bohl was run out of Lincoln after receiving much of the blame for NU’s disastrous 7-6 season in 2002.

Of course, after seeing Kevin Cosgrove’s 2007 Blackshirts and the defensive performances of the last two years, the definition of “disastrous” in the minds of Nebraska fans has been somewhat altered.

Bohl took over at North Dakota State and has built the Bison into a national powerhouse at the FCS level. The Bison have won two straight national titles and look to claim a three-peat on the back of a strong defense (No. 1 nationally in the FCS, according to ncaa.com) and a powerful rushing attack (No. 16 nationally).

Sound familiar?

Bohl’s age (55) could be a concern, of course. But given his strong Nebraska ties and his experience as a head coach in Fargo, Bohl would be a strong candidate as a safe pair of hands to stabilize the Nebraska ship right away. Don’t forget, Jim Tressel came right from FCS Youngstown State to turn Ohio State into a national power. 

There is no doubt speculation about whether or not Bohl will leave NDSU for a bigger job will be rampant over the next several months. I have already made the case he would make a fine next head coach for the aforementioned Gophers, and many in the Twin Cities feel the same way. But that speculation -- and I clearly labeled it as that -- was based on Kill being unable to coach Minnesota because of his epilepsy. That appears to no longer be a concern with the set-up Kill and Claeys have. And, if Kill and the Gophers decide the coach can no longer continue, Claeys has made himself the front-runner as Kill's surrogate. Given the team's success with Claeys on the sideline, it would be nearly impossible for Minnesota's administration to pick anybody else.

 Would Nebraska consider native son and former Husker Craig Bohl?

I've never believed Nebraska was a realistic spot for Bohl to land. I base this on a couple of reasons:

1) Bohl's exit from Nebraska was particularly nasty following the 2002 season as defensive coordinator under Frank Solich. People in Lincoln say critical fans ripped Bohl professionally and personally. Bohl has never said much about his time in Lincoln, preferring to leave the past in the past. As recently as last month, Bohl told an Omaha columnist: “I'd rather not talk about Nebraska or my days at Nebraska. Hope you understand.” 

That, to me, doesn't seem like somebody who is trying to make amends with the people at UN.

2) I don't believe the high-rollers at Nebraska would be willing to hire a coach from Division I-AA, no matter how successful that coach has been. Cornhusker boosters, fans, administration, etc., view their program as one of the top dogs, one of the premier coaching jobs in college football. It might not be what it once was, but Nebraska is still Nebraska and I don't know if hiring a I-AA coach from Fargo is what the big boys want when it comes to resurrecting their program. Plus, there just isn't a long track record of success when it comes to I-A programs hiring I-AA coaches. Tressel and Ohio State are the exception ... and there were issues in which the NCAA was interested at Youngstown State and Ohio State when Tressel was coaching in those locales.

Of course, my viewpoints might be rendered completely moot if the one person who could help anoint Bohl the next head coach of the Huskers decided to do that. Could Tom Osborne, the legend and Bohl's mentor, still have that power?

Again, this is all pure speculation and opinion and nothing more. Nebraska isn't going to talk, Bohl isn't going to talk and so that is what we are left with.

(Mike McFeely is a talk-show host on KFGO-AM in Fargo, N.D. He can be reached at mike.mcfeely@mwcradio.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMcFeelyKFGO.)