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Published Tuesday, November 21, 2000

NU's Solich dealing with disappointment


Last modified at 6:41 a.m. on Tuesday, November 21, 2000
  

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  By Terry Douglass
The Independent

When your team begins the season ranked No. 1, finishing anywhere else classifies as a disappointment.

No one knows that more than Cornhuskers head coach Frank Solich. His team began the year atop both major polls and was firmly in control of its own destiny in the race for college football's national championship. Two losses later, Solich is left trying to convince a number of NU fans that the 2000 campaign isn't a wash.

"Certainly there are those fans that, as far as they're concerned, anything short of a national championship is not getting it done," Solich said Monday during the Big 12 Conference coaches' call. "But there are also many Nebraska fans that understand the conference that we're in and understand the parity that exists in college football in this day and age.

"You can do an excellent job throughout the course of a season and still not win a national championship. It takes so many things for it all to fall in place to win it all. It takes a great team and it takes a bounce or two along the way."

However, a long winning tradition and a run of three national titles in the span of four years from 1994-97 has apparently left some Nebraska fans with the impression that the only good season is a national championship season.

"At a major program you're always going to be faced with that," Solich said. "As you look around the country and all the major programs, only one of them is going to end up winning that national championship and there will be a lot of people disappointed and that's the way it is.

"You do your very best to make sure your team is ready to play week after week and see how it all plays out."

Solich has received plenty of criticism in his 3-year head coaching career since taking over for Tom Osborne. Most of the negative comments have dealt with play selection and Solich's insistence on doubling as Nebraska's offensive coordinator -- just as Osborne did.

The criticism that started in 1998 when the Huskers posted a 9-4 record -- the program's worst 30 years -- died down some after last year's 11-1 mark that included a Big 12 championship and a victory over Tennessee in the Fiesta Bowl. However, since Nebraska has lost to Oklahoma and Kansas State to fall out of the national championship hunt, some members of the news media and some fans have started making anti-Solich noise once again.

Solich said that his standing in the public's opinion isn't his biggest concern.

"The thing that you cannot do is sit back and spend time worrying about what the fans are thinking, especially those fans who think if you don't win a national championship that the season is down the drain," Solich said. "You can't waste your time giving that a lot of thought. You just need to do the best you can week in and week out and see where it all falls."

Solich maintains that the 2000 season can still be considered a good one if the Huskers win their next two games. The quest for a 10-2 record starts Friday when Nos. 8- and 9-ranked Nebraska (8-2, 5-2 Big 12) hosts Colorado (3-7, 3-4) at Lincoln's Memorial Stadium. ABC will televise the 11 a.m. contest nationally.

"When we look back on it, we'll understand that we may have not played well enough to win them all, but that we had a good football team and we finished this thing off right," Solich said. "I think that's what our team will be all about.

"It's just a matter now of trying to make yourself feel good about your season and doing the very best you can to play well in the final games."



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