LINCOLN, Neb. - As reporters questioned Nebraska defensive coordinator Bo Pelini about his ideas for the Cornhusker football program, Pelini stopped three times to remind them that his title is interim head coach.
But the former Green Bay Packer assistant made it clear Sunday that it's his hope that he gets the job on a permanent basis.
"I've said over and over that I know I'm ready to be a head coach," said Pelini, who turns 36 on Dec. 13.
Pelini was tapped by athletic director Steve Pederson to lead the Huskers through the still-to-be-determined bowl game.
Pederson said assistant head coach Turner Gill also has expressed interest in succeeding the fired Frank Solich as head coach.
A national search is under way, with the hope that a new head coach is named quickly, Pederson said.
Pederson bypassed the chain of command in naming Pelini interim head coach. Solich had promoted Gill from quarterbacks coach to assistant head coach in January.
Pederson praised Gill for his contributions and said that Gill would be given consideration for the permanent job. But Pederson said he liked the energy and enthusiasm Pelini has brought to the program this year.
"I don't want anyone to read anything into this," Pederson said. "I've made no commitments to Bo, he's made no commitment to me."
Pelini and Pederson have known each other since Pelini played safety for Ohio State from 1987 to '90. At the time, Pederson was recruiting coordinator at Ohio State.
"He was a smart, aggressive, decisive player, and I feel like right now, in this unusual situation, that Bo will do an excellent job of handling this program," Pederson said.
Asked what he would bring to the job if he were named Solich's replacement, Pelini said: "I'm gonna win. We're gonna win. We're going to be about excellence. I believe this team will play exactly the way our defense has played this year, and that's with a lot of passion."
Pederson said he has a list of candidates in mind for the job but that it would be an open search.
He said the new coach will be able to retain or fire any or all of the assistants currently on staff.
"There are no guarantees for anybody, and everybody knows that," Pederson said.
Pelini joined the Huskers' staff Dec. 23 after spending nine years as an NFL assistant, most recently with the Green Bay Packers.
Pelini's defense ranked first nationally early in the season and now is 14th.
Pelini said he appreciated the opportunity Solich gave him. As interim head coach, Pelini said his goal would to give the players a good experience at the bowl game.
"They have shed a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get to 9-3 at this point in the season," he said, "and they deserve a tremendous finale to this season."