Nebraska AD Steve Pederson Fired Two Days After Loss To Oklahoma State

Pederson has been heavily criticized after a series of one-sided losses this season

Oct. 15, 2007

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska athletic director Steve Pederson was fired Monday, two days after the school's once-mighty football team was rocked with its worst home loss in nearly a half-century.

Pederson, along with coach Bill Callahan, has been heavily criticized after a series of one-sided losses this season. The most recent was a 45-14 loss to Oklahoma State on Saturday with former Cornhuskers coach Tom Osborne and his 1997 national title team in attendance.

Over the past two weeks, the Huskers (4-3) have lost by a combined margin of 86-20, dropping a 41-6 decision at Missouri two weeks ago.

"We are, of course, disappointed about the progress in our football program," Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman said in a news release. "Steve has done many positive things for Husker athletics during his tenure, but I think only new leadership can objectively assess the state of our program and make the decisions necessary to move us forward."

At the end of the July, Pederson's contract was renewed for five years, but this season has been a nightmare for the most part. Even in victory - a 41-40 nail-biter against Ball State - the Huskers' defense was far from the force it used to be.

For the first time in its 118-year history, the Cornhuskers have allowed at least 40 points four times in a season.

"You make the best decision you can with the information you have," Perlman said.

Perlman also said that since July he's noticed a decline in morale and growing concern about keeping key personnel in the athletic department. Paul Meyers, a key fundraiser, was among several people who departed.

A search for an interim athletic director has begun, with the next step to find a permanent replacement.

"It is not clear how long such a process will take or its precise form," Perlman said. "It is important it be done expeditiously but thoughtfully."



There was no immediate word on the status of Callahan, who signed a five-year contract last month. He said less than two hours before Pederson's firing that they talked almost daily about the program.

"We've come under a steady stream of criticism," Callahan said. "It's important you stand tall. You'll be the direct target of critics. I understand that. You're in the public eye and in a high position in order to lead. We're going to continue to lead in a very positive manner."

In four seasons under Callahan, the Huskers are 26-18 overall, 14-14 against the Big 12, 3-8 against teams in the Top 25 and 0-6 against the top 10. They have given up 40 points or more nine times.

Pederson has been a polarizing figure in Nebraska, widely criticized for firing Solich and then for conducting a protracted one-man search for a new coach.

Pederson may have been his own worst enemy, setting the bar high for Callahan and raising fans' expectations.

"I refuse to let the program gravitate into mediocrity," Pederson said the day he announced Solich's firing. "We won't surrender the Big 12 to Oklahoma and Texas."

The Huskers went 5-6 in Callahan's first season but improved to 8-4 in 2005. They were 9-5 last year, winning the Big 12 North and losing to Oklahoma in the conference title game. They then lost to Auburn in the Cotton Bowl.