Regent candidate has history of weighing in on Husker coaches

By Deena Winter | Nebraska Watchdog

LINCOLN, Neb. – The campaign for a seat on the University of Nebraska Board of Regents has become a he said-he said over whether the challenger ran out of frustration with Husker football coach Bo Pelini. But Steve Glenn was publicly critical of Pelini long before it became a campaign issue.

BIG RED: Steve Glenn, a former Husker football player, has been accused of running for the University of Nebraska Board of Regents because last year he wanted head football coach Bo Pelini fired.

The incumbent, Rob Schafer, says Glenn called him last year and demanded he get Pelini fired and threatened to run for his job if he didn’t. Glenn denies that, saying he just asked whether Pelini would be disciplined.

But Glenn was publicly critical of Pelini last year, and he organized a meeting of former players to talk about the direction of the football program.

Nebraska Watchdog obtained a Nov. 29 email Glenn sent to 100 former Husker players inviting them to a private meeting “to discuss the current state and direction of the football program.”

His email said it was “meant as a private meeting of former players without anyone from the university, the athletic department or coaching staff involved. It is designed for open and direct dialog (sic) between former players.”

He asked players to keep the meeting quiet, saying, “We do not want the press involved.”

Schafer has accused Glenn of angrily demanding he fire Pelini after an audiotape surfaced of Pelini cussing out Husker fans in September 2013. Schafer says he explained that regents don’t have the authority to hire and fire coaches, so Glenn threatened to run against him. Schafer has since made this a campaign issue in mailings and advertisements.

Glenn, an offensive lineman in the 1970s and former president of the Nebraska letterman’s club, has denied Schafer’s allegations, calling them silly, desperate attacks. Both are Republicans, and Glenn won the primary.

He has acknowledged calling Schafer after the November Iowa game in which Pelini swung his cap at a referee, but says he was just a constituent asking whether Pelini would be disciplined.

But some reporters have asked Glenn whether he “wants” Pelini fired, not whether he “wanted” him fired last year. On KFOR Radio on Monday, for example, Glenn was asked point-blank if he wants Pelini fired. He said that was silly, because the Huskers will probably win the Big 10 and Pelini “will probably be Big 10 coach of the year.”

“For someone to make that allegation, a charge against me, I hope the electorate will see through that and say this sounds like a desperation Hail Mary,” he said.

Schafer told KFOR that, naturally, Glenn now says he doesn’t want Pelini fired, since the team is 7-1.

But the email he sent former players a year ago indicated he was worried about the program.

After Nebraska Watchdog emailed the same players about the meeting, Glenn heard about it and offered up a statement by Jim McFarland, a Nebraska Football Hall of Famer, former professional football player and former state senator.

McFarland said about 10 former players met in December “to express our primary concerns about improving the relationship between former Nebraska players and the athletic department.”

KRENK: Former Husker and Chicago Bear Mitch Krenk said he was invited to a meeting Glenn convened in December but didn’t go because he doesn’t think former players should meddle.

Former quarterback Tommie Frazier and Pelini traded barbs after the UCLA loss. McFarland said the players expressed “many concerns” at the meeting, but there was no talk of firing the coach.

Afterward, McFarland and Tom Ruud, acting as the group’s spokesmen, met with Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst and talked about creating a former player advisory group to discuss concerns. But after the Huskers won the bowl game against Georgia, player relations improved and they didn’t pursue it further, he said.

“Having served in elective office myself, these allegations appear to be just a desperate attempt to try to discredit Steve Glenn by a candidate who lost the primary vote and is apparently behind in the current polls,” McFarland said.

Tony Felicia of Millard, who played for the Huskers from 1978 to 1982, didn’t go to the December meeting but did attend an earlier meeting in which, he said, Glenn wanted to oust former coach Bill Callahan.

Glenn helped form a group of players who encouraged the football program to hold onto traditions.

Glenn thinks former players should have a say in the football program and tried to rally players to join him, said Felicia, who was invited to the meeting last year but didn’t go.

“I didn’t want to be part of it,” Felicia said. “He got me once.”

He thinks it’s telling that former Coach Tom Osborne hasn’t endorsed Glenn, because he “rarely turns down” his players.

Mitch Krenk of Nebraska City also played for Osborne the same time as Felicia and went on to play for the Chicago Bears. He had a run-in with Glenn after he became N Club president under Athletic Director Steve Pederson.

“Let’s just say he wasn’t very diplomatic,” Krenk said. Combative was the word he used to describe him.

He, too, was invited to the December 2013 meeting with Glenn, but didn’t go because he thinks ex-players should be supportive and not meddle.

“Those coaches — they got enough pressure, they don’t need former players rallying the troops, trying to tell them how to do their jobs,” Krenk said. “If that meeting was just about relations, it’s a pretty big coincidence that it was held after Pelini whipped his hat (at the referee). I think we all know what the meeting was about.”

Glenn hasn’t been shy about his opinions of coaches and athletic directors: When Chancellor Harvey Perlman walked into a press conference to announce he was firing Pederson in 2007, Glenn was there, and he stood and clapped, according to Yahoo Sports. He also shared his low opinion of Callahan’s coaching in the same story.

And while now Glenn is boosterish about Pelini, he was publicly critical of him less than a year ago.

He owns a Lincoln travel agency that’s affected by a winning or losing football season and, in December, Glenn was critical of Pelini’s program while talking about tepid interest in charter flights to the Gator Bowl, which has travel agency, Executive Travel, was selling.

“Everybody is looking forward to next year,” he said at the time. “I think people are ready to be done with this season.”

After the Gator Bowl charter was cancelled for the first time in 27 years, Glenn chalked it up to Pelini’s antics.

“It would appear all the Pelini drama has disenfranchised a large number of people who followed the Huskers every year,” he told the Lincoln Journal Star.

He said the Husker charters represented less than 1 percent of his company’s sales.

Schafer said Glenn also called other regents, including Regent Tim Clare. Clare did not return a phone call seeking comment. Glenn also reportedly called Regent Jim McClurg, who did not want to comment.

“I don’t really feel like I have a dog in this fight,” he told Nebraska Watchdog. “All of that’s behind me.”

Schafer said he’s making an issue of this because it’s a character issue and an indication of how Glenn would behave as a regent.

Glenn did not respond to a request for comment.

Follow Deena on Twitter at @DeenaNEWatchdog

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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