How Other Big Ten Coaches Can Bottle Bo Pelini's PR Magic

By Jeff Beck on April 14, 2014 at 1:00 pm
Don't take yourself too seriously

Did you hear the one about the head football coach who embraced a Twitter account parodying him, only to win back the hearts and minds of his fanbase?

Sounds like a terrible movie script, but it's real life. Nebraska head football coach, Bo Pelini, recently did the unthinkable and trolled the entire Internet, ultimately proving he’s not the curmudgeon most make him out to be.

It’s fair to say Pelini's had some issues in the past. From grabbing players, to going off on officials, to being caught on tape calling out fans, Pelini is a PR dreamboat. Bo changed all that Saturday. With one "Circle of Life" move he finds himself back in the good graces of Cornhusker Nation (a win over #22 Georgia in the Gator Bowl also didn’t hurt).

So, it got me thinking, which other Big Ten coaches could harness Pelini’s PR magic; endearing themselves to fans by not taking themselves so seriously?

Darrell Hazell

Year one of the Hazell experiment was a complete disaster in West Lafayette. The Boilermakers went 1-11 and ended the season winless in the B1G. Hazell’s a solid coach, but he’s going to need time to turn it around. Unfortunately for the team, the fans might not be willing to wait.

It’s safe to say Ross-Ade stadium will be a ghost town for the majority of the 2014

season, so Hazell and company should try to get creative when it comes to putting butts in seats.

I recommend a Hazell Your Hat free ticket giveaway, where fans wearing their bills in the style of the head man can get into a game for free. It’s hard to shell out 40 or 50 bucks to see terrible, so why not shake things up? With tilts against Notre Dame, Michigan State and Wisconsin on the home schedule, the Boilermaker faithful have the opportunity to see some quality football (even if it’s not their own team). Hazell Your Hat and fill the seats. I’ve had worse ideas.

Mark Dantonio

Much like Pelini, Dantonio was born with a scowl on his face and bags under his eyes. Mark endeared himself to fans in droves this season with a B1G championship and a Rose Bowl win, but it’s hard to say if he ever cracked a smile.

Dantonio (and his heart) could certainly benefit from a little levity, so I think he should spend an entire game during the 2014 season with a perma-grin to put the “Does Dantonio have teeth” debate to bed once and for all.

The Spartans open the season with an August 30th matchup against Jacksonville State. The Gamecocks certainly aren’t a pushover, going 11-4 in 2013, but they should be no match for the Green and White. So, instead of game-planning, Dantonio should spend the entire week smiling in the mirror to test-drive such a foreign feeling. Then, on game day he should Vaseline his teeth and trot out flashing his mouth rocks to the crowd, continuing to do so for the entirety of the game. Inevitably, this is going to look terrifying and will probably throw Jacksonville State completely off their gameplan. A win for Dantonio’s boys and for his public image. A nice little Saturday in East Lansing.

Kirk Ferentz

For reasons no one understands, Iowa head coach, Kirk Ferentz, is one of the highest paid coaches in college football. According to CoachesHotSeat.Com, Ferentz is the 10th wealthiest head man in the land, raking in $4 million dollars a year.

This is absolutely ludicrous considering his teams have had just two 10+ win seasons over the past decade. But, why should performance factor into your pay-grade? That’s such an American way to look at things.

Ferentz’s overcompensation seems nearly as egregious as any of Pelini’s wrongs, so why not change the message with a good ol’ fashioned PR stunt?

Have a home game a year titled, “Robin Hood Saturday” where Ferentz steals from the rich (University of Iowa) and gives to the poor (the students attending the games). For every home loss during a Robin Hood Saturday, Ferentz will promise to pay each student that attends $20 (a veritable fortune on any college campus). Kinnick Stadium holds 70,585 people and let’s assume 1/3rd (or 23,500) of those in attendance are Iowa students. That means on any given RHS, Ferentz would have to pay out $470k. Do it once a season and Ferentz still has $3.5MM dollars to play with (just $200k shy of what Mark Dantonio makes a year). Kirk gives back and his compensation is still higher than it should be. Everyone wins.

Brady Hoke

Michigan head coach, Brady Hoke doesn’t wear a headset on gameday. This makes

less sense than Ferentz’s compensation. As a head football coach in 2014, not being plugged into the assistant coaches above is akin to merging onto a highway with your eyes closed.

Without a headset, Hoke is just another pudgy Michigan fan watching his team lose every other Saturday. With a 15-11 record over the past two seasons it might be time for Hoke to shake up his sideline image, ultimately showing fans he’s taking the game seriously.

So, I propose Hoke partner with Google Glass to really up his gameday communication. Every Saturday, Brady could strap on the device and join the ranks of Glass Holes around the world. The new look could do a few things for Hoke including allowing him to make calls to assistant coaches, take video of plays for later analysis over chicken wings and the freedom to surf the web under the radar after the Wolverines go down by four touchdowns.

Will these coaches follow in Pelini’s footsteps? Only time will tell, but I think these slight tweaks in gameday ritual could do wonders for the respective images. Get after it fellas, a little PR stunt can go a long way.

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