Frank Solich isn’t a name most people know unless they follow college football at the University of Nebraska or Ohio University. During his 19 years as an assistant coach at Nebraska, Solich played an integral part in three national championship teams. During his six years as head coach at Nebraska, Solich won more games in that period than his College Hall of Fame predecessors Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne did during the same time frame, with a record of 58-19.
In Solich’s fifth year as head coach, Nebraska had a mediocre season at 7-7 in 2002 and suffered three significant losses the following year.
Solich was fired with his team ranked No. 18 in the country. Ironically, Solich hired Bo Pelini, the current head coach of Nebraska who has brought back some respectability to the program in the past two years.
But the popular Pelini, the defensive coordinator, did not get the job six years ago upon Solich’s departure. Athletic Director Steve Pederson brought in Bill Callahan, the former head coach of the Oakland Raiders, sending Nebraska football into a downward spiral during the next four years from which it is only starting to recover. Fortunately, both Pederson and Callahan were fired two years ago.
Solich took a year off in 2004 and then took a step backward and downward as the head coach of Ohio University, a program in the shadow of the Ohio State University Buckeyes.
As coach of the Ohio Bobcats, Solich built a reputation for the team, which plays in the little-known Mid-American Conference. His team played in the GMAC Bowl in 2006, the first bowl appearance for Ohio University since 1968. Unfortunately, the Bobcats lost.
Solich and his team, with a record of 9-3, will play this Friday against Central Michigan for the MAC championship. Last week, Ohio upset Temple University, where I teach, to reach the championship game.
What is impressive about what Solich has done is that he never looked back. He expressed no bitterness publicly about what happened at Nebraska, where he was a star running back, an assistant coach and a head coach for nearly 30 years. That’s rare in any sport these days. As a long-time fan of Nebraska, which I attended as an undergraduate during two national championship seasons, I wish I had the optimism and enthusiasm that I always saw in the man, who was known as “Fearless Frankie” during his undergraduate years in the 1960s. I just wish his team hadn’t beaten Temple.