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Archive for Sunday, December 28, 2003

Fans planning ouster for Nebraska AD

Group of Cornhusker faithful touring state in effort to remove Pederson

December 28, 2003

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— This probably isn't the kind of grass roots fund-raising effort Nebraska athletic director Steve Pederson had in mind.

A group calling itself "Steve P Must Flee" is collecting money in a campaign to oust Pederson, and two of the group's members are touring the state to bring attention to the effort.

Group founder Moe Moravec said he and the 20 or so others who make up the group are angry that Pederson fired former coach Frank Solich last month.

The group is taking that anger to the state's highways and media outlets, one road, newspaper and broadcast station at a time.

Moravec and Tim Szynskie, both Papillion business owners, set out west in a white pickup Friday, hoping to raise money and a ruckus with a homemade sign propped in the truck's bed that reads "FIRE NU's AD NOW."

The sign includes a phone number and P.O. box to send money for the campaign.

Passers-by curious enough to call the number will reach a cell phone that rests in Moravec's breast pocket.

"Basically, all of us are P.O.'d about Solich getting sacked after 7-7 and then 9-3," Moravec said.

Callers will hear a list of complaints group members have against Pederson. They don't think he treated Solich fairly. They don't think a new coach will preserve the Nebraska tradition built by Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne. They're unimpressed with Pederson's success at Pitt.

The group's arguments are the same that can be heard in coffee shops and around water coolers throughout the state, although there are dissenting views, too.

Supporters of Pederson point out that Solich received a nearly $800,000 buyout, that Devaney came to Nebraska from Wyoming, and point to Pederson's success in building Pittsburgh a new arena and Top 25 basketball and football programs from nearly nothing.

But those arguments can't sway the group from feeling that Solich was treated unfairly.

Moravec said he saw Solich break NU's single-game rushing record, rumbling for 204 yards at Air Force in 1965. Solich's record has since been repeatedly broken by Nebraska I-backs, but still stands for Husker fullbacks.

"He's given his life, his heart and soul to Nebraska football," Moravec said. "And Pederson fired him."

Last month, Pederson and other university officials announced a multimillion-dollar fund-raising effort to upgrade the school's football facilities.

The anti-Pederson movement is hoping to raise enough money to buy out the remaining four-plus years of Pederson's contract, if they can persuade the university to fire Pederson.

Pederson makes more than $300,000 a year.

Moravec refused to provide specifics on how much money the group had raised, the group's membership list, or how many members had contributed to the fund.

"That's none of your business," he said.

The former Papillion city councilman did say he'd put up $1,000 of his own money for the effort.

Moravec and Szynskie said they are hoping to appear in every newspaper and on every television station in Nebraska.

Nebraska (9-3) will play Michigan State (8-4) at 8 p.m. Monday in the Alamo Bowl at San Antonio.

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