Nebraska football coach Bo Pelini laughs during a news conference March 24 at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb.
Nebraska football coach Bo Pelini laughs during a news conference March 24 at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb.

OMAHA, Neb. — Nebraska has rewarded second-year football coach Bo Pelini for the strides he’s already made in returning the Cornhuskers to national prominence.

Pelini signed a contract extension on Monday that would keep him at Nebraska through the 2013 season and boosts his base annual salary to $1.85 million.

In announcing the deal, athletic director Tom Osborne praised the quick progress the team has made under Pelini.

The Huskers finished the season with a 9-4 record and tied for first in the Big 12 North. Nebraska beat Clemson 26-21 in the Gator Bowl on New Year’s Day.

“We are confident he has our program moving in the right direction,” Osborne said.

Pelini, for his part, appears committed to keeping that momentum going for the foreseeable future.

“As I said when I was hired,” Pelini said Monday, “it is an honor to be here at Nebraska as the head coach. I hope to be in this position for a long time and help get this program back to the top of college football.”

When Pelini was hired in December 2007, his five-year contract called for a salary of $1.1 million a year. The pay raise announced Monday makes him the sixth-highest-paid coach in the Big 12 and puts his base salary ahead of his predecessor, Bill Callahan, who’s four-year tenure was marked by the most embarrassing losses at a football program once among the mightiest in the nation.

Osborne said Monday that when he became head coach in 1973, he made $25,000 a year and never imagined the salary would grow so high. But, he added, Pelini deserves a raise for shoring up the football program, which has to provide 85 percent of the revenues brought in by Nebraska sports.

“We’re taking a little bit of a leap of faith that everyone will renew their season tickets this year,” he said. “We think they will, of course the economy is a little more troubled.”

All home games at Memorial Stadium since 1962 have sold out.

Osborne also said that Pelini didn’t ask to have his contract restructured. “Bo is not a guy who’s driven by money,” he said.

Pelini first joined the Nebraska staff in December 2002 after spending nine years as an NFL assistant, most recently with the Green Bay Packers. He was named interim coach after Frank Solich was fired following the 2003 regular season and went on to coach the Huskers to an Alamo Bowl victory over Michigan State.

Pelini is not the only one being rewarded for Nebraska’s successful season. Nine of his assistants will also be getting bigger paychecks, bringing their combined salaries to almost $2 million.