SBD/September 22, 2017/Colleges

Nebraska Fires AD Shawn Eichorst Following Slow Start To Football Season

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Eichorst, who NU hired in '13, was the highest-paid AD in the country
Change in Nebraska's athletic department "arrived forcefully" on Thursday when the school announced that it "fired" AD Shawn Eichorst, according to a front-page piece by Parker Gabriel of the LINCOLN JOURNAL STAR. A release said that Eichorst had about $1.7M "remaining on his contract," which runs through June '19. The search for Eichorst's replacement "will begin immediately" (LINCOLN JOURNAL STAR, 9/22). Nebraska Chancellor Ronnie Green in a news conference with university President Hank Bounds said, "We're not satisfied with the results." Green said that Nebraska "plans to use a search firm to assist in the hiring," and no timetable "exists to find a replacement for Eichorst," who took over for Tom Osborne in '13 and was groomed at Wisconsin by AD Barry Alvarez. ESPN.com's Mitch Sherman noted Green and Bounds met with Eichorst earlier Thursday as well as with football coach Mike Riley and the other Nebraska coaches to "inform them of the decision" (ESPN.com, 9/21). Green said, "Our fans and our student-athletes deserve leadership that drives the high level of competitiveness" (K.C. STAR, 9/22). Green: "This is going to sound a little glib, and I don't mean it that way, but I'd love to get back to the mid-1990s, right? I don't need to say more." Bounds added, "Why shouldn't we have those aspirations here?" (OMAHA WORLD-HERALD, 9/22).

FIGHTING FOR RELEVANCE
: In Lincoln, Chris Dunker notes Bounds "understands sports is how the university connects with Nebraskans and others around the U.S., and what success in athletics can mean to a university." Bounds said, "If you look at universities across the country, when you’re competing for championships, you’re growing." Bounds "informed members" of the Board of Regents on Wednesday night of the decision to let go of Eichorst (LINCOLN JOURNAL STAR, 9/22). Also in Lincoln, Chris Basnett notes while Green "used the term 'on-field,' the implication was clear." The powers that be "want to see more from their athletic programs" (LINCOLN JOURNAL STAR, 9/22). In Omaha, Sam McKewon notes the focus of the Q&A with Green and Bounds centered "cmpetitiveness." Green said, "The expectations associated with Husker football are high -- and should be high, always high. But, with that said, we also expect excellence in baseball, we also expect excellence in men’s and women’s basketball, we expect excellence in track and field, we expect excellence in gymnastics, we expect excellence in volleyball. You go down the list" (OMAHA WORLD-HERALD, 9/22). Also in Omaha, Dirk Chatelain writes, "For the better part of 15 years, the fan base has been living a nightmare, receding from national relevance, gravitating into ... mediocrity" (OMAHA WORLD-HERALD, 9/22). The JOURNAL STAR's, Steven Sipple writes the importance of winning has just been"ratcheted up a notch" (LINCOLN JOURNAL STAR, 9/22).

BAD RETURN ON INVESTMENT: In Omaha, Lee Barfknecht in a front-page piece notes Eichorst was the the "highest-paid AD in the country." Eichorst’s annual salary of $1.11M, plus all but three months of a $750,000 "deferred compensation bonus due in December," will put his pay at "nearly double what stars in his field" such as Oklahoma’s Joe Castiglione, Michigan State’s Mark Hollis, Alabama’s Greg Byrne and TCU’s Chris Del Conte make. That is "not much bang for your buck." Barfknecht: "Square-peg-round-hole friction was often evident in how Eichorst interacted with critical constituents: his coaches, boosters of all wallet sizes and conduits to the fan base, which are the media." His "social awkwardness and lack of desire to form relationships led to many uncomfortable moments with all sorts of Nebraskans" (OMAHA WORLD-HERALD, 9/22). The WORLD-LEADER's Chatelain writes Eichorst's era "will be forgettable." Chatelain: "From the start, something didn't feel right about the hire. ... There was something ... awkward ... that didn't show up on a resume" (OMAHA WORLD-HERALD, 9/22). In Omaha, Tom Shatel writes, "It was stunning, but it was necessary to do it now" (OMAHA WORLD-HERALD, 9/22).

TWITTER REAX: ESPN's Brett McMurphy wrote, "If you had Nebraska AD Shawn Eichorst getting fired before any (fill in the blank) coaches on the hot seat please send me your lotto numbers." NFL Net's Brian Baldinger: "Let me try to understand this. The University if Nebraska loses to N. Illinois and they fire the AD, Shawn Eichorst. That really the answer?" Omaha-based KETV-ABC's Josh Planos: "Nebraska owes Bo Pelini $128,009 each month till Feb. 2019. Now add $1.7 million to Eichorst." SI.com's Bruce Feldman: "Firing Eichorst puts even more pressure now on Mike Riley who's 1-2 this year & 16-13 since taking over."

MOVING FORWARD
: The WORLD-LEADER's Barfknecht cites a source as saying that "Nebraska has approached" former NFLer and Nebraska alum Dave Rimington about serving as interim AD in the wake of Eichorst’s firing. Rimington is currently serving as President of the Boomer Esiason Foundation, which "exists to raise money for cystic fibrosis research" (OMAHA WORLD-HERALD, 9/22). In Omaha, Henry Cordes in a front-page piece notes it "wasn't clear" whether Rimington could also be a "candidate for the permanent job." Other names "floated among fans and boosters" included Univ. of Nebraska-Omaha AD Trev Alberts and Big 12 Senior Associate Commissioner/Football Ed Stewart. Both are also former Nebraska All-Americans (OMAHA WORLD-HERALD, 9/22). Also in Omaha, Barfknecht & Cole list five possible replacements for Eichorst. Along with Alberts and Stewart, the list includes Del Conte, Northwestern AD Jim Phillips and Duke AD Kevin White (OMAHA WORLD-HERALD, 9/22). YAHOO SPORTS' Pete Thamel wrote under the header, "Nebraska's Identity Crisis Proves Huskers Are No Longer A Top-Tier Gig." Firing Eichorst "isn’t a big loss for Nebraska." He was an "awkward fit, never comfortable with the external demands of the job." Nebraska’s first task "should be establishing an identity." And to do that, they "need a much stronger leader." Nebraska needs someone who can "tap into the school’s two best resources -- its passionate fan base and strong tradition" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 9/21).
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