“So, who's the next A.D. at Nebraska?'' asked the nurse Wednesday as she pulled the flu shot needle from my arm.
Wish I knew. It would save wear and tear around a lot of office space in this state.
But Nebraska fans aren't the only ones with high interest in the athletic director search. The college sports grapevine is sizzling with talk about Tom Osborne stepping down after five decades in athletics.
High-profile jobs like this don't open often.
“They will be able to get pretty much whoever they want, I believe,'' Michigan State A.D. Mark Hollis told The World-Herald. “At the same time, you want to make sure you have the right fit so you can move forward on everything Tom has put in place.
“So sometimes it's not to get the sexiest athletic director, it's to get the right athletic director. I'm confident they will.''
Ohio State's Gene Smith, overseer of the nation's largest athletic department, got to know Osborne when Smith was A.D. at Iowa State in the mid-1990s.
“Tom's departure is a big loss,'' he told The World-Herald. “He has done so much for college athletics as a coach and an administrator. He's a genuinely kind, good human being.''
Following Osborne won't be easy, Smith said, but the name brand of Husker athletics will attract premium candidates.
“It's a great job,'' Smith said. “It's one of the best jobs in the country.''
Neither Smith nor Hollis speculated on candidates, but one name keeps bubbling up this week in phone calls to and from sources.
Shawn Eichorst at the University of Miami.
Before dismissing him as a hated Hurricane, check out Eichorst's background. He knows a lot more about Big Ten snow and cold than South Beach sun.
Eichorst, in his mid-40s, is a small-town Wisconsin native and a graduate of Wisconsin-Whitewater. He has a law degree from Marquette, something that the guy in charge of the search — Chancellor Harvey Perlman, former dean of the NU College of Law — would notice.
There's also a Big Ten/Wisconsin/Nebraska tie through Badgers A.D. Barry Alvarez. Eichorst, before going to Miami in April 2011, was Alvarez's deputy A.D. at UW for three years.
So let's follow the circumstantial-evidence trail a little more.
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Alvarez, a loyal Nebraska graduate, may think it's worth touting a potential rising star to his alma mater. Such a move also might help Alvarez extract a buddy from a messy NCAA investigation at Miami.
Eichorst had nothing to do with the violations involving Miami football booster Nevin Shapiro. Alvarez told the Wisconsin school website blog “Lucas at Large'' in late summer 2011 that Eichorst likely entered the job blind.
“I don't think Shawn knew that they were going to be investigated,'' Alvarez said.
How will he respond?
“Shawn will attack it,'' Alvarez said. “He's an analytical thinker and he's smart. He has poise under fire. I know that he won't rattle under pressure.''
What do we conclude from all that?
Nothing for certain. The Nebraska search is a secretive process. The goal here is at least semi-educated speculation, not the hurling of any ol' name against the wall. The expectation among the five sources I talked to so far this week, though, is for Nebraska to hire from the outside.
If so, let me cast a vote for homegrown Paul Meyers to become NU's strongest No. 2 possible.
Meyers, an associate A.D., has raised more than $250 million for Husker athletics. You don't do that in this state without being smart, trustworthy, savvy and loyal, yet a truth-teller when the need arises.
His talents — not just in fundraising but as a man of common sense and integrity whom Husker coaches respect — are integral to the program's success. Meyers needs a big role going forward.
Besides, who better than the former Husker baseball All-American and Omaha native to help the new hire figure out the “Nebraska Way.''
Ohio State's Smith has the basics down: “Great fans, great history, great tradition — not just in football, but in other sports, too.''
Yet heavy fan interest also means intense scrutiny and powerful opinions from boosters.
“But that's why it's one of the best jobs in the country, like Ohio State,'' Smith said “Now, that can cut both ways sometimes in our business. But that's what you want. You try to do things the right way and keep that passion positive.''
Michigan State's Hollis raved about Osborne's impact on the Big Ten in such a short time.
“I almost had to pinch myself when I sat in an athletic directors' room with him for the first time,'' Hollis said. “Just his amazing knowledge, amazing grasp of college football and college sports overall.''
Remember, folks, this isn't some mid-level employee expressing adoration. Hollis, 50, has worked more than 25 years in athletic administration and was named Street and Smith's Sports Journal 2012 national A.D. of the year.
“I feel very blessed Nebraska joined the Big Ten at a time I had a chance to be associated with him,'' Hollis said. “Wherever they go in the future, Tom has put it in a place to move it forward in a positive way.''
What we don't know is when.
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