Current Nebraska Athletic Director Tom Osborne was initially reluctant Tuesday to address his role — or lack thereof — in the search for his successor, Shawn Eichorst. University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Harvey Perlman conducted the search with minor input from Osborne and coaches on the staff.
“I'm not here to look backward; I'm here to help Shawn get acclimated, get comfortable with the situation,” Osborne said. “And that's what we're going to work on.”
Pressed to confirm whether he was disappointed in his lack of input, Osborne asked who said he was disappointed. At his Oct. 4 press conference to announce Eichorst's hiring, Perlman said Osborne “probably” was disappointed not to be more involved. Osborne also did not attend the event, releasing a one-sentence statement after the press conference — followed by a longer statement on Oct. 5 — in response.
Osborne's answer Tuesday: “The question came up: ‘Why isn't he here?' I was not invited. I didn't know about the press conference. The fact that I wasn't there was no reflection about dissatisfaction or opinion I had about anything. There should be no speculation about that. It was the chancellor's hire. He made the hire. I understand that. It was perfectly acceptable to me. My job is to make the thing work as smoothly as I can.”
On Oct. 4, when asked why Osborne wasn't at the presser, Perlman said, “You'll have to ask him.”
Told Tuesday that Osborne said he wasn't invited to the press conference, Perlman said that he and Osborne had “talked through” any lingering concerns. Perlman said he had confidence Osborne would show Eichorst the ropes without rancor.
“I think he understands it's important for the department to move on,” Perlman said. “I trust Tom explicitly. He's going to do what he can to make Shawn's transition a positive one. He's already done that.”
Perlman said that since he'd announced the hiring, response from coaches and athletic department officials had been good. It was confirmed, he said, at a social function Monday night held at the Embassy Suites.
“The attitude and tone in the room was very positive,” Perlman said. “People understand he is what he says he is. He's going to fit the culture.”
Executive Associate Athletic Director Marc Boehm — who oversees NU men's and women's basketball — agrees.
“Very engaging,” Boehm said. “Honest. Open. A lot of us went away feeling great about everything. He knows and understands the culture. He knows what he's getting into.”
Osborne didn't want to stay A.D. too long
Osborne expounded a bit on his rationale for retirement; much of his retirement press conference was spent on questions of legacy rather than the timing for his decision. Osborne said he understood why fans may have thought he'd stick around to “cut some ribbons” when the Pinnacle Bank Arena opens, but the buildings will get done, he said, regardless of who is A.D.
“When you're 75, there's always that element of doubt as to ‘How much longer is this guy going to be there?'” Osborne said. “Doubt and uncertainty is the enemy of progress.”
Did Osborne hear much doubt from fans and department workers? Osborne said he heard occasional speculation but, more importantly, he didn't want to stay too long.
“You see it happen over and over again: People stay beyond their time,” Osborne said. “I didn't want to be one of those people.”
Eichorst, Osborne joked, has “another 20 to 30 years in him.”
Eichorst holding off on evaluating football
Eichorst had no interest in assessing Nebraska's football program Tuesday, suggesting it was Osborne's job still to do it.
Osborne briefly obliged.
“We're 4-2,” he said. “Wish we were 6-0. I know Bo wishes we were 6-0. I know we'll do the very best we can going forward. We have good players. Probably couple spots where we could be better. But overall, we're still in good shape. We'll see how it all plays out. And I'll do all I can to assist him.
“Obviously, I can't block and I can't tackle, and I'm not a very good thrower anymore. Whatever I can do to help Bo, I'm going to do it. And the purpose of the next five or six months after Jan. 1 is to assist in any way that I can.”
Eichorst said he'd heard good things about Pelini and has experience working with high-profile football coaches like Steve Spurrier, Lou Holtz and Bret Bielema. He didn't ask them about Pelini during the process, but “had there been any red flags, those guys would have called me,” Eichorst said. “I didn't receive any calls.”
Eichorst has Big Ten basketball experience
Nebraska men's basketball coach Tim Miles attended the press conference, talking briefly with reporters afterward. Miles said he was excited to work with Eichorst, who had overseen Wisconsin's basketball program before he became Miami's athletic director.
Eichorst had the same excitement.
“I have a pretty good idea of what Big Ten basketball's about,” Eichorst said. “I'm really excited to work with Tim. I think he's a super coach who's done things the right way. He's fundamentally sound in what he does.
“Having been with a program that I think has done a lot with maybe not quite as much as others, maybe we can get our arms together with that thing going forward.”
— Sam McKewon
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>> Video: Watch the Shawn Eichorst press conference: