Gary Pepin first heard the news from an assistant coach on his way to work Friday morning.
Bill Moos is retiring, effective June 30. Nebraska will be looking for a new athletic director.
By 10:40 a.m., NU’s longtime track and field coach was part of a brief Zoom call with other Husker coaches and Moos, who expressed confidence in the “solid foundation” Nebraska athletics stood upon.
“No information whatsoever about why or anything like that other than he was going to be around for a couple days and he and his wife were driving back to Washington,” Pepin said. “He just wished everybody the best of luck and said he had really enjoyed his stay.”
Reactions from the two most prominent coaching hires of Moos’ three-and-a-half-year tenure — football coach Scott Frost and men’s basketball coach Fred Hoiberg — came early in the afternoon. Both issued statements released by the athletic department.
Frost, whom Moos hired from Central Florida two months after arriving as A.D. in October 2017, said he is “grateful” to Moos for his work in setting up NU sports teams for future success. Frost also expressed confidence in Chancellor Ronnie Green in finding the school’s next athletic director.
“I know the leader he chooses will be able to help not only our football program, but all of (the) athletic programs at this great university, be successful,” Frost said.
Hoiberg’s statement was similar, adding that he appreciates the support Moos gave his program after bringing him on in March 2019.
At least one current Nebraska football player also bid farewell to Moos on social media. Defensive back Cam Taylor-Britt said on Twitter that he appreciated an inspirational face-to-face chat with Moos during his recruiting process in 2018.
Wrote Taylor-Britt in part: “You pleased momma so you did a great job!”
Of the 22 intercollegiate sports Nebraska offers, half have head coaches whom Moos hired. Along with Frost and Hoiberg — whose on-field results have yet to materialize — the A.D. secured baseball coach Will Bolt, who won a Big Ten title this spring less than two years after taking over for a retiring Darin Erstad. Other sports with new coaches include men’s and women’s golf, men’s tennis, women’s gymnastics, rifle, bowling, diving and cross country.
Pepin said the general mood among all NU coaches is surprise. Why so sudden a departure?
As Nebraska’s longest-tenured head coach at 40-plus years, Pepin said it was “a little bit strange” how Moos left. Pepin has been under six full-time Nebraska athletic directors beginning with Bob Devaney — “some real good, some not so good,” he said.
Moos, certainly, was unique among them, Pepin said.
“I thought he was a very friendly guy, was easy to talk to, was a good listener,” Pepin said. “I didn’t see him very often. Good politician. Never got to know him real well. I know he had tremendous interest in football, and I think he wanted the other programs to do well.”
Various A.D.s have brought different philosophies, as Pepin sees it, leaving anticipation among coaches for the next hire. Bill Byrne (1992-2002) prioritized placement in all-sport national polls and increased department revenue. One A.D. may tell a coach their goals for the program on a national level while others — like Moos — articulate standards starting with conference success. Other unknowns linger, like the new A.D.’s emphasis on gender equity and how much of the department support staff with be retained.
“There are definitely going to be changes,” Pepin said, “so you hope the changes are going to continue to be positive.”