LINCOLN — The leader of Nebraska’s search for a new athletic director has not interviewed any potential candidates, much less offered the job to anyone, he said Tuesday.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Ronnie Green still anticipated hiring the replacement for Bill Moos — who retires Wednesday — in “a matter of weeks.” By the end of July at the latest.
“This is not a position we want to have lingering for a long period of time,” Green said in an interview with The World-Herald. “We need the right leader here, and we need them ahead of the year we’re getting ready to move into. We’re coming out of a (COVID) pandemic and we’re coming into a competition year and school year. I want that leader in place as soon as we can put them there — but we’re going to hire the right person.”
He is using the assistance of a search firm while retaining authority on the process. A “strong, representative” search advisory committee designed to “screen and vet” candidates whom Green might interview is already “operative,” he said.
“I will rely on their counsel,” Green said. He declined to name any of the committee members, including whether football coach Scott Frost is part of the committee. Ultimately, Green said, the final decision is his.
Green is open to in-house candidates while conducting a national search for “all qualified, high-talent applicants.” NU is willing to pay the salary Moos made — just over $1 million in 2021 — or more.
“We’re willing to pay what the talent we need to bring here will require,” Green said.
The opening has generated significant interest already, Green said, because of NU’s strong brand in college athletics, Big Ten affiliation, a relatively rosy financial profile coming out of a pandemic year and its near-monopoly on major collegiate sports in the state.
Moos did a good job, Green said, in hiring skilled coaches — Frost, men’s basketball coach Fred Hoiberg, baseball coach Will Bolt — and administrators, “resonating with Nebraskans,” helping the department navigate the COVID pandemic and leaving NU in an “enviable” financial position compared to Big Ten peers.
But Moos also retired after three-and-a-half years on the job, joining other recent Husker A.D.s — Shawn Eichorst, Tom Osborne and Steve Pederson — as department leaders who generally lasted five years or less.
Green wants to reverse that trend, making “longevity” and “long-term vision” a priority for any candidate who’d get the job. No more short-timers.
“I know what my runway is — I’m not going to live forever — as a leader,” Green said. “And I want to bring someone here who’s going to be at the prime of their leadership and is successfully leading Husker athletics when I’m ready to move aside and I’m ready to retire a number of years down the road.”
Other key traits Green wants in a candidate:
» A strong business leader for what Green called a “$150 million enterprise” and a “period of significant change” in college athletics. The new A.D. will have to be athlete-forward and embrace the future of name, image and likeness opportunities for them.
“Highly important,” Green said. “I think it’s very important the next A.D. not only understands that changing landscape, but navigates that landscape successfully for our institution and student-athletes. Enough said.”
» A person “who knows what it’s like to compete and win.”
“We need more than a coach’s coach,” Green said. “We need someone who can successfully lead a department, the challenges are there in collegiate athletics. I need somebody — I don’t want this to sound like a cliché — but I want someone to make sure we’re not just competitive next year, but competitive five years from now, 10 years from now, 20 years from now in athletics.”
» Green wants to attract diverse candidates for the job, but is not “keying” on that aspect.
“I hope we can increase the diversity of our administrative team in athletics,” Green said of Moos’ senior group. After the Aug. 2 retirement of Pat Logsdon, it will not have a woman or person of color.
Green said the new A.D. will find the athletic department in better shape than Moos did in 2017, partially because of hires Moos made. Unlike 2017, when Green and NU President Hank Bounds fired Shawn Eichorst in the middle of the football season, this hire is being made in the offseason. Green is making the final call with the eventual approval of the NU Board of Regents.
“The condition of Husker athletics is different than 2017 — very different, I think, in terms of the talent we have in coaches and people who have been brought here in terms of success lying ahead,” Green said.
The chancellor retains “tremendous confidence” in Frost, noting he was the one who decided to extend Frost’s contract by two years in November 2019.
Green had not commented at length about Moos’ retirement until Tuesday. On Friday, when Moos talked to two news outlets including The World-Herald, he gave a cryptic answer as to the timing of his retirement, which syncs up with the end of the fiscal year.
“Apparently this was the best time,” Moos said.
Green declined to elaborate on Moos’ answer. He confirmed Moos' general timeline on considering his retirement over many months, and discussing with Green contract details if he decided not to finish the contract.
The abrupt announcement Friday, coupled with Moos’ imminent retirement date, fueled weekend chatter that Green had already selected a candidate before Moos announced his retirement.
That’s all untrue, Green said.
“I can put to bed any speculation there having been a preselected candidate, or that we’d already identified someone to lead Husker athletics,” Green said. “That is absolutely not correct.”