The Newest Nebraskan
Last week University of Nebraska-Lincoln chancellor Harvey Perlman explained why he hired Shawn Eichorst away from Miami to be the next athletic director at Nebraska.
“I asked him, ‘How, if you were here five years from now,’ how would I be able to measure his success,” Perlman said. “And his response was that if the coaches and the student-athletes have been successful and nobody knows my name, it’ll be a success.”
Eichorst displayed that same humble mentality during his official introduction to the state he’ll now call home. He was soft-spoken but decisive in his answers. He thought carefully before responding to questions. He sounded a little like Tom Osborne. He sounded a lot like a Nebraskan.
He’s not, of course, which, along with some of the rumored rumblings over Osborne’s involvement in the selection process, ruffled some feathers. But Eichorst comes from a background that’s not too dissimilar from the Huskers current A.D.
“As a young boy growing up in the farmlands of southwest Wisconsin, my days were filled with family, church, school and work,” Eichorst said by way of introduction. “I worked in the fields, baled hay, fed the pigs, milked the cows and detassled corn, believe it or not.”
From there it was on to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, a Division III school, where Eichorst played football.
“It wasn’t big time, but it was big enough for me,” he said. “What I’ve learned on the football field – resilience, persistence, determination, work ethic, teamwork, toughness – would carry me through law school, the business world and college athletics.”
Sound familiar? If Nebraska had gone with an internal candidate and that person said the exact same words today, everyone would be ecstatic. Eichorst wasn’t an internal candidate, but he may be as close of a cultural fit as anyone could have expected. His best answer of the day may have come to the question of what an outsider can bring to the table.
“Having an experienced skillset of having been in the Southeastern Conference, having been in the Big Ten and now having been in the ACC, I think I bring some experiences, some global experiences on how other folks have done things,” Eichorst said. “From my perspective, it’s just that. I don’t come in with any preconceived notions. I truly mean that when I say that. I’m not smart enough to do that. I really need good people around me at the end of the day to make this thing work. It can’t work if it’s just me, and so it’s not going to be about me.”
That wide ranging experience probably is Eichorst’s best recommendation. He oversaw a successful baseball program at South Carolina and considers Steve Spurrier a mentor. Same with Bo Ryan. Eichorst oversaw basketball during his time at Wisconsin as Ryan built the Badgers into a Big Ten power. That’s nice experience to have.
What about football? Eichorst politely, and smartly, evaded most of those questions. It’s hard enough for the people who live and breathe Nebraska football to come up with good answers to the Huskers struggles last week, much less a guy who has now been to Lincoln twice and has yet to get a full tour of the facilities.
“Now is not the time nor the place to have an assessment about the state of the football program,” Eichorst said. “That’s Coach Osborne’s. He’s the athletic director and he will be in charge until January.”
Fair enough. There’s a lot of time to answer the questions surrounding Shawn Eichorst. As he mentioned, there’s still two-and-a-half months before he even officially takes over. I’m sure you’ll see plenty of Nebraska’s next A.D. over that span and hear significantly less. That’s the kind of guy he is.
But if one of those questions was whether or not he was a good cultural fit for Nebraska, you can check that one off the list.