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Perlman’s pick

Yes, he mispronounced the name.

“I am very excited to announce that Shawn Eicholt will be the next athletic director at the University of Nebraska,” University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Harvey Perlman said.

But these things happen.

“Eichorst, excuse me,” he said.

Perlman was speaking at a news conference on Thursday at the Van Brunt Visitors Center, confirming the morning’s speculation that Eichorst, the now-former athletic director at Miami would be Nebraska’s athletic director when Tom Osborne retires, effective Jan. 1, 2013.

Osborne announced his retirement a week ago Wednesday. At that news conference, Perlman indicated the search for a successor had already begun.

“We reviewed a number of potential candidates, most of them outside but some internal candidates,” said Perlman. “We narrowed the field to a few. I interviewed two — obviously, Shawn is one of those – and made the offer and it was accepted last night.”

The “we” reference included search consultant Jed Hughes. It did not include a group of 13 search advisors, among them head football coach Bo Pelini, nor did it include Osborne.

“He was involved, but I would guess is one of those who’s disappointed that he wasn’t more directly involved,” Perlman said. “I’ve certainly interacted with Tom over the course of the last month or two about the athletic director search. I’ve kept him informed.

“We’ve talked about some of the issues the next athletic director would need to address.”

At the Sept. 26 news conference, Perlman indicated that Osborne would “play an important role in advising me” in the selection of his successor.

On Thursday, however, Perlman said, “It’s an unusual circumstance. I’ll be very honest with you; Tom Osborne is an icon, has built this department, is extraordinarily well-respected around the state, and probably synonymous with Husker athletics. At the same time, my belief is that incumbents shouldn’t be too intimately involved in the selection of their successor.
“I would not intend to interview successors to my position.”

Osborne, who did not attend Thursday’s news conference, issued a statement through the sports information office: “I will do whatever I can to assist Shawn Eichorst in the transition process to ensure that the handoff to him leading the Athletic Department is as smooth as possible.”

Eichorst will be introduced at a news conference on Tuesday morning and join the university as a special assistant to the chancellor until he replaces Osborne.

Eichorst, a 1990 graduate of Wisconsin-Whitewater, has been the director of athletics at Miami since April 2011. Prior to that, he was deputy athletics director at Wisconsin under Director of Athletics Barry Alvarez, overseeing the day-to-day operations of the department.

He was at Wisconsin from 2006 to 2011.

Eichorst also has been in athletic administration at South Carolina (2004-06) and Wisconsin-Whitewater, where he was director of athletics from 1999 to 2003.

In addition, he has been an assistant adjunct professor of law at Marquette University (2001-03) as well as a senior associate attorney and law clerk.

“Here’s a guy that grew up in the Midwest, was educated in the Midwest, was professionally developed in the Midwest under a mentor who has a passion for Nebraska athletics, Barry Alvarez,” said Perlman. Alvarez played football at Nebraska under coach Bob Devaney.
“I think he understands the culture,” said Perlman. “I think he respects the culture. I think the thing that convinced me, if you want to know one anecdote, was that I asked him, ‘How, if you were here five years from now,” how would I be able to measure his success.

“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. The athletic department is all about the success of coaches and student-athletes. So I am, again, just very excited that we were able to do this.”

Eichorst will be paid $973,000 annually, on a five-year contract that includes a penalty if he leaves within those five years. If he remains, he will receive an additional $750,000.

Perlman said the penalty is $2 million if he were to leave the first year, with that amount being reduced by $500,000 each year thereafter.

According to figures released at the news conference, attributed to USA Today.com in Oct. 2011, Eichorst’s salary will rank third in the Big Ten, not including Northwestern, a private institution and not bound by open records, and Penn State, which has an interim athletic director.

“That’s the world we live in,” Perlman said of the salary. “You’re subject to a marketplace and you either play in the marketplace or you don’t play. That’s what we are.”

Apparently no internal candidates received serious consideration.

“I think that there are individuals who are currently in our athletic department that have very strong potential to be an athletic director,” said Perlman. “It may well be our fault, but we have not done a good job of giving them the range of experiences and the range of opportunities to prepare them for this position. I did consider them. I thought Shawn’s credentials, experience, talents, were just, at this point in his career, the person that we needed for this position.”

Perlman interviewed Eichorst in early September, when Eichorst came to Lincoln from Manhattan, Kan., where the Miami football team played Kansas State. He interviewed the second candidate, also a sitting athletic director, later in Omaha – because of access provided by Eppley Airfield.

“If I’d have been in doubt and had multiple candidates that I thought met our criteria, I probably would have tried, if I could have, to broaden the pool of people that engaged with the candidates,” Perlman said. “But this was so clear and compelling to me that I thought it was the right appointment for Nebraska at this time.”

Never mind the name faux pas; Eichorst was his man for the job.