Last Thursday, before the news that Shawn Eichorst had been fired as Nebraska’s athletic director had been announced, Chancellor Ronnie Green shot a cold call to Dave Rimington, the former Nebraska center and Rimington Trophy namesake.
Green wanted to talk about the position that would be coming open in a few hours. They arranged a time to meet over the weekend, an early morning get-together at 8:30. Very casual, Green said.
“I came in and he had a jacket on and was dressed nicely and he said ‘I got your text, I’d already been here 15 minutes because I was so excited by what we were going to talk about,’" Green recalled.
“Hey, I’m a Nebraska kid,” Rimington said with a laugh Tuesday afternoon while he was being introduced as the Huskers’ interim athletic director. In that act alone, Green knew he had the right man to lead the Huskers for the next 60 days while the athletic department conducts a nationwide search for a permanent solution.
Rimington is not the permanent solution, he made that much clear on Tuesday, but when Nebraska leadership decided to relieve Eichorst of his duties last week, Green said Rimington was the first name that he thought of.
“It was my idea, it was the first thought that I had because not only of his great accolades as a Husker – you know those as well as I do – but because he also was an academic All-American and he represents our program so well,” Green said.
As a center at Nebraska, Rimington was a Hall of Fame player. The award handed out to the nation’s top center every year bears his name as a reminder of just how good he was for the Huskers. As a business man, Rimington has been the president of one of the country’s most well-run charitable organizations in the Boomer Esiason Foundation. Green said both of those played a factor.
“He is a proven leader in fiscal management, a proven leader in transparency, a proven leader in a charity that’s amongst the top ranked charities in the field,” Green said. “I could have selected any one of the very strong team of senior leaders that we have in Husker athletics and … that would have been the easiest thing to do.
“I felt though, that would be a missed opportunity to bring in an outside person to also work with us and provide some outside input for us as we decide to move forward.”
Rimington will serve for up to 60 days, during which he said he hopes to have an impact on the Nebraska’s walk-on program, help improve relations with former Cornhusker players and have “some influence” on whoever will replace him. When his time ends, on Nov. 25 – one day after the Huskers conclude their football season against Iowa – he will go back to New York and his family.
Mike Riley, Nebraska’s head football coach, is safe as long as Rimington is in Lincoln.
“Talking to coaches today, I’m there for them, I’m not here to fire anybody, I’m here to try to calm things down," Rimington said. “I love this place, I’ll do anything I can to help.”
As for the more permanent solution, Green said a “highly-recognized search firm in the field” has been tabbed and the framework for a deal is being worked on today, with an announcement on that firms identity coming later.
“There will be a search committee that will work with me that represents the interests of Husker athletics and of the institution,” Green said. “It will include university leadership, it will include representation of former athletes, it will include representation of athletic staff and leadership amongst that group.”
There will also be an advisory group Green says will provide input as to what the criteria should be for finding the next athletic director.
“We need to find the absolute best leader for our program moving forward, we’re committed to that,” he said. “We will be aggressive in the search, both in terms of getting the right leader with the resources required for that, as well as in time. We expect this to be a short search. We hope to do this as quickly as possible but we will take as long as it takes to find the right leader.”
For now, that leader is Rimington.
He hasn’t been to many Nebraska football games in recent years and hasn’t been a mainstay on campus, mostly because of his work life in New York and his travels around the world, but Rimington knows the Husker way. He thanked Nebraska legend Tom Osborne for giving him a scholarship 38 years ago, his family for their support now and Green for the opportunity moving forward.
“I can’t tell you how much I appreciate [Green] letting me come here for this short time and try to help out the university,” he said.
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.