Nothing like a surprise firing to shake up the news cycle, huh? Like everyone else, we published a bunch of stories yesterday all of which you can find here.
But if you’re after some national perspective, here are a few stories from national sources that jumped out to me for one reason or another. And to be clear, while the news peg here is Eichorst what everyone is actually talking about is football fortunes.
Pete Thamel (Yahoo) – “Nebraska’s identity crisis proves Huskers are no longer a top-tier gig”
The title alone doesn’t really jibe with my general world view, but my general world view doesn’t make for snappy, attention-grabbing headlines. Here’s the gist:
So let’s start with a few cold body blows. Nebraska’s football job is not one of the top 20 jobs in college football. The school has established no consistent identity since joining the Big Ten in 2011, lacks a fertile recruiting base and has lost all of the major advantages it held by winning or sharing the national title three times from 1994-97. Nebraska is a worse job than Wisconsin, as it’s been bereft of talent and resonates with modern recruits less than places like Mississippi State, Boise State or TCU. Calls to athletic directors and industry sources on Thursday kept yielding the same defining left-handed compliment: “Well, it’s on the right side of the division [in the Big Ten].” Yep, Nebraska is the potential prom date being tabbed as having a “great personality.”
So what can Nebraska be? One Power Five athletic director offered this analysis: “Nebraska can be a better version of what Virginia Tech, Wisconsin and Kansas State have been,” the AD told Yahoo Sports. “They can be on the high end of that. They can’t be what Ohio State, Alabama and Florida have been recently.”
I don’t think any Husker fan would chafe at “a better version” of Wisconsin.
Nicole Auerbach (The All-American) – “At Nebraska, it is and likely will be no more Mr. Nice Guy.”
In short, Eichorst is out because he hired a football coach in Riley who hasn’t won big in Lincoln. He was an out-of-left-field hire in the first place, and it hasn’t panned out.
Riley hasn’t won big anywhere he’s been, really, over the course of a 20-year head coaching career that has spanned both college and the NFL. But he’s a nice guy, maybe the most well-liked coach in college football. Certainly, his temperament is the opposite of his predecessor, the fiery Bo Pelini who won 71 percent of his games on the football field but rubbed people the wrong way off it.
Matt Brown (SBN) – “5 quick reasons coaching the Cornhuskers is still a really good job, no matter what year it is”
Now we’re not talking about the AD at all, but this is a pretty interesting accounting of Nebraska football’s status.
Much has been made of Nebraska’s geographic situation and how it hurts in recruiting. And it’s true: Not being within 500 miles of many elite recruits makes it difficult for some kids to visit campus on unofficial visits.
But it’s not like it’s impossible to recruit good players to Nebraska. Right now, the Cornhuskers have six blue-chip commits in the class of 2018 and have the 37th class overall. They signed top-30 classes in the previous two years. They’ve had only one class outside the top 40 since 2012.
Thanks to their powerful brand, conference affiliation, historical ability to sign kids from California, and more, they’ve still brought in enough to win a lot of games.
The other reasons, while not unexpected, are pretty good, too.
And finally . . .
Bill Connelly (SBN) – “Scott Frost is perfect for a possible Nebraska opening, but here’s who should be No. 2 on the list”
Now we’re into coaching candidates for a job that’s not yet vacant, but this one is pretty fun. After mentioning Frost and joking around about Paul Johnson, Connelly brings up a guy I like quite a bit as a coach – Navy’s Ken Niumatalolo:
He wouldn’t threaten to recruit at a top-10 level, but he would put a sexy, familiar offense on the field. While we don’t know what his defenses would be like at a bigger school — his current 3-4, bend-don’t-break scheme arose from necessity, not preference — they would likely be decent enough to give the offense a chance to win nearly any game.
We know Nebraska probably won’t consider Niumatalolo. A new athletic director aiming to make a big splash is going to shoot for a blue-chipper, not an overachiever, and no matter how efficient the triple option is, recruiting will prevent an option master from getting a job this big.
But recruiting at a top-40 level and winning at a top-20 level, while led by a guy every bit as likable as Riley? There are worse fates than that.
For me, the fact that Niumatalolo runs the option is incidental. It’s the “overachiever” tag plus a history of winning that works for me.
Should Nebraska get to that point, of course.
The Grab Bag
- Interesting timing alert: Former Texas A&M AD Eric Hyman dishes on his controversial time in College Station. His advice to young people hoping to become Power 5 ADs: "get a lobotomy first."
- How much is your college football team worth? Nebraska's is listed at $507 million (14th nationally) in this story from the Wall Street Journal.
- Steve Politi of NJ.com lists eight things he wants to see from Rutgers this weekend.
- ICYMI: Do not look directly at Nebraska's injury list for the Rutgers without eye protection, Mike Babcock revisits Nebraska's roaring-20s trip to play Rutgers in NYC and the Huskers make the cut for 4-star athlete Talanoa Hufanga.
Today's Song of Today
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.