When Nebraska begins its search for a new athletic director, there will be several, costly, factors playing into whoever it tabs to lead the program next.
First, there’s the issue of Shawn Eichorst, Nebraska’s now former athletic director, and his contract that runs through June of 2019. At his press conference Thursday afternoon, University of Nebraska Chancellor Ronnie Green said Eichorst will be paid the full $1.7 million left on his contract between now and then. That works out to about $81,000 a month in Eichorst’s pocket for not being the Huskers’ athletic director anymore.
That’s on top of the money still owed to former head coach and – much to the chagrin of his former players – Eichorst firee Bo Pelini. Pelini was terminated back in 2014 with a $6.54 million buyout agreement. The current Youngstown State head coach’s payout from Nebraska totals just over $128,000 a month through February of 2019.
Whoever is brought in as the Huskers next athletics director will be in charge of making the hiring and doing the firing. Green said Nebraska has a process in place for how both those scenarios go, and although Green and President Hank Bounds have to give final approval on decisions, “we certainly expect them to make those choices,” Green said.
That becomes especially important when discussing the future of current head coach Mike Riley.
Riley was Eichorst’s guy, brought in after Pelini and personally picked by Eichorst. With him gone, Riley’s seat might be getting hot. Bounds said Riley is Nebraska’s head coach right now and this decision wasn’t about him, but the two men acknowledged that the football team wasn’t meeting the lofty expectations that come about at Nebraska. New athletic directors don’t tend to keep pre-existing coaches and Riley’s 16-13 record so far at Nebraska is far from glimmering.
But, Riley did agree to a one-year contract extension with Nebraska back in January that runs through the end of the 2020 season. If he’s fired, the Huskers would owe Riley a total of $6.63 million over the life of his remaining contract, which breaks down to about $170,000 a month.
Nobody likes spending money, but Nebraska appears willing to do what it needs to in order to get the program back on the right track. Green said the timing of the decision was about moving forward now and being able to move the leadership forward. He said the goal is to move quickly, but not rush the process of finding the absolute right person for the job.
“We obviously want to move efficiently and as fast as possible but we’re going to take the time to find the right person and the right talent to lead the organization moving forward,” he said.
That also means Riley is on the clock. Win or go home. With Bounds’ comments about Riley, it’s clear the Huskers don’t want to have to fire him and strap their books with another expensive buyout, but if they have to, they will.