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The Highs and Lows of the Eichorst Era
Photo Credit: Scott Bruhn

The Highs and Lows of the Eichorst Era

September 21, 2017

In October of 2012, Shawn Eichorst arrived in Lincoln to become Tom Osborne’s successor as Nebraska athletic director. On Thursday, just under five years later, his time in Lincoln has come to an end as chancellor Ronnie Green fired him and began the search for his replacement. 

Eichorst took over at Nebraska following a stint as Miami athletic director that lasted about a year-and-a-half. Among Eichorst’s accomplishments at Miami was hiring mens’ basketball coach Jim Larranaga (a solid move) just nine days after he took over. He also extended football coach Al Golden, who was fired midseason in 2015.

Eichorst spent three months as special assistant to then-Chancellor Harvey Perlman before taking over for Osborne on Jan. 1. Here is a look back through Eichorst's time in Lincoln.

Coaching Decisions

Eichorst’s first major move as athletic director came on Nov. 30, 2014 when he fired football coach Bo Pelini after a 9-3 season. Prior to letting Pelini go, Eichorst broke his own policy of not speaking during a season in 2013 to give him a public vote of confidence then extended his contract to 2018 in March of 2014.

Pelini went 68-27 in his seven seasons at Nebraska and earned a bowl bid all seven seasons.

Four days later, Eichorst hired Oregon State’s Mike Riley, whose personality is as far from Pelini’s as one can find in the coaching world. Riley went 93-80 over two stints and a total of 14 years in Corvallis with four nine- or 10-win seasons.

Riley is 16-13 with two bowl appearances early in his third season. 

In May of 2015, Eichorst extended the contracts of both men’s basketball coach Tim Miles and women’s basketball coach Connie Yori through the 2019-20 seasons.

After a 6-7 first season for Riley including a bowl appearance despite finishing with five regular season wins, Eichorst spoke out in support of Riley and his vision for the program.

On April 5, 2016, Yori resigned amid allegations that she mistreated players. She guided Nebraska to a 280-166 over 14 seasons with two conference titles and seven NCAA Tournament appearances. 

Six days later, Eichorst hired former Husker Amy Williams to replace Yori. Williams went 96-44 at South Dakota in four seasons after going 97-65 in five seasons at Rogers State, an NAIA program.

The Huskers went 7-22 during Williams’ first season. Nebraska’s best players — guard Natalie Romeo and post Jess Shepard — transferred out of the program with Romeo leaving prior to the 2016-17 season and Shepard departing after it.

Shortly after hiring Williams, Eichorst offered public support for Miles following his third losing season in four years at Nebraska. However, four months later news broke that Eichorst chose not to extend Miles’ contract another year, and the Huskers proceeded to finish 12-19.

Immediately after the final game of the season, Eichorst confirmed on Twitter that Miles would return for the 2017-18 season.

Eichorst’s tweet read: “Look forward to next season of @HuskerHoops under @CoachMiles leadership…the future is bright! GBR!”

Eichorst remained silent until a joint press conference with Miles a month later.

Eichorst’s last public appearance came after Nebraska’s lost to Northern Illinois on Saturday as he chose to speak to reporters following the surprising result, urging fans to "hang in there.".

On Thursday, Green and president Hank Bounds ended Eichorst’s tenure and brought an end to his coaching decisions at Nebraska.

Other Accompishments

While coaching decisions are the most public moves an athletic director makes, Eichorst was busy behind the scenes throughout his tenure.

In 2014, Nebraska and IMG College agreed to a significant enhancement in their partnership that would increase Nebraska's pay-out by more than $20 million over the course of the six years remaining on the deal. The Husker Sports Network is run by IMG College.  

In the summer of 2015, Nebraska became the first athletic department to provide every student-athlete at the university with a laptop, and Nebraska was also one of the first Power Five conference programs to offer full four-year, cost-of-attendance scholarships.

Nebraska student-athletes set a record high in Graduation Success Rate for the fourth straight year in 2016-17 at 88 percent and every team at Nebraska set an Academic Performance Rate of 977 or higher, another record.

Nebraska opened up Howard L. Hawks Hall this year, the new home for the Nebraska College of Business, and Eichorst and the athletic department worked with the College of Business on the project as more than 20 percent of student-athletes at Nebraska are business majors. Nebraska also upgraded several different athletics facilities during Eichorst’s tenure.

In August, Nebraska agreed to an 11-year, $129 million extension of its partnership with Adidas that pays an average of $11.7 million per year, which is very similar to the deal conference foe Michigan received with Nike in 2016. However, soon after Louisville agreed to a 10-year, $160 million deal with Adidas.

Beyond his responsibilities at Nebraska, Eichorst has also been heavily involved with the NCAA.  He has been a part of the NCAA Division I Football Oversight Committee and Competition Committee, and he's served as co-chair of the Football Recruiting Ad-Hoc Working Group and has been the chair of the Football Oversight Camps/Clinics Subcommittee among others.

Eichorst came under fire recently regarding Nebraska’s future football schedules after the Big Ten revealed that Nebraska’s Black Friday game against Iowa would be no more after 2019. Eichorst originally cited player well-being as a reason for the change and then walked it back later that week as he addressed the media following last Thursday’s practice.

Athletic Depatment Results

Green cited a lack of competitiveness as the main reason for Eichorst's termination. Here is a look at the record of some of the major sports programs at Nebraska during Eichorst’s time in Lincoln starting with his first full season in 2013-14.

Baseball: 147-88-1 (63-42-1 in Big Ten play) with three NCAA Tournament appearances (1-6 record) and one conference title.

Football: 34-21 (19-14 in Big Ten play) with four bowl appearances (2-2 record).

Men’s Basketball: 60-68 (30-38 in Big Ten play) with one NCAA Tournament appearance (0-1 record).

Volleyball: 119-27 (65-15 in Big Ten play) with four NCAA Tournament appearances (16-3 record), a National title and a Big ten title.

Women’s Basketball: 72-53 (38-37 in Big Ten play) with two NCAA Tournaments and one WNIT appearance (1-3 record) and one Big Ten Tournament title.

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