Thursday, September 21, 2017

Enough is Enough. Shawn Eichorst is the First to Go.

Nebraska's 21-17 loss to Northern Illinois last weekend turned out to be the final straw for the administration at the University of Nebraska. The firing of athletic director Shawn Eichorst is a simple statement that "enough is enough" and that things need to change.  My reaction?

Here, Here!

Firing Eichorst doesn't do much of anything for 2017. It's not going to suddenly inspire Mike Cavanaugh to be able to teach his offensive linemen to be able to block.  It's not going to help Tanner Lee to throw the ball towards people wearing the same colored jersey he's wearing this weekend.

It might help those players have coaches who can make them successful in 2018.

A lot of flimsy excuses have been offered for Mike Riley ever since he took over in Lincoln, some of which simply don't compute.  Purdue, Illinois, Iowa and now Northern Illinois don't have better talent than Nebraska.  Nebraska's losses in those games were the result of being outplayed and outcoached.  Period.  Mike Riley got a mulligan for 2015.

He doesn't get one for 2017.

Riley defenders are going to be quick to claim that Riley hasn't had a chance to develop championship level talent.  That's missing the point.  He's had more than enough time to develop talent good enough to get Nebraska to seven or eight wins this season.  Right now, that goal seems unrealistic.  A second losing season marked the end for Bill Callahan; a second losing season will also mark the end of Mike Riley's coaching career.

A few thoughts:
If your first thought was "this is going to hurt recruiting," just shut up and go away. Signing day is still a ways away, and everything that opposing coaches say about Mike Riley being on the hot seat would still apply even if Shawn Eichorst was still the athletic director.

Mike Riley hasn't been fired yet, and he won't be fired until a new athletic director is named - and likely not until after the season is over.  And if Mike Riley manages to get his team under control and the Huskers somehow get to seven wins, he probably keeps his job.  If he gets this team to Indy, he'll get all sorts of credit and even a contract extension.

Why was this done now? First, a message needs to be sent that this is not acceptable. Shawn Eichorst surprised the college football world by hiring Mike Riley, a coach who was struggling at Oregon State. The results of that hire so far are a strong indication that you couldn't let Eichorst have a second shot at hiring a football coach.  Nebraska's leadership has two months to get a new athletic director in place, with job one being to figure out the football coaching situation.   I suspect it won't take nearly that long.

Trev Alberts shouldn't be a serious candidate for several reasons. He's done a nice job at UNO, for the most part, but with mixed returns.  At UNO, that's pretty good actually.  Good decisions were the move to division 1 and hiring Dean Blais, who upgraded the hockey program.  Bad decisions include the decision to build the money-sucking Baxter Arena.

(A quick note to UNO fan bois... The budget for Baxter Arena is completely separate from athletics at UNO, so it's silly to dismiss claims that Baxter is losing money by claiming that the athletic budget is balanced.  The University system is having to pump extra money into Baxter's operations to keep the doors open, and that's money that's outside of the athletic department's perview.)

In any event, Nebraska needs an athletic director who's run a major athletic department.  It very well likely will be an existing athletic director at another major college program.  I'd argue that Creighton's Bruce Rasmussen is more likely to be selected than Alberts.

While an interim director will probably have Nebraska ties, the eventual hire probably won't have Nebraska ties.  That shouldn't be viewed as an issue.  More importantly, the new hire should have experience running successful football and basketball programs.  Nebraska hasn't had those things, and it's time to bring in someone who knows how that works.

It's not for certain, but Nebraska will probably be needing a new head football coach in two months. And that next coach will need to have championship quality experience.  This coaching search will be different.  Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel argued today that Nebraska's past history in hiring coaches means Nebraska is not an elite program.
If the Nebraska job were such a great job then why are the last three coaches hired named Bill Callahan, Bo Pelini and Mike Riley? This sounds like a pool of candidates for NC State, not Nebraska.
Every coaching search is different.  Bill Callahan was hired because Steve Pederson couldn't find anybody else.  Bo Pelini was hired because Tom Osborne couldn't afford anybody else. (North Stadium expansion and the buyouts limited his options.)  Mike Riley was hired because Shawn Eichorst never looked at anybody else.

The next athletic director has the resources ($25 million a year in new B1G television revenue) to pursue just about anybody not named Urban, Saban, or Dabo. He needs the vision to not just burn money, but to find the best coach out there, and almost no matter what the cost.  It might cost double what Mike Riley makes...maybe even more.

But if it's a coach that can get Nebraska back into championship consideration, then it'll be a bargain.  That's why Shawn Eichorst was fired.  Eichorst was never going to be able to hire that coach.  The next athletic director will have that as his primary job objective.


Mark Feller said...

Love the analysis. Can't wait to read more after the loss to Wisconsin. I wrote the Chancellor to let him know we're giving up our 4 season tickets we've had since '62.

Husker Mike said...

Don't panic. Changes are afoot; let's ride this out.