This afternoon, Nebraska announced the abrupt firing of athletic director Shawn Eichorst, five days after the Cornhuskers lost a home game against Northern Illinois. When Chancellor Ronnie Green announced the news, he cited a lack of results, the timing of which sure makes it seem like it’s directly connected to the Huskers’ poor start to the football season:
“Shawn has led Nebraska Athletics in many positive ways, but those efforts have not translated into on-field performance. Our fans and our student-athletes deserve leadership that drives the highest levels of competitiveness, as well as excellence across all facets of Husker Athletics.”
Eichorst joined Nebraska in 2012, and he was responsible for the firing of longtime coach Bo Pelini in 2014. Pelini racked up an impressive 67-27 record with the Huskers, won at least nine games in every season, and made seven straight bowl games. Some former players took issue with Eichorst’s firing of Pelini, and the enmity between the two men was no secret. After he was fired, Pelini went on a scorched-earth rant against Eichorst in a meeting with his players, calling him a “penis,” a “cock,” and “that fucking lawyer.”
“He goes, ‘I disagree that I haven’t supported you.’ I said, ‘Hey bud, you can’t support somebody underneath a fucking rock.’ I said, ‘To do your job at this level, at a place like this, you gotta be a grown-ass fucking man to lead something.’ I said, ‘You can’t lead anything under a fucking rock.’ I said, ‘You don’t spend any time with us. Our players don’t even know who you are.’ And I said, ‘That isn’t leadership.’
Eichorst selected Mike Riley to replace Pelini, and thus far, the longtime Oregon State coach has been unable to replicate Pelini’s steady success. The Huskers have struggled this year, barely beating Arkansas State in the season-opener, losing to Oregon, then dropping a home game to Northern Illinois. The Huskers announced a one-year extension for Riley a few days before the game, and after the loss, Eichorst spoke with reporters and expressed his anger and frustration with the season:
“I’m angry, I’m frustrated, I’m disappointed,” Eichorst said. “At the end of the day, we have to stay together. It’s still early in the season, and we need to find ways to win games like this. I want to continue to show our support, but I also understand there is a lot of frustration out there when you don’t win games like today.
“I want to make sure folks understand we’ve got to get that fixed, and we have to get heading in the right direction, and we have the right coach to do it. But we have to get going.”
With the man who hired him now fired, Mike Riley is surely feeling the pressure of his 1-2 start even more acutely. Nebraska president Hank Bounds expressed a modicum of confidence in his coach, saying “This is not about Mike Riley right now.” One wonders how much work that “right now” is doing.