The final installment on The Shawn Eichorst-Bo Pelini Palimony Fund is scheduled to be paid on February 2019. If you’re a Nebraska Cornhuskers fan who’s fixing one eye on Mike Riley and another on a potential successor, the real clock probably starts there.
The rest of this is optics and window dressing. Although the optics coming out of the Omaha World-Herald report late Monday night that Riley would be extended through 2020 — and inevitably, 2021 — came off as a tad curious, even in French:
— #MidMajors (@MidnightCampus) September 12, 2017
— #ForeverTwoSeven (@Julien_Korver26) September 12, 2017
Sacre bleu! Les Canards viennent de marquer a nouveau!
(We digress, although Google’s translator is a hell of a way to kill a morning.)
At first blush — coming off a Week 1 win over Arkansas State that ended uncomfortably and a Week 2 loss at Oregon that started miserably — this smells like something to keep rival recruiters at bay. Something to put potential recruiting targets at ease. No more, no less.
Especially when you consider the reported contract lengths of Riley’s Big Ten West peers:
Wisconsin: Paul Chryst, through January 2022
Minnesota: P.J. Fleck, through January 2022
Illinois: Lovie Smith, through January 2022
Purdue: Jeff Brohm, through December 2022
Iowa: Kirk Ferentz, through January 2026*
Northwestern: Pat Fitzgerald, through Fall 2026*
*= or whenever he wants
So five years of cushion is sort of the standard rate these days. By comparison, an extension for Riley through even 2021 feels less like a vote of confidence and more like a carefully hedged bet.
Instead of kicking this particular can down the road, the Huskers keep nudging it along with a toe, hoping the results on the field start to dictate things one way or another.
Alas, 2017 has opened with … well, a shrug. A young team bouncing, as young teams do, between two extremes. If anything, the extension probably affirms the suspicion that this season, with all its new pieces, new schemes, new coordinators, new kids, might well be a mulligan. A learning year. If Riley bowls and keeps winning on the recruiting trail, the train chugs forward.
It’s not that this fall doesn’t matter. It’s that next fall does. If, for nothing else, because Bo comes off the books right after that, and then the clock really starts to loom.
And the louder the grumbling over the Blackshirts, the louder the ticking.