Tom Osborne’s move out of his skybox at Memorial Stadium isn’t necessarily a reflection on the current Nebraska football coach.
Or, for that matter, the current athletic director.
“I get along fine with Shawn,” Osborne, the iconic former Cornhuskers coach and administrator, told Land of 10 recently when asked about Shawn Eichorst, the man who replaced him as Big Red athletic director. “He’s got a big job, too. But we’ve gotten along pretty well and I certainly wish him well, too.
“Again, it’s a little like [coach] Mike Riley: I’m doing other things and I’ve always felt that it was not wise for the past guy, for the past AD or the past coach, to hang around and be looking over other people’s shoulders. So when I was gone, I felt it was important to be gone.
“So I’ve never tried to publicly interfere or second-guess. And so I hope things go well.”
Eichorst succeeded Osborne in January 2013 after leaving the same position at Miami (Fla.). The Wisconsin native agreed to a five-year contract at the time, one that’s reportedly been extended through at least June 30, 2019.
“You know, you can’t coach for those guys, and so you just have to hope that the coaches that you do hire do well, and hope that things go well.”
— Former Nebraska coach and AD Tom Osborne on current Cornhuskers AD Shawn Eichorst
“When [Shawn] was hired, I stayed and had an office there for about five months,” Osborne recalled. “And we met weekly for probably a couple months, and then those meetings became [less frequent] — he had to do things his way and I was doing other things, and so there was a transition period where I tried to make sure that I did whatever I knew that could help him with that transition.”
The last four seasons of the Cornhuskers’ most popular revenue sport have proven to be something of a mixed bag — as are many fans’ opinions of Eichorst.
The athletic director fired Bo Pelini after the 2014 season, and the temperamental Pelini fired off a string of invectives regarding Eichorst following his dismissal in a rant to players that was leaked to the media. Pelini’s replacement, Riley, has a record of 15-11 in his first two seasons. The status of men’s basketball coach Tim Miles remains a quandary: While the loquacious and affable Miles steered the Big Red to an NCAA tourney berth in 2014, his teams are 41-55 (.427) over the last three campaigns.
But the Huskers also became fully vested members of the Big Ten for the first time in 2017, which could translate to at least $51 million in conference distributions for the 2018 fiscal year alone. And the regents reportedly are considering a sponsorship deal with shoe giant Adidas that could be worth more than $128 million over 11 years.
“And of course, so often in an athletic director’s tenure his ability to function is tied to the success of his coaches,” Osborne continued.
“So it’s always a little bit uncomfortable [laughs], because you can only do so much. You know, you can’t coach for those guys, and so you just have to hope that the coaches that you do hire do well, and hope that things go well.”
The 80-year-old Osborne said late last month that he’s giving the skybox he’s had at North Stadium since 2007 back to the university. The Hastings, Neb., native, for whom the playing field at Memorial Stadium is named, won 255 games in 25 seasons as the Huskers’ football coach, as well as 13 league titles and three national championships (1994, ’95, ’97). After a stint in Congress, Osborne served as Nebraska’s athletic director from 2007 to 2013.
“I guess I can understand the things that both [Eichorst and Riley] are going through,” Osborne continued.
“But I wouldn’t say [I have more empathy for] one or the other. But, of course, I was a coach for 36 years and an athletic director for five, so I guess the coaching part is something I probably understand a little bit more.”