Nebraska fired athletic director Shawn Eichorst on Thursday, five days after an embarrassing loss to Northern Illinois. It’s the latest in a series of corrections and overcorrections for the program since Tom Osborne retired as a coach in 1997 and as athletic director in 2012.
Now it’s time for Nebraska to steal a page from the school it shared a national championship with in 1997 to gain its footing in the Big Ten.
It also can be done right, as was the case there. Michigan corrected itself when interim athletic director Jim Hackett delivered coach Jim Harbaugh before Warde Manuel was hired as full-time AD. The Wolverines are a legitimate Big Ten and College Football Playoff contender after several down years of being in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.
That’s just it. The spotlight never leaves programs like Michigan, Nebraska, Texas, etc. They will never be irrelevant with their fan bases.
But being competitive is another story. Bob Devaney and Osborne went 356-69 from 1962-97. Frank Solich, Bill Callahan, Bo Pelini and interim coach Barney Cotton combined for a 151-69 record before Mike Riley was hired in 2015. You’re about 205 wins short of expectations at that point.
Riley is 16-13 since his arrival, and part of that corrections-and-over-corrections theme. Nebraska shouldn’t have fired Solich and shouldn’t have hired Callahan, nor should it have fired Pelini and hired Riley. How many times have you heard those narratives? For what it’s worth, Solich and Pelini have had success since leaving: Solich is arguably the greatest coach in the history of the Ohio football program, while Pelini could lead Youngstown State to an FCS championship run.
For what it’s worth, Solich and Pelini have had success since leaving: Solich is arguably the greatest coach in the history of the Ohio football program, while Pelini could lead Youngstown State to an FCS championship run.
Riley’s future is part of that uncertainty moving forward at Nebraska. Perhaps the interim athletic director or next man in will let Riley do his job for a year or two and see what happens. That should be the case for the rest of this season, and that better include bowl eligibility at the least. Five wins or fewer will call into question whether Riley really fits into the new plan — and
Five wins or fewer will call into question whether Riley really fits into the new plan — and fit is everything in college football.
Alberts was a star linebacker for the Huskers from 1990-93 and is the current athletic director at the University of Nebraska Omaha.
Frost was the quarterback on that 1997 national championship team, and he served as the offensive coordinator at Oregon from 2013-15 before flipping Central Florida football in less than two seasons.
These will be the most frequent submissions in the “How to Fix Nebraska” playbook, and the Huskers have a choice to make.
They can wait: Allow Riley to try and right the ship. Let Frost get more head coaching experience. Let the new AD ease into the new position.
Waiting, however, makes it difficult for those stars to align. If you wait too long, then you can miss and the cycle of corrections and overcorrections will continue, and Nebraska will remain a second-tier program in a Big Ten Conference it was once expected to dominate.
Wisconsin and Iowa are steady options at the top, and Minnesota and Purdue seem to have made their moves by hiring P.J. Fleck and Jeff Brohm, respectively.
With or without Riley, the new AD has a lot of work to do. Riley deserves the opportunity to coach at Nebraska in the new administration, but the Huskers don’t have to wait forever.
Alberts appears to be one on the surface, and Nebraska needs to keep its options open with Frost. This is a sport where fit is everything, and the Warde-Harbaugh combo has proven that right once again. It’s an easy playbook, even if the path to get there is complicated.
There’s no need for an overcorrection. Nebraska can make the correct moves once and for all this time.