Published Tuesday, October 9, 2012 at 10:05 pm / Updated at 11:01 pm
ATHLETICS
Barfknecht: A.D. ready to get down to business

LINCOLN — Nebraska fans won’t have to worry about their new athletic director dancing on the tables at the Legion Club or spending too much time at the golf course.

Shawn Eichorst is one serious dude. Oops, too informal. One serious man, I meant.

And he still won the press conference Tuesday, proving you don’t need a comedy routine or a bunch of high-falutin’ promises to make a decent first impression.

Eichorst, who comes to Nebraska from Miami to succeed Tom Osborne on Jan. 1, said all the right things in his 6Ĺ-minute opening remarks — a printed-out speech he read.

He proved he had done his homework by paying homage early and often to Osborne, who was in the room. (We forgive Eichorst’s mispronunciation of Osborne. He’ll quickly learn it’s Oz-burn not Oz-born.)

He also referenced things dear to Husker hearts such as Mike Rozier, Dave Rimington, Roger Craig, academic All-Americans, Nebraska culture and his plans for NU “to compete for Big Ten and national championships in everything we do.”

“We’re not reinventing the wheel here,” Eichorst said.

Even during an informal question-and-answer session later, Eichorst listened closely to questions, paused to gather his thoughts before answering and smartly begged off on giving specifics about his agenda before actually becoming A.D.

Did I mention he’s a lawyer? His sober tone, measured manner and wise words pounded that home.

Serious is good because in Nebraska, athletics is serious business.

Husker sports are a $95 million enterprise that ties the people of this state together like no other. That’s why it took $973,000 a year in salary to get the man Chancellor Harvey Perlman wanted.

“Comparative numbers make a difference,” Perlman said. “I knew what Shawn’s salary was at Miami. It was very substantial.

“To go out and attract somebody from a BCS school, we knew we were going to be somewhere around a million dollars. That’s market price.”

Those still upset about Eichorst’s pay — which puts him No. 3 in the Big Ten and in the top 10 nationally — should focus their energy on thanking Osborne for saving NU athletics about $3.5 million the past five years by taking a far-below-market salary.

Eichorst met with athletic department staff at 10 a.m. Tuesday. The lone head coach savvy enough to also attend the press conference at 11, Tim Miles of men’s basketball, liked what he saw.

“He checks out to the highest degree. Everybody I’ve called loves him,” Miles said. “He’s a lawyer, so you know he’s got great process.

“Everybody who had worked with him raved about him wanting the best, him finding a way to be successful.”

Eichorst supervised men’s basketball at Wisconsin, one of the few Division I programs with a history as lowly as Nebraska’s until Bo Ryan turned the Badgers around the past decade. Take heart, there, Husker hoop fans.

But football will preoccupy the majority of Eichorst’s time. It should because football provides far more than the majority of athletic revenue among Nebraska’s 23 sports (82.7 percent in fiscal year 2010-11).

Eichorst wisely stiff-armed most Bo Pelini questions. He’ll have plenty of time after Jan. 1 to train his magnifying glass on that operation. That will be Job One.

The new man has some football chops.

The former Wisconsin farmboy worked his way from the bottom of the depth chart at Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater into an all-conference defensive back and captain. From his administrative work, he has become close friends with Wisconsin A.D. Barry Alvarez, former Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz and South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier.

For now, Eichorst will work on assimilating himself into the state.

The Miami media who covered Eichorst’s 18-month term there poor-mouthed him as “the Invisible A.D.” who hid from the press, rarely attended games and wouldn’t return phone calls. Had a surprise NCAA investigation been dropped in my lap six months into my job, I might have reacted the same way — and there are indications his president told him to keep quiet.

Something tells me Nebraskans won’t mind having someone in charge who will walk past the statue in front of the Osborne building and not worry about getting one built of himself.

Contact the writer:

402-444-1024, lee.barfknecht@owh.com

* * *

>> Video: Watch the Shawn Eichorst press conference:

Contact the writer: Lee Barfknecht

lee.barfknecht@owh.com    |   402-444-1024    |  

Lee Barfknecht has won nine national writing awards from four separate organizations, and is a 12-time winner of the Nebraska sportswriter of the year award. He covers Big Ten football and basketball, Nebraska basketball and other college financial issues for The World-Herald.

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