Published Tuesday, October 9, 2012 at 10:05 pm / Updated at 6:18 pm
ATHLETICS
Shatel: Eichorst sounds good, but success rests on football results

Shawn Eichorst took the microphone and ran for daylight.

He referred to Tom Osborne as “Coach Osborne” and a “legend.”

He quoted Warren Buffett in Osborne's latest book, with Buffett calling Osborne “a man of character.”

He said he looked forward to improving his life by working with Osborne.

He described growing up on a farm in southwest Wisconsin. He talked about “family, church, school and work.”

He talked about baling hay, feeding pigs, milking cows and detasseling corn.

And how he lived for Saturdays, watching the Big Ten and Big Eight. He rattled off the names Mike Rozier, Dave Rimington and Roger Craig and the “famed Blackshirts.”

He referenced Barry Alvarez referencing Bob Devaney.

He cited the “core values of Nebraska,” like class, integrity, sportsmanship, trust, respect and teamwork. He said, “That's who you are, and that's who I am.”

If you didn't already know better, you would have thought the man was born and bred in Nebraska.

It was well-rehearsed and well-researched. At times, Eichorst seemed to try too hard to make the case that he's not an outsider.

Nebraskans no doubt appreciate the effort.

The first rule of introductory press conferences, however, is that actions always speak louder than words. It won't be until January, when he takes over, that we begin to find out if Eichorst and Nebraskans speak the same language.

The language of football.

Reciting traditions and names is one thing. How you actually treat the sacred cow is another. Again, Eichorst said all of the right things about the importance of Big Red football.

“It's a big deal,” Eichorst said. “It's the engine that drives this deal. We all know that.”

But what exactly does Eichorst think about the current state of the machine? And the man driving it?

Sorry. If you were expecting a full evaluation of Bo Pelini's program, Eichorst wasn't going there. He said now was not the time nor the place for that assessment.

The new guy is correct. Eichorst hasn't watched the games. And, he's not the athletic director yet. Check back in January.

No doubt, we will.

By then, the tale of the 2012 season will be in the books. Did NU win the Big Ten championship? Play in the league title game? Fall just short? Or limp in just over .500?

The timing of Eichorst's introduction, just three days after arguably the worst game in Pelini's NU tenure, puts an interesting twist to the rest of the season. To say the least.

Is Bo coaching for his job? No way. Eichorst appears to be measured and reserved. Not the kind of man to walk in the door and make that kind of move without examining a ton of evidence.

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But are these next six games Eichorst's first impression of Pelini Ball? Absolutely.

At the conclusion of his fifth season at NU, Pelini will be working for someone who didn't hire him. It happens in college football. The result can go either way. Coach and his new boss can hit it off immediately. Or not.

There's another dynamic here. Sometimes a new A.D. is determined to hire his own guy. Though he never said as much, I'm convinced Steve Pederson knew he was going to fire Frank Solich at some point and hire his own guy. Osborne, classy and fair, gave Bill Callahan a to-do list, but you knew that wasn't going to work out.

There's no reason to think Eichorst arrives with an itch. The people who vouch for him say he's low ego, not looking to remake something in his image.

But we don't know Shawn Eichorst yet. And one thing about Tuesday's press conference that's clear: Eichorst is a serious dude. Pederson and Bill Byrne before him were showmen, to an extent. They didn't dislike the limelight part of the gig.

Eichorst is more straight-forward, businesslike, more of the serious lawyer that is his background. What does that mean for Bo?

It means he needs to win. But then again, he already knew that.

It would also behoove him to get to know his new boss. But that goes for both men. Nebraska's athletic director and football coach should have an open dialogue and be on the same page, chapter and verse. The health of the program demands it.

That hasn't happened yet. Pelini was at the meeting Tuesday morning when Eichorst introduced himself to the staff and coaches. They didn't have time to meet. But, Eichorst said he thought they would get to sit down and talk Tuesday night or Wednesday.

The coach wasn't at the press conference, but no big deal there. One, Pelini's presence would have upstaged the event. Secondly, he was on the Big Ten conference call during the press conference. Convenient timing? Probably a good idea.

Both men said the right things about the other. Eichorst called Pelini a “winner” and talked about the admiration and respect for him. Pelini, on the Big Ten media call on Tuesday, said “I've heard nothing but great things” about Eichorst and that he looks forward to working with him.

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Good to hear, after Pelini basically blew off a question about Eichorst last Thursday, the day he was hired. There have been reports that Pelini wasn't happy about the way the athletic director search went. On Wednesday, I asked Chancellor Harvey Perlman if Pelini had reason to be upset and he said, “Not that I know of. I told him he would be consulted and he was consulted.”

It's time to move on from that. Pelini knew Osborne wouldn't be around forever. Now he has a new boss, a guy with which he can relate in some areas. Like Pelini, Eichorst is a hard-worker and devoted family man who doesn't seek the spotlight but does have an appetite for trophies.

“My expectations for this program are to compete for championships,” Eichorst said. “Yes, national championships, absolutely. That's what Nebraska fans expect. I get that.”

He and Pelini can talk all about it. The sooner the better.

Contact the writer:

402-444-1025, tom.shatel@owh.com; twitter.com/tomshatelOWH

* * *

>> Video: Watch the Shawn Eichorst press conference:

Contact the writer: Tom Shatel

tom.shatel@owh.com    |   402-444-1025    |  

Tom Shatel is a sports columnist who covers the city, regional and state scene.

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