NU's Eichorst on changes: Don't rush it, get it right

Nebraska Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst says the Power Five conferences' desire to improve student-athletes' welfare is timely. "Really, we've got to get some things done because it's a new day and age," he said.

LINCOLN — When administrators at Power Five conferences held spring meetings the past few weeks, much of the conversation was about student-athlete welfare and potentially cutting back the time athletics requires.

Much of the national response has been "I'll believe it when I see it," especially considering the pressure college coaches are under to win.

Nebraska Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst understands the doubters.

"I'm more focused on what gets done, not what gets said," he told The World-Herald on Thursday. "Really, we've got to get some things done because it's a new day and age."

The door to major colleges revamping their mode of operation opened in August when the NCAA Division I Board of Directors granted power to the five major football-playing conferences to make their own rules to benefit athletes.

Among ideas getting the most attention so far — cost of attendance, limiting the length of seasons, dead periods in practice schedules and pay for families to attend College Football Playoff or NCAA basketball tournament games.

"I think we have everyone's attention on what's important," Eichorst said. "Time demands, playing seasons and number of games played are all interrelated.

"My feeling is a majority of the folks who can make change are interested in doing what's in the best interest of our students. And the new governance structure allows us to work more closely with student leadership."

Though the pieces now are in place to create significant change, Eichorst believes slow and steady is the best pace.

"I don't want to see a rush to judgment to make piecemeal change," he said. "Let's not just 'nuance within the box.' In some cases, we've got to get outside the box and challenge ourselves to think differently."

The Big Ten will have a direct line to those considering change. Northwestern A.D. Jim Phillips is chairman of the new NCAA Division I Council, which conducts the daily business of big-school athletics.

"We've gotten to the point where it's time for a timeout," Phillips said. "Everything should be on the table. Nothing is sacred. Let's do the right thing for our student-athletes."

Eichorst concurs. "The timing is right, the system is right and the people, for the most part, are well-intended," he said. "There's more attention on it than ever."

At Nebraska, student-athlete welfare has been and remains front of mind.

"Nebraska has a unique DNA relative to trying really hard to strike a balance in doing the right things," Eichorst said. "We're not perfect. But I think we're as far along as anyone in respect to student-athlete welfare.

"We're connected to our student-athletes. I think they feel valued. They feel listened to. And the resources we provide are second to none."

Contact the writer: 402-444-1024, lee.barfknecht@owh.com twitter.com/leebeeowh

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