New Husker A.D. sees no big problems to fix

New NU Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst in his office. Eichorst said that after three months of studying the athletic program, he sees no pressing problems to fix. “We'll make adjustments when necessary,” he said, “but Coach (Tom Osborne) has done a wonderful job positioning this place in a lot of ways for success.''

LINCOLN — The nearly 300 full-time employees of the Nebraska athletic department got a holiday gift from their new boss.

Shawn Eichorst, who starting today follows Tom Osborne as Husker athletic director, sent out copies of a book called “The Energy Bus.'' It's an international best-seller touted as “10 rules to fuel your life, work and team with positive energy.''

Eichorst, in a 25-minute interview Wednesday with The World-Herald, called the book “a look-see'' into his management style and his way of life.

“When you read that book, there's nothing in there that's rocket science,'' he said. “It's about treating people the right way and giving people a chance to succeed.''

The best way to do that at Nebraska, the soft-spoken Eichorst has determined after three months as an assistant to the chancellor, isn't to burst in swinging an ax or spouting declarations.

“This is an iconic program that is structured for sustained success,'' he said. “I don't see any areas that are broken.''

With no “Job One'' to address, Eichorst said his early goal is simple: to look and listen. He sees no senior staff hires or departures on the horizon, nor does he intend to micromanage or “lead by fear.''

“I'm not a yeller, screamer or cusser,'' he said. “I've never thought that was an effective way of getting anywhere.

“And it would be remiss to come in here with some sort of agenda. We'll make adjustments when necessary, but Coach has done a wonderful job positioning this place in a lot of ways for success.''

“Coach'' is how Eichorst every time refers to Osborne, whose duty as A.D. was extended two days through Wednesday to finish Nebraska's bowl trip.

Osborne, now as A.D. emeritus, is moving to an office on the fourth floor of the athletic complex named for him. Eichorst is in the third-floor A.D. suite — sparsely decorated so far except for multiple pictures of his wife (Kristin) and three sons (Jack, Joe and Ben).

From his office window Wednesday, Eichorst looked out at a 6-inch snow cover. Palm trees were the view from his previous job as A.D. at the University of Miami.

Which does he prefer?

“Snow,'' was the immediate and smiling reply from a man who has spent far more time in cold climes than warm.

The 45-year-old native of Lone Rock, Wis., was a football player at Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater, where he graduated magna cum laude in business.

Next came a law degree from Marquette and some time in private practice before entering sports administration as A.D. at Whitewater; senior associate A.D. at South Carolina; and executive associate A.D. at Wisconsin under Barry Alvarez before going to Miami in 2011.

Eichorst, who left Miami for Nebraska in early October, has kept a low public profile here. He has traveled to Omaha, Lexington, North Platte, Grand Island and Columbus, and has met all academic deans at UNL.

As for being around Husker athletics, Eichorst went to Omaha for the volleyball regional. But he hasn't traveled with any teams and didn't go to the Big Ten football championship game or the Capital One Bowl. He watched Tuesday's 45-31 loss to Georgia from home with his family.

“I have not wanted to be a distraction,'' he said. “(Traveling) would have sent a mixed message. I wanted to be deferential to and respectful of Coach.''

Eichorst said he has spent three to four hours a week with Osborne since October discussing various topics. The two would follow those talks with on-site observations. Osborne's love for the school, sense of service, care for student-athletes and competitiveness came through during their time together.

Has he elicited a “Dadgummit!'' yet from Osborne?

“I haven't,'' Eichorst said, laughing. “Nor have I overheard one. But I've heard some good stories about that. Coach is quiet, but he is very passionate and extremely competitive.

“His demeanor around the student-athletes is priceless. That is what I've enjoyed the most. Our student-athletes know who he is. Too many times people no longer recall legendary figures.''

Though Eichorst and Osborne won't have offices on the same floor, look for the back stairwell to get regular use.

“I have reinforced with him on many, many occasions that we need him to be involved and stay involved,'' Eichorst said. “I won't be looking over my shoulder. I want him around.''

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