LINCOLN — Nebraska Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst on Saturday continued his support for football coach Mike Riley, laid out the strengths of the department and said that discussions regarding his contract extension have been tabled to avoid what he says could be an off-field distraction as the regular season winds down.
Five days after Eichorst wrote a letter to fans underlining his support for Riley in his first year, he met with a small group of reporters 90 minutes before Nebraska kicked off against Michigan State.
UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman confirmed in a World-Herald report on Thursday that he was working on a new deal for Eichorst and he planned to “quickly” come to terms. But Eichorst said he met with Perlman Friday and they decided to halt the contract talks.
Eichorst spoke proudly Saturday about the state of Nebraska’s athletic department under his direction and his role with the 12-member NCAA Division I football oversight committee. He once again expressed confidence in Riley, the first-year coach whose Huskers a few hours later would upset sixth-ranked Michigan State 39-38.
He’d just prefer that a possible contract extension not have a place in the conversation for now.
“I’ve respectfully asked Chancellor Harvey Perlman, and he has agreed, to not discuss my employment contract or any extension thereof at this point in time,” Eichorst said. “It’s irrelevant. It’s not the time or place. The focus needs to be on our kids, on our coaches, on our staff and on our fan base. And I’m 100 percent committed to that.”
Eichorst’s original five-year contract began in 2013. He and an NU spokesman confirmed that the length of that deal has already been extended to June 2019 through customary one-year extensions. The exact details of those extensions were unclear Saturday. This latest extension, Eichorst said, would have taken him to June 2020.
Eichorst indicated that he is evaluated annually, a job review process similar to the one he uses to assess the performance of athletic department staff, particularly coaches.
It’s why Eichorst said he prefers not to publicly comment on the football staff during its season.
“I still believe in my policy of letting people do their jobs and holding them accountable and evaluating it with the totality of the work,” Eichorst said. “I don’t think it does us any good to be evaluating day-to-day and week-to-week, comparing and all that sort of stuff.”
Eichorst did issue a statement last week in support of Riley and his staff. He reiterated that message Saturday, commending the coaches’ work ethic, their professionalism and their plan for the future. He meets with Riley weekly.
“They’re working like crazy in a real challenging transition,” Eichorst said.
Eichorst said he’s working, too.
He noted that about a month ago he and Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany visited with members of every FBS football conference. Eichorst said his role on the oversight committee has helped him “really get a sense of what’s going on in college football.”
He said he thinks Nebraska is in a good place, especially in terms of its student-athlete experience. From academic performance to community outreach to staff makeup, Eichorst indicated that NU’s athletic department is positioned well.
“There’s no place for a student-athlete like Nebraska,” he said. “We want to be unique. We want to be a game-changer. And I think everything that we’ve put in place provides an incredibly special experience for all of our student-athletes, and I’ll put that up against anybody in the country, what we’re doing here at Nebraska.”
World-Herald staff writer Sam McKewon contributed to this report.
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