Hanky (copy)

Hank Bounds, left, with Husker football coach Scott Frost. During his time as NU’s president, Bounds “seemed to have some very good relationships with people involved that I would consider donors,” said Jim Scheer, speaker of the Nebraska Legislature.

Hank Bounds resigned as the University of Nebraska’s president in August, saying that he was tired and that his family wanted to get back to the South.

But the NU system, with the support of the NU Board of Regents, has brought Bounds back as a consultant and fundraiser for some University of Nebraska athletic department construction projects.

Bounds’ pay as a consultant: $250,000 a year in donor money for up to three years. The recipient officially is One Team LLC, a company Bounds has set up and will manage. It’s not clear whether other people will serve on his consulting team. He didn’t return calls or respond to a text late this week.

Bounds now works at the University of South Alabama, where he is paid $110,000 a year as a professor of educational leadership.

Some regents say it’s a win for Nebraska to bring Bounds back because he is a good fundraiser who knows and cares about the projects involved. Some observers say they are perplexed by the amount One Team will receive, and by the fact that Bounds will be here at least part of the time while NU selects a new president.

“I thought that was odd, why they kept him around,” said State Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte, chairman of the Legislature’s Education Committee. “That doesn’t happen in free enterprise. ... For the common man, it don’t look good.”

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Groene is a sometime critic of public colleges and universities. “There’s just way too much money floating around in higher education,” he said.

Paul Landow, an associate professor of political science at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, called the contract “astonishing” and “a bad idea.”

Landow was critical of the amount of money involved, which he described as “eye-popping.” Landow also wondered if it might affect the NU system’s ongoing search for a new president.

He said talented candidates for the job “will hesitate when they hear the old president is still around.”

The primary project involved is the recently announced $155 million NU football and sports operations facility.

UNL said that will be funded with $100 million in private money and the rest from athletic department money. A UNL spokeswoman said Friday that public money wouldn’t be used.

Regents note that the complex will benefit all athletes, and not just football players, with counseling, academic support facilities and other features.

Bounds’ contract also mentions construction of track and field facilities. Existing facilities for track and field are expected to be affected by the footprint of the $155 million building.

Regents Chairman Tim Clare of Lincoln said Bounds already knows the project, has great relationships across the state and is “a team player.”

Clare said this hasn’t affected the ongoing presidential search because the pool of candidates is large and strong. None of the candidates have been named and the process might end by late this year.

NU will “capitalize on those strengths and those relationships that he’s built,” Clare said of Bounds.

Asked if Bounds might advise a new president, Clare said: “That’s up to the new president when that time comes.”

Bounds was president for four years and four months and shepherded the NU system through some budget cuts.

The NU Board of Regents treated Bounds with respect. The board decided this year to give Bounds $300,000 in deferred, privately funded compensation. Technically, he was entitled to a portion of that deferred money only after five years of work as the NU system’s president.

His base pay at NU was $510,400, plus a $20,000 supplement from the NU Foundation, and a vehicle allowance of $9,600 that he received in cash. The total, then, was $540,000.

Bounds’ consulting contract calls for him to evaluate the University of Nebraska athletic department’s capacity for major construction projects; help fundraise for athletic department construction projects; and provide the university “service support during construction.”

Regent Bob Phares of North Platte said it was his understanding the latter element meant monitoring design and construction and “making sure people are dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s.” Phares said he was “grateful” for Bounds’ participation.

Regent Jim Pillen of Columbus said NU athletics have an urgent need for projects such as the operations center. “We’re thrilled that Hank wanted to help us and could help us, because we need all hands on deck,” Pillen said.

Pillen defended the decision to build the $155 million athletic complex, saying athletics are the “gateway to the University of Nebraska.” Husker football and other athletic programs are “a tremendous tool, a tremendous vehicle, to unite Nebraska,” he said.

Pillen played football for the Huskers in the 1970s.

He also heads the presidential search committee that is scouting for the NU system’s next president. He said he is thrilled with the pool of applicants and nominees so far.

UNL Chancellor Ronnie Green also thanked Bounds. “I very much appreciate what he’s doing to help,” Green said Friday in a written statement.

And Speaker of the Legislature Jim Scheer of Norfolk said that with Bounds’ contacts in Nebraska, it’s reasonable to bring him on as a consultant.

“I will tell you from my experience ... he seemed to have some very good relationships with people involved that I would consider donors,” Scheer said.

Kevin Hanrahan, UNL Faculty Senate president, said he feared that Bounds’ presence might “create sort of an awkward situation” for the next president.

Hanrahan recalled briefly serving as executive director of a symphony orchestra near Pittsburgh. He said the prior executive director joined the board of the organization and “everything I did was second-guessed.” He said of himself, “You just never were in charge” with the former director around.

Pillen said Bounds will have nothing to do with running the university and will carry out only the tasks in One Team’s contract.

One regent, Rob Schafer of Beatrice, carefully considered his few comments about Bounds’ participation. Questions being posed about his consulting “are valid points that are worthy of discussion,” Schafer said.

“I will say that Hank did a very nice job for us,” he said of Bounds’ presidency.

Clare said it’s obvious that Bounds is helping because NU already has collected more than 50% of the private money needed for the complex.

Clare and Pillen emphasized that strong athletics, such as a good football team, can increase enrollment and revenue for the university and thus benefit all students.

The professor from UNO had another viewpoint.

Landow said this kind of contract is “exactly why people are so frustrated with government and politicians, and it sends a really bad signal to the rest of the state. It takes a regular Nebraska family over four years to earn what Hank Bounds will make in a year, and he doesn’t even work here anymore.”