Shawn Eichorst didn’t say it in so many words Thursday, but Nebraska’s athletic director made it clear three important things are going on in his department: recruiting, recruiting and recruiting.
“We have got to continue to recruit at the highest level,” Eichorst said at The World-Herald’s Big Red Today Breakfast in front of more than 200 people at Anthony’s Steakhouse.
“The stats don’t lie. I don’t think anybody has competed for a national championship (in football) that hasn’t had a top-25 recruiting class. That’s the environment we are in today, whether we like it or not.”
Progress at NU is evident, Eichorst said, and growing.
“We have some students who are coming to kick the tires in Lincoln that we’ve not had in a long time,” he said, a reference to a Nebraska football recruiting class drawing national attention for the caliber of commitments according to website rankings.
To bolster recruiting, Eichorst has given Associate A.D. Chris Brasfield oversight of what’s labeled “student-athlete recruitment and experience” for all sports.
“We are paying attention to recruiting across the board,” Eichorst said. “That’s his job. Chris is a former football player, a former football coach and a great recruiter. He now is responsible for quality assurance across all of our sports in recruiting.”
Brasfield has visited Alabama, Oregon and Oklahoma this year to study those schools’ operations and to share ideas.
“He understands how to recruit millennials,” Eichorst said. “He understands digital, social ... you name it. So we’re taking recruiting extremely seriously and making sure we can help each one of our coaches.
“The things we have done in football have opened the eyes of our coaches in our other programs to make sure we are doing everything we can to recruit at the highest level.”
Eichorst has invested in personnel to help with talent evaluation, development and recruiting.
In February, Nebraska hired former St. Louis Rams General Manager Billy Devaney as executive director of player personnel and personal assistant to football coach Mike Riley.
In June, a similar position was created in men’s basketball with Ali Farokhmanesh hired from his Husker graduate assistantship to become director of player relations and development.
“We will continue to be thoughtful and progressive in that way,” Eichorst said.
Since Nebraska entered the Big Ten five years ago, results as far as winning championships have been spotty.
“It’s a rugged league,” Eichorst said. “It’s a broad-based resourced league. The other 13 institutions are really good and want to do the same things we are trying to get done at Nebraska.
“I like where we are in football. I really like where we are in men’s basketball. Being at practice the last couple of weeks on and off, it’s a good picture. Now, we’ve got to convert.”
Yet Eichorst decided not to add the standard one-year renewal to fifth-year coach Tim Miles’ contract this summer, leaving Miles with a four-year deal. Sources tell The World-Herald multiple opponents already have used that as a negative recruiting tool.
“Tim and I have a very good relationship,” Eichorst said. “We both understand where the program is and where it needs to go. There are high expectations and standards.
“I wouldn’t get too hung up on the extension. The way I see it, we’re doing everything we can to support that program and put them in a position to be successful. I know Tim wants to do that, and his attitude has been great. We’re headed in a good direction there.”
Other topics from the Big Red Today Breakfast:
» One questioner said he no longer will attend football games if the only tickets he can get are in the North end zone because of the difficulty of getting in and out, and poor access to concessions and restrooms.
“We have looked at the North very closely for the things you describe,” Eichorst said. “We are putting some plans together relative to how to get more vertical transportation or create another concourse. The more comfort and convenience we can bring to the North, the better.”
Any North end zone redesign could include expansion of the football complex.
“We need to make sure Mike has all the things he needs to be successful, from A to Z,” Eichorst said. “Getting the meeting rooms right, the locker room right, athletic medicine right, nutrition and all those things.
“Mike is going to have 145 to 150 kids with his robust walk-on program. We don’t have space for all our kids to be in the main locker room.”
» Any changes coming to the capacity of Memorial Stadium?
“Folks are paying more attention to the true fan experience, and making sure that is at its highest level,” Eichorst said. “If you have to sacrifice a little bit of capacity to do that, you probably make a good decision. We have a good capacity now. We don’t need to go any bigger.”
» The next non-football facility improvement likely is an on-campus training center for the men’s and women’s golf teams. Eichorst noted that those are the only two of Nebraska’s 24 sports that must leave campus to practice.