1999 — the year hangs like a massive albatross around the neck of the Nebraska Cornhuskers athletic department.
Football is king in Husker land, and that year is the last time a conference championship was won by the team from Lincoln. It also is the measuring stick for every coach and athletic director the program has had since.
No one has been able to measure up just yet, and the latest to fall victim to not living up to that standard is athletic director Shawn Eichorst.
On Thursday, Eichorst was fired by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln chancellor, Ronnie Green, and the chancellor pulled no punches about why this decision was made.
“Shawn has led Nebraska Athletics in many positive ways, but those efforts have not translated into on-field performance,” Green said in a press release. “Our fans and our student-athletes deserve leadership that drives the highest levels of competitiveness, as well as excellence across all facets of Husker Athletics.”
Eichorst met with Green and others in the administration in the morning according to the Omaha World-Herald, and was informed of their decision shortly after the meeting.
For his part, Eichorst was gracious in his exit and thankful for the time spent in Lincoln.
“While I am deeply disappointed in the decision today, I am grateful for the wonderful years that my family and I have spent at Nebraska. I am proud of how our student-athletes, coaches and staff represented this great university and state, and I am confident that the future is bright for Nebraska Athletics.”
Eichorst will leave Lincoln with $1.7 million to be paid out on a contract that had him at the helm of the program through 2019.
Green also laid out exactly what he was looking for in a new athletic director — one that was focused on bringing winning programs along with a focus on the success of the whole student-athlete.
“Winning can and often does happen in concert with well-run, quality college programs that work to ensure the success of the student,” Green said. “That’s our expectation. We take pride here in doing things right and doing the right thing, and that won’t change. This is not an either-or equation. We can and should win in that kind of environment.”
Nebraska fans have to be happy that the administration is making a bold move in the wake of mediocrity from the football and basketball programs over the past four years.
Message sent — being good is no longer good enough, Nebraska expects greatness on and off the field.
Now, will Green be able to find the person who can achieve the goals that they want? That may be the defining moment in Green’s own tenure as chancellor.