LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska abruptly fired athletic director Shawn Eichorst on Thursday, citing a failure to improve the “on-field performance” by the Cornhuskers.
Chancellor Ronnie Green announced the move five days after the football team dropped to 1-2 for the second time in three years after an embarrassing 21-17 home loss to Northern Illinois.
Eichorst joined Nebraska in October 2012, and has about $1.7 million remaining on a contract that runs through June 2019.
“Shawn has led Nebraska athletics in many positive ways, but those efforts have not translated into on-field performance,” Green said. “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 and football coach Mike Riley have been under increased scrutiny with the continued mediocrity of the program. Eichorst hired Riley away from Oregon State in 2014, replacing the successful but volatile Bo Pelini.
Riley is just 16-13 at Nebraska, a school that has won five national championships, went to bowl games every year from 1969-2003 but has not won a conference title since 1999. Since opening 2016 with seven straight wins, the Cornhuskers have lost six of nine, a stretch that included losses of 59 points to Ohio State and 30 points to Iowa.
Eichorst is a graduate and a former AD at Wisconsin-Whitewater.
NEW COACHES OFF TO GOOD START
Minnesota, Purdue and Indiana are off to good starts under their first-year coaches. P.J. Fleck has the Gophers 3-0, and the Hoosiers are 1-1 under Tom Allen. Purdue is 2-1.
Minnesota is off until its Big Ten opener at home against Maryland next week. The Gophers also were unbeaten through three games last season, but this year’s accomplishment seems greater. The Gophers’ starting quarterback, Conor Rhoda, is a fifth-year senior walk-on who was going to quit football and get a job before Fleck asked him to return. Five players were dismissed last winter following a sexual assault investigation. Nearly two dozen players had offseason surgeries. Running backs Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks have been banged up early in the season.
With Fleck in charge, positivity abounds. Everyone around the programs appears to have bought in to the “Row the Boat” mantra he brought with him from Western Michigan. Season-ticket and merchandise sales are up and the team’s all-gold uniforms and Goldy Gopher helmet were showcased on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” last week. Fleck’s news conference after a 48-14 win at Oregon State drew 52,000 views on the school’s athletic website, “and it was 1:30 a.m. in Minnesota when that was happening,” spokesman Paul Rovnak said.
Indiana plays its last nonconference game at home Saturday against Georgia Southern and opens Big Ten play next week at No. 4 Penn State. The Hoosiers gave Ohio State a tussle into the third quarter of a 49-21 loss in their opener, and they’ve built some momentum with a 34-17 win at Virginia.
Since Purdue coach Jeff Brohm has come along and led the Boilermakers to back-to-back wins for the first time in five years and the biggest margin of victory in a road game since 1999, fans are guardedly optimistic he might be the guy to revive the school’s football tradition.