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October 4, 2012Nine days after Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne announced he would retire Jan. 1, the university has found his replacement.
At a press conference Thursday afternoon, Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman announced that Miami athletic director Shawn Eichorst would fill the athletic director role when Osborne steps down. Eichorst resigned from Miami Thursday morning and will be formally introduced at a press conference next Tuesday at 11 a.m.
"Here's a guy that grew up in the Midwest, was educated in the Midwest, was professionally developed in the Midwest under a mentor who has a passion for Nebraska athletics, (Wisconsin athletic director) Barry Alvarez," Perlman said. "He's had a broad range of experience of the kinds of things an athletic director in a modern athletic department has to deal with."
Eichorst spent one year as the athletic director at Miami and was responsible for the hiring of basketball coach Jim Larranaga. He previously worked at Wisconsin under Alvarez as the school's chief operating officer for athletics.
Perlman said that Osborne was involved in the decision and was the first person that Perlman told once he made the decision last week, but the chancellor suspects Osborne wished he would have had more input.
"I would guess (Osborne) is one of those that is disappointed that he was one of those that wasn't more directly involved," Perlman said. "I certainly interacted with Tom over the course of the last month or two about the athletic director search. I kept him in form and we talked about some of the issues that the next athletic director would have to address."
Eichorst will serve as a special assistant to the chancellor until Osborne retires at the end of year. He was given a five-year contract worth $973,000 annually. That is the third highest salary for an athletic director in the Big Ten behind Gene Smith of Ohio State ($1.074 million) and Alvarez of Wisconsin ($1.04 million). From the numbers provided by the university, it would be the sixth highest salary for an athletic director in the country.
In comparison, Osborne is making $277,969 a year.
"That's the world we live in," Perlman said of Eichorst's salary. "You are subject to the market place. You either play in the market place or you don't play."
There are longevity penalties and bonuses built in Eichorst's contract. Should he leave after one season, Eichorst would owe Nebraska $2 million. His penalty for an early departure decreases by $500,000 each year after that.
On the flip side, Eichorst will receive $750,000 if he stays for the length of his five-year contract.
Perlman was aided in the search by Jed Hughes, head of the international sports division at Korn/Ferry International, and a board of 13 search advisers that included Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney, football coach Bo Pelini, men's basketball coach Tim Miles and women's basketball coach Connie Yori.
The advisers did not know who was being interviewed and were not told of the selection until today.
"They did engage with us in terms of the credentials that were desirable in a candidate and the sets of experiences they were desirable, the kinds of things they thought our athletic department needed and the kinds of characteristics they wanted me to look for," Perlman said.
Many people believed that Nebraska was focusing on hiring an internal candidate. Perlman said that while several in-house candidates were considered, there were more prospects from outside the university. Perlman himself only interviewed Eichorst and one other candidate, who also would have been an outside hire.
"It's not whether you were born or raised in Nebraska," Perlman said. "Some people seem to forget that Bo Pelini was here for one year, but when he was hired as a football coach everybody was grateful that we hired a Nebraskan.
"It's not about being a Nebraskan, it's about understanding the culture of Nebraska and understanding the culture of the Athletic Department and to know what a Midwestern public university is about - that's very important. It's where you were born or where you grew up."