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October 4, 2012One of the first questions asked at Thursday's press conference wondered why chancellor Harvey Perlman chose Shawn Eichorst over an inside candidate with Nebraska.
"I did that once if you recall," Perlman replied.
Certainly no one has forgotten the reign of Steve Pederson, who was dismissed in 2007 after five years at the university. But Perlman insisted the Pederson debacle didn't play a role in his selection of Eichorst, who was previously the athletic director for a year at Miami and the chief operating officer for athletics at Wisconsin.
Perlman said that while several inside candidates were considered, the Huskers looked more at outside prospects. Perlman himself interviewed just two candidates, Eichorst and another standing athletic director at another university.
After spending the last five years under Tom Osborne's lead, there is some consternation about Perlman selecting an outside hire instead of going with someone with a connection to Nebraska. Perlman said that there are people within the athletic department who are interested and have strong potential, but their resumes did not match Eichorst's.
"There are very few decisions in which you make everybody happy," Perlman said. "It may well be our fault, but we have not done a good job of giving them the range of experiences and the range of opportunities to prepare them for this position. They need a broader range of experiences within an athletic department to market themselves if they're thinking about schools of this stature.
"There are some people over there who are perfectly qualified to take a smaller job and build that set of experiences. There are people there with potential, but I don't think they compare to the credentials of Shawn."
There are also many who believe Osborne should have been more involved in the selection process. When Osborne announced he would retire on Jan. 1 last week, both he and Perlman said he would have a role in selecting his successor.
But Osborne's role turned about to be smaller than originally presumed. He was the one who talked to Eichorst's former boss, Wisconsin director Barry Alvarez, who gave Eichorst a strong recommendation. Osborne was also the first person Perlman told of Eichorst's hiring.
But Perlman also believes that incumbents should not have a strong presence in the picking of their successors, limiting Osborne's role.
"Tom Osborne is an icon and has built this department and is extraordinarily well respected around the state and is probably synonymous with Husker Athletics," Perlman said. "At the same time, my belief is incumbents shouldn't be too intimately involved with the selection process of their successor. I would not intend to interview successors for my position. I did not do it when I left the deanship. It's an awkward circumstance to put anyone in."
While Eichorst doesn't have any current Nebraska connections beyond Alvarez, he grew up in the Midwest and Perlman believes he has a firm grasp on both Nebraska's traditions and what he needs to do to move the university further. Perlman said Eichorst's tutelage under Alvarez undoubtedly introduced him to the ways and customs at Nebraska, something that will ease his transition.
"I think Barry Alvarez will tell you that he took the traditions of Nebraska and moved them to Wisconsin when he became athletic director," Perlman said. "He took the idea of how you play football at Nebraska when he went up there to be the football coach. I'm pretty confident that Shawn has been measured in a system that was pretty comparable to Nebraska. Sure, there are probably nuances and differences and that's probably good. That's an advantage of hiring someone from the outside. You're not quite so insulated and you have some different ideas."