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09/24/2017 - From The Press Box: Eichorst Wasn't Thinking In Nebraska's Interest About Friday Night Football
From The Press Box

I'm hoping for a not-so turbulent week ahead, after ripples were sent across Nebraska and the college football landscape nationally.

University of Nebraska President Hank Bounds and UNL Chancellor Ronnie Green meant business Thursday afternoon when it was announced that Shawn Eichorst was no longer the school's athletic director.

Perhaps the mediocre nature of the Husker football team (not competing at a mid 1990s level) is what drove the nail into the coffin of Eichorst's tenure in Lincoln.  Handling expenses, life skills and school work for all NU's student athletes were in tact, but the overall landscape of competition is what caused the greatest concern for not just Bounds and Green, but the major players (donors and alumni) who help make the athletic department click financially.

Let's be real, for a moment.  Is there an exact place in time to fire someone in a higher position that oversees a large department and source of money? 


Was it the right move? I think so.

My points: one, he kept out of sight from being around members of the media and only addressed reporters if a situation arose that didn't bode well with the general fan base.

Case and point (and there are a few).....taking away the long tradition of playing the final conference football game of the season the day after Thanksgiving.

It was made clear that in 2020 and 2021, Nebraska would play Minnesota in the final conference game both seasons the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  Not even two days after the news broke, Eichorst met with reporters to clarify that he was in talks with the Golden Gopher athletic department to move the games to Friday.

While the timing of announcing a contract extension for head coach Mike Riley wasn't perfect (after Oregon loss), there were questions raised about Eichorst's maneuver to keep the man he picked from Oregon State through 2020.

The one thing, I believe, he did to create a lot of friction between himself and the fan base was having Nebraska play this coming Friday night at Illinois.

Let's be honest, college football on Friday nights in this part of the country is not common and upsetting the apple cart by forcing people to pick and choose watching the Huskers or their favorite high school team is sickening.

Mr. Eichorst, along with Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delaney and the networks who agreed to carry these Friday night games were not thinking in the best interest of their fan bases.

I commend schools like Michigan and Ohio State who said no to playing their games on Friday night because of the long-standing tradition of high school football.  TV money, in my humble opinion, is the No. 1 reason why Nebraska opted to play this Friday at Illinois, despite the shielded statement of extra exposure.

Nebraska doesn't need to have TV exposure on Friday nights.  Yes, the program is not what it was 20 years ago on a national front but I think those who follow college football across the country realize Nebraska still has a program even though it's been through hard times.

Friday night college football is nothing new to schools like Boise State, Bowling Green and others clamoring for national TV recognition.  I don't see Nebraska among that group, therefore no need to play on Friday during the high school football season.

Even the Nebraska School Activities Association talked with Eichorst and Big Ten officials about the danger of losing money to having Husker games played on Friday nights.  Since this week's game is at Illinois, it won't impact the local economy too much.  But what if the game was in Lincoln?  You're forcing people to leave work early or take the day off to prep for a Friday night game at Memorial Stadium.  

Economically speaking, not near enough money would be coming into the bars and restaurants in the Haymarket or Railyard from fans tailgating.  Again, this was about TV money and not the benefit for the fan.  No matter how much sugarcoating goes on to spin that into a positive, Friday night college football would NOT work in Nebraska during the high school season.

Once again, the other issue would force parents and athletes committed to their school's football teams to attend their game and not watching the Huskers.

The game I'm covering Friday, Lincoln Southeast at Lincoln Pius X, will kick off at 5pm so that people can still get home and watch a good portion of the Nebraska game that starts around 7pm.  Other schools have adjusted their kickoff times on Fridays for the same reason, or moved games to Thursday nights.  

I know of at least two Lincoln schools, Southwest and Northeast, who have been given the opportunity to play their games against North Platte and Fremont respectively Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium because of the scheduling conflict.  A great gesture by the University of Nebraska and Lincoln Public Schools.  By the way, you can hear both games on!

One thing was made certain by university officials.  After this week, there will not be anymore Nebraska football games on Friday nights during the high school season.

There are so many other things to discuss when it comes to the legacy left behind by Shawn Eichorst as Nebraska's athletic director.

Personally, I never have met the man or chatted with him over the telephone.  I've heard my share of bad stories about him while others have said how genuine a person he can be.

All I know is with my sports staff at the radio station and their insiders there was some friction in the athletic department.

The victim out of this whole ordeal will be Mike Riley.  A fine gentleman in his early to mid 60s, lured away from Corvallis, Oregon to coach what a generation ago was the premiere football program in the country here in Lincoln.

The way the Huskers have been performing as of late, plus key losses the last couple of years, Riley will not get a fair shake by the fans and the new athletic director---whomever that might be.  Personality-wise, he's the complete opposite of Bo Pelini and Eichorst wanted someone to make the atmosphere more stable.

Riley was the man and now he will certainly face consequences either before or when the season ends.  For him, I hope he wins at least four more games. 

However, the handwriting made be on the wall----win or lose.
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