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Steven M. Sipple: Amid tumult, Riley's crew gets chance to show if culture is indeed strong

Shatel: Mike Riley’s jackpot is saved job if he hits the right number for H...

Husker Thursday-Shawn Eichorst is Out!

5 possible candidates for Nebraska's next athletic director

Chatelain:Hiring Shawn Eichorst goes down as one of Harvey Perlman's worst de...

Nebraska reaches out to former Husker star Dave Rimington as possible interim A.D. candidate

The Washington Post weighs in on the state of the program.

#DearAndy: Will Nebraska Fire Mike Riley if he Wins Five Games or Less?

Q&A: NU walk-on Wyatt Mazour on being a Husker, his Nebraska experience ...

Mind Numbing Tuesdays

Shatel: The only answer to Husker woes lies 
in the hearts and minds of the...

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The only answer to Husker woes lies 
in the hearts and minds of the players

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The $5 Bits of Broken Chair Trophy is Back

Coaches On the Hot Seat and their AD/s

Steven M. Sipple: NU leadership left to mull future of preeminent 'front-porch' program

Mad Chatter: A Husker coaching job gone wrong; comparing Riley to third-year peers; Texas puts up a fight

Shatel: Danger zone as Husker football program and A.D. Shawn Eichorst prepare for toughest opponent yet — apathy

Barfknecht: A.D. Shawn Eichorst, with fate tied to Mike Riley, is at center of Husker football mess

Misery Index Week 3: Trying times in Nebraska amid cloudy future

Tommie Frazier: Firing Nebraska coach Mike Riley ‘isn’t the answer’

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Husker walk-on Wyatt Mazour flashed playmaking potential before a quadriceps strain

Q&A: NU walk-on Wyatt Mazour on being a Husker, his Nebraska experience ...

Wyatt Mazour is a redshirt sophomore running back and kick returner from Albion. He flashed playmaking potential in the spring and in fall camp before a quadriceps strain.

* * *

Q: What does being a walk-on at Nebraska mean to you and your community?

A: It means everything, especially growing up watching the Huskers every Saturday and watching all of the success and talented players. I always dreamed about being one of those guys. Being from a town of around 1,800 people, (to go to) a huge stage is a dream. I am truly blessed to be at this university and to be a part of this program. To represent my city and everybody who has helped me along the way from my coaches in high school and even midget football coaches — having the support of the community is honestly a dream come true.

Q: What have the last few years been like? You were getting some reps and some work, then injuries happened. You even saw the field versus Wyoming last season.

A: These past two seasons have been pretty hard on me. It has been very difficult, especially last year. Going from being a redshirt freshman and just getting his shot as a walk-on is really uncommon. I was at the highest high then all of the sudden at the lowest low. Then I bounced back in the spring and had the summer that I had, and getting ready for the season to start I get another out-of-nowhere injury. Puts a damper on things. It is all a part of God’s plan for me. I’m just working to get back. Both of the injuries I’ve had weren’t things that I can prevent. I couldn’t go into the trainers before my concussion last year or the quad strain this year. Those are unfortunate things. I’m just trying to attack the quad like I did before when I had my concussion and come back a better player. All of these injuries are only going to make me want to go harder and realize what I have here.

Q: What do you have here?

A: Being from Nebraska, I feel like I have a pretty amazing platform to go and represent Nebraska to its fullest potential as a kid that has grown up here knowing how much the fans care. I try to (set the right example) by showing what this university is all about by showing it through hard work. No matter what, whether you keep putting me down and down, I’m still going to come up.

Q: What advice do you have for that small-town kid about getting to this level?

A: As far as football in high school compared to college, it is a huge change in a player’s dedication. “You can always do more” would be the biggest advice. If you are lifting and running three days a week in high school, you are going to be shocked when you get to college. Everything is intensified even more ... the attention to detail, offseason workouts, the playbook and how hard you have to work. It feels like everything comes at once, but just relax and have fun with it.

Shatel: Mike Riley’s jackpot is saved job if he hits the right number for H...

LINCOLN — Another scratch ticket, please.

The University of Nebraska is like the guy at the counter at the convenience store. NU keeps hiring and firing athletic directors and football coaches like they are lottery tickets. Scratch. Toss. Try again.

The Shawn Eichorst ticket, windows scratched up, lies on the floor.

The Mike Riley ticket has one window left.

Do you feel lucky?

Better yet, does Riley?

We’ve seen some stuff, haven’t we? Stick around. We’re about to see some more.

Has there ever been a Nebraska football season like the one we’re about to witness? I can’t recall.

Back in November 2003, there were rumors that Frank Solich might get the ax.

But we were mere neophytes in these matters. It couldn’t really happen.

It could. And did.

Soon, NU was back to the lottery window.

The comparison being worn out is 2007. NU fired Steve Pederson on Oct. 15, seven games (4-3) in. Tom Osborne was named interim A.D. that week. Everyone knew Bill Callahan was a Fired Coach Walking.

But what we didn’t know, until the deed was done, was that Osborne had given Callahan a working scale to shoot for: An 8-4 record and Callahan would be fine. Go 7-5 and probably be OK. Anything below 7-5: All bets were off.

So here sits Riley at 1-2 with nine games left, all Big Ten games. Is Riley a FCW? Or does he have a chance to come back next season?

We don’t know. There’s no athletic director. And we don’t know when one will be hired.

Are we having fun yet?

This is shaping up as one wild ride, with tension thick in the air, people screaming, childish threats, mood swings and drama galore. And that’s just the message boards.

On the field, it has potential to be a long, awkward march toward a fateful end. Or it could be an exhilarating thrill ride fueled by momentum and a team playing for its coach.

It’s Sept. 23. There are nine games left. Riley probably needs to win six or seven. Who knows?

Here’s what I know. Actually, two things.

» 1. Nebraska needs to keep its head and integrity intact. Yes, media, too.

With so much time left, this could get weird. Riley is already assumed out by a lot of fans. If the losses pile up, coaches’ names will be bandied about. Losses that would otherwise be met with anger might be met with relief, and a belief that change is on the way.

Meanwhile, there are a host of fans who will want to give Riley a fourth year — mostly because they fear losing a recruiting class.

This could get really weird.

Whatever happens, Riley will conduct himself with class. He deserves that in return. The temptation will be to treat the man like a lottery ticket you toss away. But NU will be glad it kept its head and integrity and not become a chaotic clown show like other programs. A.D. candidates, and others, are paying attention.

» 2. Don’t count Riley out.

His position is tenuous, no doubt. He’s probably got to find six or seven more wins with a shaky offensive line, a quarterback struggling with protection and turnovers, a defense having to grow up in a hurry and a handful of injuries in wrong places.

There’s still enough talent to make some noise. NU needs Tre Bryant and Joshua Kalu back and a solid answer at right tackle. It needs Bob Diaco’s 3-4 to be a run-stopper in the Big Ten. Mostly, it needs a spark, some momentum, some chemistry.

What Riley really needs is his team to rise in his defense. Play for its coach. Week in, week out.

It’s corny. It probably sounds like a movie script. But imagine the coach who is supposed to get fired instead getting new life from his maligned team.

Starring John Malkovich as Riley.

Being Mike Riley is about to get weird. The Oregon State man wanted an adventure. He got it. Now, how can he save himself?

I’m going to use the Osborne Plan. If he can get to 8-4, that’s a 7-2 finish. That’s going to include some nice wins. That’s good. At 7-5, with the right wins, he probably comes back.

Anything less than 7-5 — considering the 6-7 season two years ago — is probably buyout time.

How crazy could this get? I’m curious as to how Riley will coach games. Will he gamble more, particularly against Wisconsin and Ohio State? Go for fourth downs. Use trickery. All that fun stuff, from a guy with seemingly nothing to lose.

What about roster management? If things get tense, I don’t think Riley is the kind of coach who would pull redshirts off players. It’s too early to say what will happen at quarterback. But you don’t know what’s in the heart and mind of a coach trying to save his job.

Here are three other things to think about: UCLA, Texas A&M and Notre Dame.

These are other jobs that could be open after this season. A new A.D. might come in and decide this is the wrong year to make a change. A new A.D. might also decide to bring Riley back because it keeps a promising recruiting class intact and gives a good guy a fourth year and the A.D. an extra year to get things in order — in case.

If this season goes the wrong way, all of that could be moot.

It all starts Saturday with a must-win against Rutgers. Strange days, indeed.

By the way, according to Dirk Chatelain in “Mad Chatter,” NU has spent $13,750,000 on lottery tickets — the total buyout paid to terminated A.D.s and football coaches the past 10 years.

Pass the Riley ticket. Do you feel lucky?

Former Nebraska star Dave Rimington watches as players run through drills during the Rimington Football Camp at Millard South in July. Rimington won both the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award after his Husker senior season in 1982.

Nebraska reaches out to former Husker star Dave Rimington as possible interim A.D. candidate

LINCOLN — Nebraska has approached former football All-American Dave Rimington about serving as interim athletic director in the wake of Shawn Eichorst’s firing, a source with connections to the school’s administration told The World-Herald.

Rimington, 57, is president of the Boomer Esiason Foundation, which exists to raise money for cystic fibrosis research. Esiason and Rimington were quarterback and center together with the Cincinnati Bengals of the NFL. Esiason’s son has the disease.

Rimington, who lives in New York, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.

Rimington played high school football at Omaha South, then went to Nebraska where he won the Outland and Lombardi Awards as the nation’s top lineman before moving on to professional football.

Often after an athletic director firing, a school promotes an associate A.D. as an interim. Nebraska has at least 10 associate A.D.s on staff making $150,000 or more annually. None apparently will be chosen to temporarily lead the department.

During a Thursday press conference, Chancellor Ronnie Green said an NU interim athletic director could be named within the next couple days.

Did Nebraska make the right decision to fire Shawn Eichorst?

The University of Nebraska announced Thursday that athletic director Shawn Eichorst has been fired. Did administrators make the right decision in making a change at the top of the athletic department?

Former Chancellor Harvey Perlman hired Shawn Eichorst as athletic director in 2012.

Chatelain:Hiring Shawn Eichorst goes down as one of Harvey Perlman's worst de...

Harvey Perlman picked the wrong guy.

His critics (often overzealous) will declare that it wasn’t the first time or last time the former NU chancellor waded into athletics and got splashed in the face. But as Husker fans take inventory of Perlman’s many controversial decisions, this will go down as one of the worst.

The Shawn Eichorst era will be forgettable.

From the start, something didn't feel right about the hire. I remember when Eichorst didn’t attend the Gator Bowl on New Year's Day 2014 — his first official day as A.D. — because Tom Osborne was going to be there, and he didn’t want to appear to be nudging Osborne out.

I remember writing a two-part profile of Eichorst weeks later. When I wanted to ask Eichorst about his critics at Miami, rather than answer my questions, he sent a statement via email. A long statement ... that didn’t answer my questions.

He was a lawyer by trade — deliberate, analytical and cautious. But the personal touches of his position? He never had those. Not with athletes. Not with coaches. Not with fans. There was just something ... awkward ... that didn’t show up on a résumé.

Perlman might have known it, too, had he heard from Eichorst’s detractors on South Beach, the people who called him the “invisible A.D.”

The day Eichorst was announced, I remember talking to Perlman in the doorway of the Van Brunt Visitors Center — exactly where today’s press conference was held.

I asked Perlman about Eichorst’s potential baggage. Perlman’s response: He didn’t know much about it. He hadn’t spoken to Miami officials, coaches or boosters about Eichorst.

How is that possible? How does a university chancellor not look deeper into his leading candidate’s record, especially when it was Eichorst’s only stint as a Division I A.D.?

The necessary secrecy of the search precluded him from making those phone calls, Perlman said. When you’re considering a major institution’s A.D., you can’t just ask the school president or a big-time booster for a job evaluation.

To me, it was a fascinating glimpse at the lack of vetting involved. Searches for high-profile coaches and administrators aren’t transparent or thorough. They’re not designed to include opposing opinions. Administrators face pressure to get them done quickly and quietly. They hire a search firm, get a few recommendations (from people like Barry Alvarez, Eichorst’s former boss) and call it good.

In making 10-15 phone calls to Eichorst’s friends and former colleagues, I probably knew more about him than Perlman did.

The stakes are too high to do it that way again. Nebraska needs a known commodity and preferably someone who’s been to Lincoln for more than an interview. Eichorst did a lot of things right. But he got the big things wrong.

Five years later, that's all people remember.

Did Nebraska make the right decision to fire Shawn Eichorst?

The University of Nebraska announced Thursday that athletic director Shawn Eichorst has been fired. Did administrators make the right decision in making a change at the top of the athletic department?

University of Nebraska at Omaha Athletic Director Trev Alberts applauds his team as they take on South Dakota State during the Summit League Conference Tournament at the Denny Sanford Premier Center on March 07, 2017.

5 possible candidates for Nebraska's next athletic director

Husker Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst has been fired, University of Nebraska-Lincoln chancellor Ronnie Green announced Thursday. 

The decision comes after a 1-2 start for the football team and a loss at home Saturday to Northern Illinois. Eichorst, who was hired in October 2012, has about $1.7 million remaining on his contract that runs through June 2019.

Here are five people Lee Barfknecht thinks may be under consideration to be Nebraska's next athletic director:

Trev Alberts

Trev Alberts has been the athletic director at the University of Nebraska at Omaha since 2009. He starred as a defensive end at Nebraska in the early 1990s. Following his senior season in 1993, he was awarded the Dick Butkus Award and the Jack Lambert Trophy as the top college linebacker. He also was recognized as a consensus first-team All-American, after recording 15 quarterback sacks, 21 tackles for loss and 38 quarterback hurries. He played professionally for three years with the Indianapolis Colts after being the fifth overall pick in the 1994 NFL Draft. The former television commentator was selected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2015.

Ed Stewart

Ed Stewart is the Big 12 assistant commissioner for football and student services. He joined the Big 12 Conference staff after spending seven years at the University of Missouri, where he served as associate director of athletics for administration. Stewart is a former All-American linebacker at Nebraska in 1994. The Chicago native also was named first-team Big Eight Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 1994.

Chris Del Conte

Chris Del Conte was appointed Texas Christian University's director of intercollegiate athletics in October of 2009. Under Del Conte, five TCU head coaches (Gary Patterson, football; Jim Schlossnagle, baseball; Karen Monez, rifle; David Roditi, men's tennis; Haley Schoolfield, equestrian) have been named National Coach of the Year. Ten sports - baseball, women's basketball, football, women's golf, rifle, men's swimming and diving, men's tennis, women's tennis, women's indoor and outdoor track and field - have won conference titles under Del Conte, who has seen 17 of 21 sports represented in NCAA postseason play.

Jim Phillips

Jim Phillips became Northwestern's director of intercollegiate athletics and recreation in 2008. He is one of 10 children from a middle-class Chicago family. He was elected as the inaugural chairman of the NCAA Division I Council in February 2015. During a two-and-a-half year term, he served as the first-ever sitting athletic director on the NCAA Board of Directors and Board of Governors. In March 2017, he was appointed to the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Selection Committee, Northwestern's first representative in 50 years. He also was appointed to the Fiesta Bowl Board of Directors in early June.

Kevin White

Kevin White is the athletic director at Duke University. He has held this position since May 30, 2008. He held similar positions at Notre Dame, Arizona State, Tulane, the University of Maine and Loras College. As a coach, White coached track and field at Southeast Missouri State from 1981-1982 and coached cross country at Central Michigan from 1976-1980. Notre Dame football struggled during White's tenure. Notre Dame football teams have started 0–3 only two times in the school's history, both under White. Those came in 2001, the season after White negotiated an extension of coach Bob Davie's contract and 2007, two seasons after White gave coach Charlie Weis a 10-year contract extension. White also was responsible for the hiring of George O'Leary, who was fired a week later after falsifying his resume, and Tyrone Willingham, who started 8-0 but finished 13-15, with eight of those losses coming by 22 points or more, more than any coach in school history.

It may take 4-5 years but tell that to Penn State.  They were damn near given the death penalty and they bounced back in three years.  And why would we hire a 62 year old coach with the expectation it will take 5 years to win?  Sorry but coaching takes energy and the guy isn't getting any younger.  At the time I was hoping for a young guy out of the MAC or one other mid-major conferences.  I thought targeting the guy at Navy would have made sense.  He does nothing but win, has the intensity, the record, the leadership, and the backing of his players.  So far we have not heard that Riley is losing his players but his reputation for being nice might be working against him.  I am a retired Naval Officer and had the reputation for being a "nice guy".  I used to warn my sailors to not mistake being "nice" for lack of resolve.  With lack of resolve comes lack of holding players accountable.  You can get too close and forget the players are a means to an end.  That is the harsh reality of the business of  college athletics.  Win or move out of the way.  Show progress or step aside.  Riley must hold players accountable and it starts with his quarterback.  Tanner Lee must know why he was brought to Nebraska.  It wasn't so he can increase his skills for the NFL.  His dad apparently was instrumental in getting the NCAA to add eligibility after an injury and when that happens I get a little worried we have another Taylor Martinez on our hands.  While Taylor was fun to watch I always had the idea he was never a husker at heart.  He was a NFL candidate and used Nebraska to showcase his skills.  All orchestrated by his dad.  Tanner Lee doesn't seem to know what it means to be a husker and after watching the first three games I am not sure I am not living in the past myself.  I want the players to want to restore the Husker glory of old.  I am starting to get the feeling the players want one thing, the fans another.  Fans as old as I am know the feeling of finishing New Years day as National Champions.  Players give the National Championship lip service but do they really want to do what it takes to make it happen?  Do they or the coaches know what it takes?  I am starting to question if Shawn Eichhorst looked at Mike Riley with those criteria in mind.  

Thanks for you response Randy.

Tango Yankee for serving.

I don't know bottom line until we get some decent line play no matter who you put back there, there is going to be a problem.

I am waiting for Nebraska to be in the Bottom 10 on espn.com.  If they make it there any bets on who they play in the pfgotw (Pillow Fight Game of the Week).

Nebraska coach Mike Riley has reason to be worried. He and the staff are trying to find ways to turn things around.

Shatel: The only answer to Husker woes lies 
in the hearts and minds of the...

I love the X and O fans. I respect their eye for the game. I can’t do that. But I learned long ago that football isn’t about the chalkboard.

It’s about getting dirt shoved in your face.

Long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I knew an eighth-grade kid who played football. He thought he loved the game. Thought he could play a little.

Then one day at Ervin Junior High in Kansas City, Missouri, this kid goes up to block a linebacker at practice. The linebacker puts his helmet in my — um, the kid’s — chest and lifted him up and planted him into the ground.

The kid didn’t get mad. In fact, he went back to the huddle thinking, “Maybe I’m not cut out for this after all.”

And so after the season I went off to find a basketball ...

I found myself thinking about that story while listening to Mike Riley on Monday. In the wake of the loss to Northern Illinois, all the angles have seemingly been hit.

Shake up the lineup? Yes, but only because of injuries. Riley take over play-calling? Not going to happen. Practice more first team vs. first team? Riley said he’s done that more this season than ever.

Oops.

I’m always wary of trudging into X and O waters, lest I drown, but it occurred to me that leaning on the run game might be an answer. The Huskers rushed for 225 yards in the opener and while Tre Bryant looked good and Arkansas State’s run defense is questionable, the offensive line had a push. It’s not been good in pass protection.

When Bryant gets back, NU has the backs to grind it out — and take the pressure off Tanner Lee’s arm.

The counter to that is that this week’s opponent, Rutgers, ranks fifth in the Big Ten and 20th nationally in run defense. NU outsized NIU up front and should have been able to run it all day, but that didn’t happen.

No wonder Riley looked and sounded worried on Monday.

It’s times like these — tough times — when a program needs to fall back on its football soul, if you will. Who are you? What have you been taught? What are you all about?

Over the last 15 years, Nebraska has been through too many ways of coaching and practice and football to know. There’s a line in a Talking Heads song that says, “I’ve changed my hairstyle so many times now, I don’t know what I look like.”

Let’s pause and recognize a Talking Heads reference in a sports column.

Identity can be scheme but it’s more way of life. Way of football. The late, great Husker running backs coach, Mike Corgan, used to have a saying: “Football is a nasty game for nasty boys.”

Iowa throws the ball around a bit and still rolls out a nasty offensive line. It’s scheme, but it’s more about culture.

I listened to former Husker Jason Peter on “The Bottom Line” on Monday. You gotta love Jason’s fountain of passion for Big Red. Jason is wired different. That’s what made him great.

But his approach isn’t for everybody, especially in 2017, when young athletes come off select teams and play a lot of games and seem to shrug off losing and will flat-out leave if things go bad. That’s a generalization. But it’s also true of this generation.

The point is, there’s no hiding or running from football. Eventually, the sport is going to find out if you’re good enough, if you’re meant to be in the arena.

And that’s what I think about now with Nebraska football. The Big Ten starts this week and there’s a schedule full of “manhood” games coming up. The league is all about lining up and beating the guy in front of you. What a sport.

A lot of us are trying to find out what Riley needs to do now, what he should change, etc. He didn’t offer any answers. There aren’t any. You can’t suddenly change a culture. You can’t suddenly get nasty if you haven’t been growing it.

The only answer lies within the hearts and minds of the Nebraska players. It’s up to them to plant their feet. There’s enough talent on this team. How bad do they want to put that helmet in the other guy’s chest and send him all the way to basketball practice?

Woohoo, hope renewed! Riley is next in the chop block.

It would appear that the NU strategy is now that which the fans clamor for.  Fire your way back into national prominence.

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