Published Tuesday, December 3, 2013 AT 8:23 PM / Updated at 11:07 AM
Nebraska A.D. Shawn Eichorst ‘darn proud’ of football team
Sam McKewon Omaha World-Herald

Nebraska Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst reflected more on the NU football regular season Tuesday night and reiterated his support for coach Bo Pelini during his monthly radio appearance on the Husker Sports Network.

Eichorst — who affirmed through a statement Saturday that Pelini would remain his head coach after an 8-4 season — said he was “darn proud” of Nebraska players for battling through injuries and miscues.

“Things didn’t work out down the stretch the way any one of us wanted or expected,” Eichorst said to “Sports Nightly” program host Greg Sharpe, NU football’s play-by-play announcer. “But that wasn’t due in my view — from my vantage point — from a lack of preparation, effort, passion or support. I think Bo would be the first person to tell you that. He’s admitted his shortcomings — areas in which he needs to improve. I think (players) competed hard and faced a bunch of adversity with injuries and turnovers.

“I’m really darn proud of how those guys played under the circumstances. It’s a difficult game, and a lot of things have to go your way in order to reach expectations, goals and all those other sorts of things. What I see is a good group of young people in our program who are really trying to get better.”

Prior to giving his assessment of the season, Eichorst further explained why he issued a statement Saturday despite a policy not to speak publicly about a team’s performance before the season is over.

“It was due to the great value of unfounded speculation and conjecture around our program,” Eichorst said. “It’s important in my position to be patient and deliberate and consider the entire body of our coaches’ work and the circumstances surrounding their work. But I understand that this is a special and unique place, and due to our history and great passion of our fans and supporters — particularly as it relates to our football program — it’s important.”

Eichorst said a “great deal” of what was being written and said about Pelini and the program was “way too personal” and “just untrue.”

On several occasions this fall, Eichorst was asked by local and national media to give some assessment of the Nebraska football season. He declined, citing his policy. He explained his thinking Tuesday.

“It’s unfair, and creates really unrealistic scenarios for me as a leader of this wonderful program — you know, I have 24 of them (teams) to look after — to get involved in week-to-week commentary. I’ve said since Day One what my approach is. I believe in it. I’ve been involved in a lot of good programs where I’ve seen it work.

“My job is to provide the resources to be successful, support them and get out of the way let them do their job. I’ll be the first to tell you: The support is there. It’s there across the board.”

More nuggets from Eichorst:

» The A.D. expects Michigan State to stay in the BCS top 14 even if it loses to Ohio State, thus becoming eligible for a BCS game. The Rose Bowl would be the likely destination for the Spartans.

Should that happen, Eichorst said, Wisconsin is likely headed for the Capital One Bowl, leaving Iowa, Nebraska, Michigan and Minnesota to vie for bids to the Outback, Buffalo Wild Wings, Gator and Texas Bowls.

“Those are good bowls,” Eichorst said. “We have great partnerships with those wonderful people. I’ve been in contact with them. What I think is important around bowl season — because we have such a great reputation in this program of support and travel — is that folks get energized, they get behind these young people, and we represent ourselves well at the bowl games.”

» Eichorst is still to looking upgrade the fan experience at Memorial Stadium. Although passion, support and “pageantry” at NU are “like no other,” he said, the staff is “dedicated to trying to operate in the 21st century, so we’ve put groups together in the department and aligned initiatives to kind of overturn all of the rocks relative to what we do. Stay true to what we do, but try to get better and improve the game-day experience.”

Three areas of focus Eichorst mentioned: NU’s sound system, wireless Internet capability and the marching band.

“I think our fans are going to be happy here that we’re not going to be complacent,” Eichorst said.

Eichorst said he spent time before each game walking through parking lots around the stadium talking to fans at various tailgate parties.

» To date, Eichorst as athletic director has hired only one coach at a BCS program: men’s basketball coach Jim Larranaga at Miami. To do so, Eichorst said, he picked the brains of two coaches he already knew — Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan and former South Carolina and Wake Forest coach Dave Odom — and talked to other people in the basketball industry. Larranaga is an adherent to statistical analytics in basketball. Eichorst liked that, and added “I’m a bit of ‘Moneyball’ person.”

“Moneyball” is a term used to describe the use of advanced statistics to build teams, as popularized by Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Beane.

About Sam McKewon

Sam McKewon covers Nebraska football for The World-Herald. Got a tip, question or rant? Good. Email him at sam.mckewon@owh.com. And follow him on Twitter at @swmckewonOWH. And call him at 402.219.3790.