The search firm hired by the University of Nebraska has done what it was expected to do thus far. However, the results have been surprising to some.
Trev Alberts, a name mentioned by many as a preferred replacement for Shawn Eichorst, was approached by Turnkey Search about the vacant Nebraska Cornhuskers gig. Apparently, he wasn’t interested in leaving his current role.
“This idea that I was dreaming every night of being in another job… that’s just not who I am. I never pursued any other jobs,” said Alberts per the Omaha World-Herald. While Alberts is no longer in consideration, he did make an interesting comment regarding the search.
“The key is to come together and support whoever the new A.D. is to be successful. That’s what I want.’’
A message of support will be huge from the Big Red brass when Nebraska’s new leader of athletics is hired. Additional words of support from a native son are huge, though. If Tom Osborne gives his blessing, it’ll be very difficult to touch the new hire politically, at least for a while.
With the removal of Alberts’ name from consideration, we may have learned more about how this season could unfold for Nebraska head football coach Mike Riley.
A search firm is given parameters about what to look for in a qualified candidate. School chancellor Ronnie Green and president Hank Bounds could have easily narrowed those to fit Alberts or told Turnkey to put up window dressing before bringing him in. That didn’t happen. If anything, this move was to placate those demanding the former Nebraska linebacker join current UCF head coach Scott Frost if Riley is removed.
What we know is that the Powers That Be want the best person for the job, not the one who looks best with a Husker lapel pin on game day.
This also points to the idea that Green and Bounds may understand the implications of removing Riley too early. They’ve been talking to recruits during their visits, a practice that likely continues this weekend when a star-studded list of prospects visiting for the tilt with No. 9 Wisconsin. It can’t be overly emphasized that every school after the Huskers’ current commits is using the tense situation in Lincoln against the Big Red.
The fact that the two men at the top of the Huskers’ administration are running interference and offering reassurance is a positive.
If Nebraska bests a top-10 team this weekend, Riley will have plenty of political capital to use for the time being. If the Huskers can hold their own against Ohio State, if not upset the Buckeyes — upsets still do happen, you know — he’ll be practically untouchable for the near future barring some severe setback.
Welcome to the newest soap opera in Lincoln. We’ll see what the next chapter has in store following Saturday.
Moving on from that, with Alberts crossed off the list, where might Nebraska be steering Turnkey?
An absolute home-run hire is TCU’s Chris Del Conte. He was ranked as the No. 7 athletic director in the country according to a piece by SI.com‘s Bruce Feldman.
From the article:
“TCU would’ve been an incredible return on investment at the beginning of Del Conte’s reign, from facilities, to coaches, to success in many sports, to overall university appeal and trajectory.”
“He’s got the gift of gab and he really understands the big picture.”
He was brought on in 2009 to guide Horned Frog athletics and has done impressive work. After Dennis Franchione left in 2000 to take the then-revolving door position known as “Alabama head football coach,” Del Conte elevated defensive coordinator and safety coach Gary Patterson to the head coaching role.
As of last week, Patterson holds a record of 153–54 over the past 17 years at the Horned Frogs’ helm. TCU — which had to endure time in the WAC and Conference USA, a sign of its former status as one of the have-nots in college football — endured those dislocations and realignments under Patterson.
The Frogs posted seasons featuring 10 wins or more in 10 separate years. They finished in the top 25 just as many times and in the top 10 five times, including No. 2 in 2010. That team finished 13-0, featuring a 21-19 Rose Bowl win over the Wisconsin Badgers.
Since joining the Big 12 Conference, TCU started slowly with a 7-6 record in 2012 and a 4-8 record in 2013. The Frogs rebounded with 12- and 11-win seasons, respectively, in 2014 and 2015. Both included top-10 finishes. Last season, the Horned Frogs struggled again, putting up a 6-7 record. However, TCU is currently 4-0 in 2017 after knocking off No. 6 Oklahoma State in Stillwater two weeks ago.
An important note for Husker football fans: Patterson has won a conference title since the school moved to the Big 12, back in 2014 (shared with Baylor). He has six to his name during his entire tenure with TCU.
Del Conte brought in Trent Johnson as TCU’s men’s basketball’s head coach following an 18-15 season under Jim Christian, who was hired the year before Del Conte was brought in. Johnson struggled in the Big 12, posting a 50–79 record and never took the Horned Frogs to a postseason tournament. His replacement, however, appears to be a more appropriate fit. Former Pittsburgh head coach Jamie Dixon went 24–15 last season and led his new team to an NIT championship.
Nebraskans love their baseball and TCU fans do, too. Del Conte may not have brought in Jim Schlossnagle, but the Horned Frogs remain competitive under his watch. TCU has made a regional in every season under Schlossnagle, made a super regional seven times, and made the College World Series five times, including the last four years. 2013 featured a disappointing 29–28 performance, but that was a clear outlier.
TCU has won either a conference tournament championship or regular season championship in every season since.
Suffice it to say that if Green and Bounds want a winner, they could do far worse than Del Conte.
It’ll be interesting to see how long the search for a new athletic director lasts and, of course, what the ramifications will eventually be for Riley. The new person is likely to be an outsider — the only other clear familiar option would be to remove the “interim” portion of Dave Rimington’s title. A fair amount of skepticism has surrounded whether or not he’s interested in doing more than what’s part of his current contract.
There will be more to come as candidates’ names pop up and the search gets narrowed down…
…and if the trajectory of the current football season is not what Mike Riley wants.
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