Tom Osborne introduced Shawn Eichorst to Nebraska's Athletic Department on Oct. 9, 2012.
Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Eichorst's Feet Firmly Planted as He Begins to Take Over for a Legend

By NU Athletic Communications

Randy York’s N-Sider

The Shawn Eichorst era begins on Jan. 3, 2013, as Nebraska’s new Director of Athletics succeeds Nebraska’s greatest legend. Coach Tom Osborne officially steps down on Jan. 2 after returning with the Huskers from the Capital One Bowl matchup against Georgia.

“The Chancellor, Coach and I believed it would benefit everyone if Coach remained in charge until the bowl trip was complete,” Eichorst said Monday. “This slight adjustment from the Jan. 1 transition date makes for the smoothest transition possible.”

Eichorst chose not to make the trips to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship game or to Orlando for the bowl game, out of deference and respect for Coach Osborne. Even though Nebraska’s retiring athletic director never prefers to be front and center, the man following him would not have it any other way.

“I’ve been around him long enough and seen enough to know what a genuine person and leader he is,” Eichorst said. “His integrity is at the highest level. Every word he says means something. I’ve seen how gracious he is and how humble he is, but I also see great passion and pride.”

Admires T.O.’s Quietly Competitive, Humble Approach

“You never judge a book by its cover, especially when you understand just how much fire is in the belly,” Eichorst said. “Coach is one of the most quietly competitive people I have ever been around. You don’t have the kind of success he has had across the board without having a burning desire to be successful and, in the process, earning the respect of everyone – from the top to the bottom and from the bottom back to the top.

“I know I’m following a legend, and with that comes great responsibility and opportunity,” Eichorst said. “I hear folks comment that I am ‘taking over’ or ‘having big shoes to fill’ (as AD) but I don’t necessarily see it that way.  I am not, in any way, shape or form, replacing him – no one can. Coach Osborne has been a trailblazer in so many different ways, and at some point along the way, I hope we can carry on the culture and tradition of excellence.

“I don’t think you need to look at reinventing the wheel at Nebraska,” Eichorst said. “I embrace the great history and tradition and will look not only to continue what’s already in motion but also for ways that we can do things even better. You’d be crazy not to look at Coach’s formula for success and do everything you can to keep that culture going. In many ways, our approach is similar. That said, I have my own way of doing things as I need to be my own person and lead accordingly.”

The Coach Osborne Welcome Mat is Always Open

And let the record show that Eichorst has encouraged Coach Osborne to remain inside the athletic department’s walls long after the six months he has agreed to stay on as Athletics Director Emeritus.

“That’s a lifetime title as far as I am concerned,” Eichorst said. “I hope he’s around every day. I can’t think of one opportunity I’ve had where I didn’t reiterate how much I appreciate what he has done and how much I respect the first-class manner in which he has handled the transition, right down to the collaborative decision on his new office space.”

In the final days before winter break, Coach Osborne’s office was moved to the fourth floor, one floor directly above the space Eichorst will occupy. Coach Osborne will have the same administrative support assistance, the same parking space, come into the building through the same door and take the same elevator one story higher than he has for more than five years.

“I feel like Coach and I have developed a very positive relationship in a genuine way,” Eichorst said. “We both want to do what is best for Nebraska. He’s seen it. He’s done it. There is no better person than him to seek counsel on things from time to time.”

Osborne Has Driven His Bus for Half a Century

Make no mistake. Eichorst has been around long enough to see Coach Osborne’s passion and energy in action. He shares those traits and understands how important it is to continue to positively reinforce the principles and core values that have made the program so successful.

With that in mind, Eichorst recently distributed a favorite book of his as holiday gifts to all full-time athletic department employees. The book, entitled The Energy Bus, is a Wall Street Journal bestseller by Jon Gordon with a foreword by Ken Blanchard, co-author of The One-Minute Manager and Leading at a Higher Level.

“It’s a useful tool for everyone who wants to fuel their personal and professional lives with positive energy,” Eichorst said. “I know it’s helped me focus as I prefer to manage and lead with a positive approach firmly embedded in strong core values. I don’t subscribe to managing and leading through fear or negativism, which is usually counter-productive to getting things done and certainly doesn’t serve as a good example for our student-athletes. Coach Osborne has spent a lifetime exemplifying the power of positive energy and service. He’s led us with great distinction, and now it’s up to us to take this great program and make it even better.”

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