Nebraska Coach Mike Riley enjoyed meeting Husker fans and sharing entertaining opinions about Big Red football.
Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

There’s No Student-Athlete Experience Like Nebraska

By NU Athletic Communications

The Week's Schedule for Riley, Eichorst

Randy York N-Sider

Official Blog of the Huskers

Should anyone wonder what Nebraska's top priority is, Tuesday’s kickoff luncheon in Lincoln left no doubt. The overall theme in a tour featuring head football coach Mike Riley and director of athletics Shawn Eichorst introduces a slogan the Huskers have been building since late last year.

Eichorst described the Huskers’ broad-based strengths in a competitive collegiate world and lifted the curtain to unveil what differentiates Nebraska in a constantly escalating business. Eichorst wants Big Red fans to understand a new slogan that leverages the department’s top priority – There’s No Student-Athlete Experience Like Nebraska.

Lincoln’s downtown Rotary Club launched the tour that ends Friday in Omaha with five other destinations in between – York, Columbus, Kearney, Lexington and North Platte.

Eichorst elevated four crucial cornerstones that built a foundation for the Huskers to separate themselves from Big Ten and NCAA rivals while providing the best student-athlete experience possible anywhere.

Nebraska's Rock-Solid Foundation Features Four Critical Cornerstones

The Huskers’ foundation features:

1) All of Nebraska’s nearly 600 scholarship student-athletes across all 24 sports having their scholarships calculated based on the maximum full cost of attendance.

2) Nebraska becoming the nation’s first institution to provide every student-athlete with an Apple MacBook Air laptop computer to enhance learning opportunities.

3) Nebraska creating the first-known Post-Eligibility Opportunity (PEO) program, giving every Husker letterwinner who graduates – and has exhausted his or her eligibility – a three-year window to take advantage of a $7,500 stipend to secure an internship, study abroad or attend graduate school.

4) Nebraska Athletics reviewing and increasing its resources while enhancing and improving its support in all academic and performance-related areas.

What does all that mean?

It means that Nebraska has strategically aligned itself with “the resources and the support necessary for us to put our young people in position to succeed in our mission to be successful in academics, in athletics and in life,” Eichorst said, and we’re going to continue with great integrity and do it the right way.”

The Huskers are building the foundation to win big across the board, and Riley is "setting us up to be successful not only in the Big Ten," Eichorst  said, "because if we win in the Big Ten, we're going to have a chance to win a national title."

Nebraska is taking a holistic approach to break a two-decade drought to win a conference championship that's inherent in the national thought process. "Every single day, we talked about how we're going to make this program better from A to Z," Eichorst said, adding that the mantra gained momentum following the Huskers' upset of UCLA in Santa Clara's Foster Farms Bowl.

B1G Keys: Academics, Life Skills, Medicine, Training, Strength, Nutrition, NAPL

The resources and forms of support are broad-based and include at least seven nationally prominent staple programs – academic services, life skills, sports medicine, athletic training, strength and conditioning, nutrition and the Nebraska Athletics Performance Laboratory (NAPL).

This week’s trip to seven Nebraska cities and towns is a celebration of the Huskers’ passion and heartfelt appreciation for a fan base expected to record its 350th consecutive sellout inside Memorial Stadium this season when Oregon visits Lincoln.

This past year, Eichorst said Nebraska recorded its highest rate for graduating student-athletes (86 percent) and has a goal to reach a 90-percent graduation success rate by 2018. “Our average GPA for 600 student-athletes is 3.18,” Eichorst said, pointing out that “the Big Ten Conference is the best and the most broad-based academic and athletic conference in America.”

Against that strong backdrop, “what we’re doing at Nebraska is not being done anywhere else in college athletics,” Eichorst said.

Mike Riley's Priority: We Want to Do a Great Job of Recruiting at Home First

Riley and his staff continue to try and uncover the best recruits from the home state of Nebraska. “We look at our state and we’re getting to know the coaches better and the players better," Riley said. "We want to uncover all the rocks and do a great job recruiting at home first.”

Riley has met with 119 Husker players personally and has doubled the size of Nebraska's walk-on class. The roster will grow to 145 after new recruits and the latest walk-on class begin the 2016 season together in late summer. Riley praised the "substance" between coaches and players to play their best in the last month of the 2015 season. "That's encouraging to me about the kind of team we're building," he said.

Riley also touted the hiring of Billy Devaney (executive director of player personnel), Tucker Zeleny (director of sports analytics) and John Parrella (defensive line coach).

Nebraska's head coach referenced a recent study about major successes in Nebraska football history. One important fact tracked the Huskers’ ability to recruit a 500-mile drivable radius that includes Denver, Minneapolis, Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City and “almost to Dallas.” Riley pointed out that Nebraska’s 2016 recruiting class included statewide players of the year in Colorado (JoJo Domann), South Dakota (Matt Farniok) and Minnesota (JD Spielman).

Nebraskans are an important part of the recruiting process “and I’m not just saying that,” Riley emphasized. “This is a comfortable place that has the values that’s just great to be around.”

As his almost 19-minute speech was about to end, Riley said he would take one last question, and a man asked Nebraska’s head coach if there’s "one thing" that he still needs to make Nebraska football successful.

“If we could get flights out of Lincoln that go straight down to Texas, that would help us greatly,” Riley quipped, triggering the day's biggest roar of laughter. “That would be good for recruiting. I’ll just have to go with that. That’s a good project for somebody.”

Tim Clare: How the Why of Nebraska Football is More Important Than the What

Nebraska Regent Tim Clare introduced Eichorst and drew precipitous laughter in his short introduction. Clare's story focused on the why of Nebraska football being more important than the what. “We all know Nebraska’s facilities are second to none,” Clare said. “What makes Nebraska unique though is the why, not the what.

“It’s the people,” Clare said. “Watching the video of the first game last year, I went to my seat and the couple that had sat in those seats literally for 25 years weren’t both there. There was only one person at the game. I asked the lady ‘where’s your husband?’ ‘He died,’ she said. ‘I’m sorry to hear about that,’ I said. ‘Could you have invited a friend to sit in that empty seat?’ I asked. ‘No’, she said, ‘they’re all at the funeral.’”

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