Copyright 2017 Gannett Company, Inc.
All Rights Reserved
There's not much room for interpretation here. Nebraska's stunning decision to fire athletics director Shawn Eichorst on Thursday is a tacit admission by the school's leadership that hiring Mike Riley to be the football coach nearly three years ago was a very bad idea and that a new athletics director needs to be in place soon to oversee a probable coaching search.
Though Riley hasn't been fired and theoretically could save his job if Nebraska's season turns around 180 degrees, it was understood throughout the industry that Eichorst and Riley were tied at the hip.
When the hire was made, it barely made sense. Riley was 62, having coached 14 seasons over two stints at Oregon State while finishing in the top 25 just three times. He had no ties to Nebraska or the Midwest or the Big Ten. While he is considered a solid coach within the industry, no other program in the country was pursuing or would have hired him.
Going so far outside the box put Eichorst on an island. It was either going to work out spectacularly, or both head coach and athletics director were going to eventually be swept out together.
Although there were other issues with Eichorst's leadership, there is no way to frame firing him the week after an ugly 21-17 defeat to Northern Illinois as anything but a message that big changes are coming to Nebraska.
While the coaching market will be set in motion largely by what happens in the Southeastern Conference, Nebraska is still a big brand name and a job that coaches will want. Who might make sense if we are indeed seeing the last few weeks of the Riley era?
Scott Frost, Central Florida: The most obvious name. He is a former Nebraska great and ran an exciting offense at Oregon and now UCF, where he went 6-7 in his debut season. If you're Nebraska, you probably wish he had a little more seasoning as a head coach.
Bret Bielema, Arkansas: This marriage has gotten awfully uncomfortable, and Bielema already has done something neither Bo Pelini nor Mike Riley really came close to doing. He won the Big Ten. If he were looking for an escape route from the SEC, he could do a whole lot worse.
Craig Bohl, Wyoming: A Cornhuskers alum and former assistant coach, Bohl built North Dakota State into an FCS power, winning three consecutive national titles. He then went to rebuild Wyoming — one of the toughest jobs in FBS — and got to the Mountain West title game in his third season. Though there were some raw feelings dating to Bohl getting fired as defensive coordinator in 2002, that was a long time ago.
Ken Niumatalolo, Navy: Nebraska is the one traditional power where going back to the triple-option would be embraced.
Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech: Ditto.
Troy Calhoun, Air Force: He's not as tied to the option as Navy but runs a good system and has been to a bowl game nine out of 10 years at his alma mater.
Mike Leach, Washington State: If your school can tolerate quirky, you know he'll bring you victories.
Dave Clawson, Wake Forest: All he does is turn around programs. Hiring him wouldn't be flashy but would be sneaky smart.
Jason Candle, Toledo: The 37-year old is 13-4 as a head coach.
Mike Yurcich, Oklahoma State offensive coordinator: His name is gaining traction nationally due to the eye-popping numbers put up by the Cowboys offense.
Read More of Today's AB Headlines
Subscribe to Our Daily E-Newsletter