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Nebraska AD clarifies 'I had to evaluate where Iowa was' comment

Eichorst says he has 'a lot of admiration for Iowa'

Nebraska players carry the Heroes Trophy during across the field after defeating Iowa 37-34 in a Big Ten football game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Friday, Nov. 28, 2014. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)
Nebraska players carry the Heroes Trophy during across the field after defeating Iowa 37-34 in a Big Ten football game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Friday, Nov. 28, 2014. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)

ROSEMONT, Ill. — Nebraska Athletics Director Shawn Eichorst created a stir 18 months ago that straddled both sides of the Missouri River.

Eichorst held a news conference announcing then-football coach Bo Pelini’s firing two days after the Cornhuskers rallied from a 17-point deficit to beat Iowa 37-34 in overtime. He was asked whether the win made his decision more difficult.

“Our kids showed great character and resiliency in a tough environment,” Eichorst said, “so it did play a factor. But in the final analysis, I had to evaluate where Iowa was.”

When asked to clarify that day, Eichorst said, “As I looked back on the outcomes, I’m trying to look back at who are championship-caliber football teams at that moment and how competitive we were in those games.

“We weren’t playing for a conference championship and neither was Iowa. I have great respect for Iowa. It’s a great institution and a wonderful football program. But in the final analysis, their record was where it was and ours was where it was. Fair enough?”

Eichorst, who spoke to The Gazette about those comments on Tuesday, said he didn’t mean for them to come across as disparaging.

“Gary (Barta) and Kirk (Ferentz) are some of the most beautiful people I know,” Eichorst said. “I have a lot of admiration for Iowa. I grew up across the border. I think it was nothing other than, going back, I think we beat two teams that year that were 7-5. I hope folks wouldn’t read anything into it more than that.”

Eichorst was reminded the comments were taken as an insult by Iowa fans.

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“I would put it this way: you don’t even have to put a school on it,” he said. “I think anytime you’re evaluating your program, you’re just evaluating who you’re competing against in that year. It doesn’t say anything about anything more than that. I have great respect, look at what they did this year. I didn’t get much play on that. I’ve never heard anything from Gary or Kirk or anybody else about it because they know it wasn’t meant in any other way than my evaluation, not what was going on there.

“To be honest with you, that was media spin. That wasn’t what I was thinking about it. I was just answering a question.”

In 2014, Nebraska finished 9-3 while Iowa was 7-5. The only other FBS team with a winning record Nebraska beat that season was Rutgers (8-5).

l Comments: (319) 339-3169; scott.dochterman@thegazette.com

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