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Nebraska fires AD Eichorst after loss to No. Illinois

(Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images)

(TSX / STATS) -- Nebraska fired athletic director Shawn Eichorst on Thursday, five days after the football program's embarrassing home loss to Northern Illinois.

Eichorst has been under heavy criticism for many things, including the hiring of third-year coach Mike Riley, who is just 16-13 after the 21-17 loss to Northern Illinois.

Eichorst, who was nearing five years on the job, is owed $1.7 million on a contract that runs through June 2019.

"Shawn has led Nebraska Athletics in many positive ways, but those efforts have not translated into on-field performance," Nebraska chancellor Ronnie Green said. "Our fans and our student-athletes deserve leadership that drives the highest levels of competitiveness, as well as excellence across all facets of Husker Athletics."

Nebraska plans an immediate search to identify a new athletic director.

Eichorst wasn't happy to see his tenure end.

"While I am deeply disappointed in the decision today, I am grateful for the wonderful years that my family and I have spent at Nebraska," Eichorst said in a statement. "I am proud of how our student-athletes, coaches and staff represented this great university and state, and I am confident that the future is bright for Nebraska Athletics."

Riley said he was saddened by the firing. He said he briefly spoke with Eichorst and let him know he was sorry about the day's events.

"I'm just thankful he brought me here," Riley said after Thursday's practice. "He's the one who stepped out and gave us a job here as a staff. We're at a great place and thankful to be here."

Eichorst hired Riley away from Oregon State, but the football program has not flourished during his tenure.

"I know I'm really confident in what we're doing and the people that we have and how this thing is being run in the football office," Riley said. "I really, really feel good about that. I understand expectation and performance so far, too. So I get all that."

Eichorst was recommended for a one-year contract extension in August by Green but Nebraska president Hank Bounds refused to sign off on it and indicated he would revisit the situation in December.

Riley's contract was extended through 2020 last week despite his lackluster record at the school.

But now the athletic director who hired him is gone and Riley will need to oversee a sharp turnaround.

However, Green asserted that the firing of Eichorst has nothing to do with Riley's status.

"Mike Riley is our football coach. We expect him to compete," Green said. "This is not about Mike Riley. We expect him to compete. We expect our players to compete in baseball and volleyball and you name the sport."

The decision to fire Eichorst seemingly assures that.

"Winning can and often does happen in concert with well-run, quality college programs that work to ensure the success of the student," Green said. "That's our expectation. We take pride here in doing things right and doing the right thing, and that won't change. This is not an either-or equation. We can and should win in that kind of environment."

Nebraska (1-2) opens Big Ten play at home on Saturday against Rutgers. Riley said his focus is on figuring out how to get a victory.

"This is supposed to be fun," Riley said. "I want to get them ready to play. And it's only fun, I've found, when you win, so we're trying every way to just do that."

Eichorst was athletic director at Miami before taking the Nebraska job in October 2012.

Updated September 21, 2017

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