LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska reached back to its more glorious football past to find a temporary leader for its athletic department.
Dave Rimington, who became the most decorated offensive lineman in college football history in the early 1980s, was named interim athletic director Tuesday as the school searches for a successor to Shawn Eichorst.
Rimington, 57, said he is not a candidate for the permanent position.
“We’re very, very pleased, obviously, that No. 50 is willing to come back in this interim time of leadership,” Chancellor Ronnie Green said at a news conference. “The very first person I thought of as a potential leader in an interim capacity was Dave Rimington. It was the first thought I had because not only of his accolades as a great Husker, but also because he was an academic All-American and he represents our program so well.”
Rimington has been president of the Boomer Esiason Foundation, which raises money and awareness for cystic fibrosis research, since 1995. The foundation sponsors the Rimington Award, which is awarded to the nation’s top center. Rimington’s appointment is for up to 60 days, and he’s taking a leave of absence from the New York-based foundation.
“I can’t tell you enough how much I appreciate (Esiason) letting me come here for a very short time and try to help out the university,” Rimington said. “I love this place. I would do anything I can to help. I talked to the coaches today. I’m there for them. I’m not here to fire anybody. I’m here to calm things down.”
Rimington was a first-team All-American in 1981 and ’82 and is the only player to win the Outland Trophy as the top interior lineman in consecutive years. He also won the Lombardi Award in 1982 as the best lineman or linebacker and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1997.
University leaders fired Eichorst on Thursday , five days after Northern Illinois became the first football team from outside a Power Five conference in 13 years to beat the Cornhuskers.
President Hank Bounds and Green said Eichorst was let go because the school’s teams, football chief among them, had fallen off in competitiveness.
Nebraska — which spent $101 million on athletics in 2015-16, the most recent year for which data is available — has not won a Big Ten championship in football or basketball (men’s or women’s) since joining the conference in 2011. The Huskers finished 37th nationally and seventh in the Big Ten in the Learfield Director’s Cup all-sports standings in 2016-17.
“I think that Dave is the perfect guy that cares so much about this place, obviously had a storied career here, has a background in administrative duties and I think for this moment, a very good choice,” football coach Mike Riley said.
Green said the hiring of a search firm was being finalized Tuesday. The firm will identify possible candidates for a search committee made up of university leaders, athletic staff and former athletes. The committing will work with Green along with an advisory group that will provide input.
“We will be aggressive in the search in terms of getting the right leader and the resources required for that as well as in time,” Green said. “We expect this to be a short search … but we’ll take as long as it takes to find the right leader.”
Rimington is a revered figure in the state. Tom Osborne recruited Rimington out of working-class South Omaha, and he redefined the center’s position with his rare combination of strength and speed.
Rimington was an All-Big Eight choice three times and in 1981 became the only lineman to ever have been named the conference’s offensive player of the year. Nebraska won back-to-back Big Eight titles in 1981-82, and the Huskers led the nation in rushing his senior season.
A first-round draft choice of the Cincinnati Bengals in 1983, he played five seasons with the Bengals and two with the Philadelphia Eagles before retiring in 1989.