University of Miami athletic director Shawn Eichorst resigned Thursday, creating yet another stressful situation for the already turmoil-embroiled school.
Eichorst, 45, hired by the Hurricanes in April 2011, accepted a five-year contract to succeed Nebraska athletic director and former football coach Tom Osborne.
“I am deeply disappointed in Shawn’s departure to the University of Nebraska, as I thoroughly enjoyed working with him,” UM president Donna Shalala said in a written statement. “We wish Shawn and his wonderful family the very best at their new post.”
Shalala has appointed Blake James, senior associate athletic director, as the acting UM athletic director. James served as the athletic director at the University of Maine from 2005 to 2010 and returned to the University of Miami in 2010, having previously worked at UM from 1995 to ’97 and from 1998 to 2001.
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Eichorst did not comment on his reasons for leaving Miami but said in a statement released by Nebraska: “It is truly an honor and privilege to be a part of one of the great universities in America and one of the strongest athletic departments in all of college sports. I am humbled by both the responsibility and opportunities that lie ahead, and I hope to carry on the rich tradition of Husker excellence set by Coach Osborne and so many others.”
Eichorst will earn a starting salary of $973,000 annually, believed to be substantially more than what he earned at UM. He will begin at Nebraska on Tuesday, first as a special assistant to chancellor Harvey Perlman before assuming Osborne’s role on Jan.1.
UM will begin a search to replace him, with James considered the top internal candidate. UM likely will search to find a candidate who has strong fundraising skills and appears interested in staying at the school long-term. School officials were unhappy about losing their past two athletic directors — Kirby Hocutt and Eichorst — after short tenures.
Hocutt, who replaced former longtime athletic director Paul Dee, now deceased, left after 2 1/2 years to take the same job at Texas Tech.
Eichorst left Miami on Monday night for the Atlantic Coast Conference meetings just outside Boston, a UM source said, and then was supposed to head to Chicago for the Notre Dame-Miami football game Saturday. He was slated to accompany the Golden Canes, the biggest contributors to Miami athletics, on the trip to Chicago.
“I think his timing is offensive,” a longtime Hurricanes booster, who did not want to be identified, told The Miami Herald. “It’s a Golden Canes trip. It’s a Notre Dame game. If he was that unhappy, he should have just left before this.”
Osborne announced last month that he will retire at the end of this year. The Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald reported that Eichorst interviewed in Lincoln, Neb., on Sept. 9 — a day after the Hurricanes football team was beaten 52-13 at Kansas State.
At UM, which is bracing for NCAA sanctions in the case involving former Hurricanes booster and convicted felon Nevin Shapiro, Eichorst had been one of the most low-profile athletic directors in school history. He was not at UM during Shapiro’s wrongdoings but, except for a couple of times, has declined to speak to the media since coming to Miami — and he has mostly kept his distance from UM fans and donors.
“I wouldn’t know Miami AD if he told me who he was and that’s all u need to know!!” former UM star running back Alonzo Highsmith, the father of current safety A.J. Highsmith, posted on Twitter after learning the news. “Donna listen. Find an AD with vision, passion, guts, decision maker, leader, knows and respects program, knows the culture, man of people!”
Eichorst was responsible for the hiring of men’s basketball coach Jim Larranaga. Just before Eichorst’s hiring, the school agreed to reward women’s basketball coach Katie Meier, the co-National Coach of the Year, with a five-year contract extension. The contract was negotiated by then-acting AD Tony Hernandez.
Eichorst is a native of Lone Rock, Wis., and was an all-conference defensive back and 1990 team captain for the Wisconsin-Whitewater football team.
Miami Herald sportswriter Barry Jackson contributed to this report.