Sometimes as I ponder the future of Nebraska football, it takes me back to high school algebra classes.
I'd feel a bit lost. The teacher with coffee breath would scribble stuff on the chalkboard, and only some of it made sense to me. I desperately sought clarity — any clarity I could muster.
When it comes to the future of Husker football, we received some clarity Wednesday.
It appears the next athletic director will be someone without direct Husker ties.
Trev Alberts intrigued me more than anyone on the "Husker ties" list. The former Nebraska linebacker great has been the athletic director at Nebraska-Omaha since 2009 and oversaw a four-year transition to Division I, a move that's been a financial challenge to say the least.
He will continue to take on those challenges and others, as he announced he will not pursue the position at NU.
Turnkey Sports and Entertainment — the firm hired to assist Nebraska President Hank Bounds and UNL Chancellor Ronnie Green with the AD search — reportedly contacted Alberts about entering NU's process. But there would be no guarantees for Alberts. I'm guessing he had an acute understanding there would be no guarantees.
As I've written previously, Husker ties shouldn't be a prerequisite for the position.
So, to review: Alberts is out of the picture. Dave Rimington, Nebraska's interim AD, isn't interested in the full-time job. A two-time All-America center at NU, Rimington probably lacks the right sort of qualifications anyway. Same goes for Ed Stewart, a consensus All-America linebacker at NU in 1994 who now works for the Big 12 Conference as a senior associate commissioner for football. He would be a long-shot candidate, at best.
I'm told Paul Meyers isn't interested in the job.
Although the "Husker ties" ship apparently has sailed, Bounds and Green still can hit a home run with this hire, even in the eyes of football program traditionalists. If you listened to Bounds' and Green's tone in the Sept. 21 news conference to announce Shawn Eichorst's dismissal, it's clear they understand they have to get this hire right, such is the precarious nature of the football beast.
Eichorst was a mistake, pure and simple. The more I hear from school leaders, the more it becomes apparent that Harvey Perlman made an awful hire — that's right, in addition to the unmitigated disaster that was former AD Steve Pederson, also a Harvey hire. Before taking the Nebraska job in October 2012, Eichorst had been Miami's AD for only 1½ years. He had never hired a Division-I head football coach. When he arrived in Lincoln, he was a bit of an unknown entity in big-time college athletics.
He was a lightweight, if you will.
Reading tea leaves, I think Nebraska will pursue heavyweights this time around. In the absence of hiring someone with Husker ties, look for Bounds and Green to try to lure a Power Five conference AD with ample experience — someone with the profile of, say, Alabama's Greg Byrne, son of ex-Husker AD Bill Byrne. Greg Byrne was Mississippi State's AD from 2008-10, when Bounds worked as the state's commissioner of higher education. Byrne moved on to become Arizona's AD before officially beginning his Alabama tenure this past March.
Bounds and Byrne are well-acquainted. But because Byrne just began his current job, he likely won't be on NU's list. It's just unfortunate timing.
Bottom line, Byrne or someone in the mold of Northwestern ninth-year AD Jim Phillips possesses the type of profile Nebraska should seek. But forget Phillips. He and his wife are raising five kids in Chicago. His roots there are deep.
Whoever Bounds and Green target, look for the process to move quickly. In fact, I'd be surprised if a candidate isn't named before Nov. 1. It's in Bounds and Green's best interests to move quickly because there are other schools — Virginia and Louisville come to mind — gearing to hire athletic directors. You also wonder how the Adidas scandal might affect some schools beside Louisville.
Of course, a big unknown in this conversation is how much Nebraska's football situation may affect the athletic director hire.
In fact, let's not go there right now. It gets too complicated, sort of like high school algebra.