University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Harvey Perlman’s search for a new athletic director began before the general public even knew it was necessary.
Perlman said he’s known since August of Tom Osborne’s plan to retire, and that he’s already interviewed candidates for the position.
He’s using a search consultant, Jed Hughes of Korn/Ferry International, but that’s as much information as Perlman said he’ll divulge about the search until an announcement on Osborne’s successor is made.
Perlman said he expects to be able to attract “the very best” candidates to Nebraska’s vacant position.
“I can tell you that individuals who currently hold high-profile positions in intercollegiate athletics will not participate in a public search, and so I do not intend to hold an open, public search for this position,” Perlman said at Wednesday’s news conference to announce Osborne’s retirement.
“I think it would limit our opportunities and limit the kinds of people we could attract and have conversations with.”
Hughes, who has a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Michigan, was the search consultant that helped hire Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon and, most recently, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby.
Perlman said Hughes is well-networked in college athletics.
“Most importantly, in my conversations with him, I think he understood it’s not just about experience and credentials,” Perlman said. “It’s a personality and a viewpoint that has to fit with Nebraska and what Nebraska has accomplished, and what our ambition and our culture is. I think he has a very good understanding of that.”
Perlman has invited 12 to 15 individuals to serve as his advisers in the search, and said Osborne will play an important advising role, as well.
“They represent a broad segment of constituents, from coaches, to former student-athletes, to donors, to members of the Lincoln and Nebraska communities,” Perlman said of the advisers.
While Nebraska is conducting a national search, Perlman said internal candidates are also up for consideration.
“I want someone that values what we have here but doesn’t necessarily have to come from here,” Perlman said. “On the other hand, I think internal candidates bring a clear knowledge of that.”
Those regarded as internal candidates include Paul Meyers, associate athletic director for development, and Jamie Williams, associate athletic director and director of diversity and leadership initiatives.
Williams didn’t directly answer questions about whether he’s interested in becoming Nebraska’s next athletic director.
“I’m interested in helping this program to the best of my ability in any way I can,” said Williams, who attended Wednesday’s news conference. “I’ve done a lot of things, I’ve accomplished a lot of things. I’m not afraid to go into darkness.
“I know what this program can become. It’s something great now, but we can elevate that legacy. We can continue to move into the future, and however I can help them, I’m going to do it.
“As far as I’m concerned, this should be the greatest athletic program in the country. That should be what we’re aspiring to be, period. We’re good. But we should be aspiring to be the best, every day.”
Is Williams a candidate for the job?
“That’s for Harvey and Coach Osborne to decide,” he said. “There’s a lot at stake here, in terms of keeping everything going. They’re having their conversations and deciding what that pool is on their own. That is Harvey’s job, and that’s Coach’s job as the person stepping down.”
Williams is a former Husker football player who joined Nebraska’s staff in June after serving six years as athletic director at Academy of Art University in San Francisco. He said he’s “shocked” at Osborne’s decision to retire, because he believes Osborne still has “a number of years left in him” as athletic director.
“He’s sharp. His sword is still sharp,” Williams said. “He’s not walking around with dementia or something like that, so why would you sit down? You don’t have to run out of the Tunnel Walk. All you have to do is give us your wisdom, keep administering your vision, your strategies. He’s got a lot of that. That gray hair is there for a reason.”
Meyers was unavailable for comment Wednesday, according to a Nebraska media relations spokesman.