Hours after firing football coach Bo Pelini, Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst pointed to results on the field, and issues on and off the field, as reasons for his decision.
Speaking to reporters for over 30 minutes on Sunday afternoon, Eichorst recalled a statement from his introductory news conference at Nebraska, saying "We will compete for Big Ten and national championships, and we will do so with class."
He added, "The action taken today is in line with that vision."
Eichorst spoke during a 1 p.m. news conference at Memorial Stadium. An athletic department administrator announced Pelini's firing in an email to members of the media at 9:45 a.m.
Assistant coach Barney Cotton will serve as interim head coach as Nebraska prepares for a bowl game to be determined. Eichorst said all of NU's assistant coaches have been asked to stay on and coach through the bowl game or until a new coach is named.
Eichorst said he met face to face with Pelini for 20 minutes in the athletic director's office at Memorial Stadium on Sunday morning.
He described the meeting as cordial. "I like Bo. Bo is a good guy, and a good coach," Eichorst said. "But at the end of the day, we agreed to go in different directions."
Eichorst said he will begin the process of looking for Nebraska's next head coach over the coming days. He said there is no timeline for hiring a new coach.
The decision to fire Pelini, Eichorst said, crystalized for him on Saturday evening, a day after Nebraska had rallied to defeat Iowa in overtime and finish the regular season at 9-3.
Eichorst said he based his decision to fire Pelini on an evaluation of the program over the past year. He repeated the term "championship football" several times during the news conference and said his evaluation included judging benchmarks set to reach that goal.
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Nebraska has not won a conference championship since 1999.
"At the end of the day, I didn’t see enough improvement in areas that are necessary for us to win championships," he said.
Eichorst said he believed Pelini was given enough time and the necessary resources to play championship football.
He said Nebraskans don't want and should not have to settle for lower standards.
"I feel comfortable that we’re positioned -- with the right leader -- to go where we want to go."
He added: “We weren’t able to win enough games that mattered."
Per Pelini's last contract, NU is on the hook to pay him $7.65 million, owing him $150,000 monthly for the next 51 months, though that total would lessen if he takes another job. All assistants coaches, and football strength coach James Dobson, were on contract until January 2016. They are owed a total of just over $3.1 million combined. Including Dobson's salary, NU will owe its coaches more than $11 million total.
Pelini will exit the program with a 67-27 record, having won at least nine games every year, and 10 games three years, but without claiming a conference championship.
While Pelini’s number of losses stacks up favorably to most of his peers, detractors would point to the way those games were lost, with Nebraska losing seven games in the last four years by at least 20 points, including a 59-24 meltdown at Wisconsin in November.
This is a developing story. Stay with JournalStar.com for updates.