As late as Wednesday, Nebraska athletic director Shawn Eichorst hadn’t decided on the Cornhuskers’ next football coach.
The university announced the hiring of former Oregon State head coach Mike Riley Thursday after a brief three-day search. Former head coach Bo Pelini was fired Sunday. Riley will arrive in Lincoln to take over duties Thursday evening.
Eichorst then turned his attention to a Pac-12 coach, and it wasn’t Riley.
“Another source told the [Lincoln] Journal Star that Utah coach Kyle Whittingham was believed to have met with Eichorst on Wednesday,” Brian Christopherson and Steven M. Sipple reported.
Even if the athletic director was leaning toward Riley prior to the interview with Whittingham, the report Bielema turned down the job indicates he was the top candidate for the job. Worst case scenario: Riley was the team’s third option behind Bielema and Whittingham.
There hasn’t been a report whether or not Whittingham was ever offered the position, though.
While Whittingham ultimately didn’t land the job in Lincoln, he was obviously a legitimate candidate. Whittingham is six years younger than Riley with a 84-43 overall record during his 10 seasons with the Utes. More importantly, Whittinghan’s teams are 7-1 in bowl games.
But the Utah coach apparently didn’t fit all the criteria Eichorst set forth for Nebraska’s head coach like Riley did.