CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — Shawn Eichorst has resigned as Miami's athletic director, the latest blow to a department bracing to be hit by NCAA sanctions, said a person with knowledge of the situation.
The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity on Thursday because the university — which was scrambling to decide how to fill Eichorst's role on a short-term basis — had not publicly announced Eichorst's decision. Various reports in Nebraska have identified Eichorst this week as a candidate to replace the retiring Tom Osborne as the Cornhuskers' athletic director.
Eichorst, who has not spoken with reporters in months, did not immediately return an e-mail seeking comment. His resignation comes two days before Miami plays Notre Dame, the first regular-season meeting between the storied football programs since 1990.
The person who spoke to AP said the school was holding off on making formal comment until Nebraska was set to announce its AD choice. One possible replacement for Eichorst on an interim basis would be senior associate athletic director for development Blake James, who returned to the Hurricanes in 2010 after spending five years as Maine's athletic director.
Eichorst's tenure at Miami lasted less than 18 months. He was hired by the Hurricanes after serving as Wisconsin's Chief Operating Officer for athletics, overseeing a $90 million budget and being closely involved with a $100 million construction project for ice hockey, swimming and football. Eichorst was highly recommended for the Miami job by his one-time boss at Wisconsin, athletic director Barry Alvarez — a close friend of Miami President Donna Shalala.
Alvarez is also a graduate of Nebraska.
Eichorst arrived with Miami's athletic department in flux: Funds were being raised for facility upgrades, and the school was in the process of hiring a basketball coach to replace Frank Haith, eventually deciding on bringing in Jim Larranaga. Quietly, though, the Hurricanes were also under NCAA investigation over their compliance practices, which wound up overshadowing everything Eichorst did at Miami.
The story over Miami's NCAA mess broke publicly in August 2011, when claims made by former booster and convicted Ponzi scheme architect Nevin Shapiro — now serving a 20-year prison term for his role in bilking investors out of $930 million — were published by Yahoo Sports. Shapiro said he provided dozens of Miami athletes and recruits with impermissible benefits over an eight-year period starting in 2002.
The NCAA is expected to provide Miami with its notice of allegations later this year, with sanctions — which could be severe — to follow.
And now, the Hurricanes have something else to deal with. Eichorst was believed to be working closely with the NCAA during the joint inquiry into the athletic department, so his departure comes at a difficult time for the department — and the university, which is already dealing with a number of issues unrelated to the investigation, such as dwindling football attendance and major financial problems involving its highly touted medical school.
Eichorst addressed the scandal in a roundtable interview with Miami reporters on Nov. 1, 2011.
"I'm not making any excuses. I'm not asking anybody to feel sorry for me or anybody else," Eichorst said. "I've got a job to do and I'm only looking forward. I'm not looking backwards."
Eichorst declined virtually all interview requests since.
He appeared on Miami's football practice field at least once this week, and had been planning to be at the Hurricanes' game in Chicago against Notre Dame on Saturday night.
At Nebraska, the 75-year-old Osborne announced late last month that he will retire Jan. 1 after five years on the job. He'll become athletic director emeritus and stay involved in department operations through July 30 at the school, where he won 255 games and 13 conference titles as football coach.