Tom Osborne re-recruited Jamie Williams back to Lincoln this week. The former Husker and NFL tight end is joining the athletic department as associate athletic director of diversity and leadership initiatives after a six year stint at the San Francisco Industry of Art as the founding athletic director for the division II school. Among his responsibilities in Lincoln will be
- Manage diversity and inclusion programs within the department.
- Create a "leadership development program" for staff and athletes
- Oversee the department's long-term "strategic plan."
Tom Shatel of the Omaha World-Herald sees this appointment as the grooming of a successor to Tom Osborne. Steven M. Sipple of the Lincoln Journal-Star still thinks Paul Meyers is the heir apparent. For what it's worth, chancellor Harvey Perlman says that there will be a national search when it's time to replace Osborne, and frankly, Osborne isn't going anywhere just yet. And from my perspective, Osborne won't be voluntarily retiring anytime in the near future.
But let's suppose that Osborne gets run over by a bus (or Ndamakong Suh, for that matter)...who would be the other candidates to be Nebraska's next athletic director?
He's probably the "stealth" candidate that nobody really knows. Well,not nobody. If you are one of those "boosters of substance" (as Bill Byrne liked to call them), you know Meyers. He's the associate athletic director for development, responsible for all of the fundraising for the athletic department. He's a former all-American Husker baseball player in the 80's. He's probably best known as the "canary in the coalmine" in 2007; his abrupt resignation in 2007 finally clued Perlman into the mess Steve Pederson had created in the athletic department. Osborne talked Meyers back to resume his role, and one could argue he's been groomed to take over ever since.
For as quiet as Meyers seems to be, former Husker linebacker Trev Alberts seems to find himself in the public focus. In 2005, Alberts was fired by ESPN after refusing to show up to work following a decision to use the Gameday crew on the late night show instead of the trio of Rece Davis, Alberts, and Mark May. Alberts took a stand and paid the price. Davis and May later would get that gig, with Lou Holtz replacing Alberts. In 2009, Alberts took over the moribund Nebraska-Omaha athletic department and shocked the college hockey world by luring two-time national champion coach Dean Blais to UNO. He's since deftly steered UNO through realignment in the college hockey world from the CCHA to the WCHA and, starting next season, the National College Hockey Conference.
He also managed to begin transitioning the Mavericks from division II to division 1 in all other sports. That transition resulted in the UNO football and wrestling programs being discontinued. He's received a lot of criticism (if not downright hate) from fans of those two programs. Many people viewed this decision as a personal vendetta (perhaps even being triggered from LIncoln), but frankly, knowing the history of financial problems with the UNO athletic department prior to Alberts' arrival, it's pretty clear to me that Alberts made the correct, though extremely difficult, decision.
The former Nebraska and NFL center is now the president of the Boomer Esaison Foundation in New York City. Last summer, he told the Journal-Star that he wasn't going to be Osborne's replacement.
He also said that the choice had already been made, which has since been countered by Harvey Perlman. So take it for what it is.