Sunday morning, Shawn Eichorst made the decision to release Bo Pelini and his staff. The search was officially on.
On Wednesday morning we shared that according multiple sources in the profession Nebraska appeared locked in to a short list of candidates. We said, "Eichorst seems to have a very short list - perhaps with only one name on it."
We had called to check on a number of potential candidates to see if they were involved and based on our checks, we were able to rule out Jim Tressel, Scott Frost (as a head coaching candidate), Dan Mullen, Greg Schiano, Gary Andersen, Jerry Kill, etc. Based on what we heard during our calls, it was very clear that Eichorst wasn't building a list, he had his name or names and wasn't looking for input. Some we spoke with offered that they believed there was only one true candidate and that Eichorst already had the ball rolling towards a hire.
Shortly after noon yesterday, based on information from multiple sources, we reported that Shawn Eichorst's first target was Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema. We understand that Eichorst's contact was primarily through Bret's agent Neil Cornrich, who also, it turns out, advises Eichorst (we were unaware of this until late last night). Following our report, late yesterday Bret Bielema spoke with Chris Low of ESPN telling him that he intends to stay at Arkansas. Bret also tweeted that he's all in for Arkansas.
Late last night we spoke with several industry sources who confirmed what we reported. One source responded, "There is simply no way Jeff Long could have allowed him to go. Jeff would do nearly anything to avoid having to do another coaching search at this time." Long is the chairman of the College Football Playoff selection committee, serving as the face of the organization preparing to announce the inaugural playoff field on Sunday. The school has also been through a litany of coaching turmoil since the Bobby Petrino saga in the spring of 2012.
This morning we spoke with sources who tell us Bret checked with his connections who know the current atmosphere in Nebraska as well as anyone and was advised against taking the position.
So, at what point did this search turn to Oregon State head coach Mike Riley? I truly don't know, but expect Shawn Eichort to address this tomorrow morning when he introduces Mike Riley as the next head coach. One thing is clear, Eichorst had a very short list, and he was locked in.