UNL Athletic Director Steve Pederson has been fired. That word came Monday afternoon in the aftermath of yet another rocky performance and lopsided loss by the NU football team on Saturday.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Harvey Perlman announced he asked UNL Athletic Director Steve Pederson to step down from the post he has held since January 2003. Perlman said he believes Pederson is no longer positioned to move the Athletic Department forward.
Perlman says it will cost at least $2.2 million to buy Pederson out of his contract.
"This is personally a very sad day for me," Perlman said at an afternoon news conference. "There is no joy in my heart for having to do this but I thought it was the best thing to do.
"We are of course disappointed about the progress in our football program. Steve has done many positive things for Husker athletics during his tenure but I think only new leadership can objectively assess the state of our program and make the decisions necessary to move us forward," Perlman said.
Pederson's contract was renewed for five years at the end of July.
"You make the best decision you can with the information you have," Perlman said. Since then, Perlman says he has noted a decline in morale in the Athletic Department, and growing concern about retention of key personnel.
Perlman said he will immediately initiate conversations to identify an interim athletic director with full authority to assess the state of the Athletic Department and its athletic programs and to make any decision necessary to advance those programs. He did not announce an interim AD during his news conference. He did indicate his intention to consult with a national search consultant to begin the process for selection of a new permanent athletic director.
"It is not clear how long such a process will take or its precise form. It is important it be done expeditiously but thoughtfully," Perlman said.
"The selection of Steve Pederson in 2003 as athletic director was widely thought to be the only clear choice because of his experience, his roots and his knowledge of our traditions. I know Steve made the decisions he thought best for the interests of the program and the university. I am disappointed that I had to come to this decision."
Former Husker and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Rodgers says now is the time to reclaim the tradition of Nebraska football.
He says, "It has been rather challenging for the former players to be part of the program. I really do think that the glue that can bring it back together would be Tom Osborne."
Former Husker Clinton Childs agrees that Husker tradition has taken a back seat in the Pederson years.
He says, "You see so much tradition that has gone completely out of the window."
As for rebuilding that, Childs says, "The kids need to realize that, you know, the university wasn't solely based upon Steve Pederson. And that they're there to try to rekindle the tradition that had already been down there a long time before those guys had gotten there."
Perlman said he would consult with Osborne about the direction of the athletic program, but stopped short of saying he would offer Osborne the interim athletic director's job. Osborne now teaches a business leadership course at the university and is a consultant to local college athletic programs.
Osborne said Monday night that he had not been asked to become interim AD.
"When I know that's even a possibility, I'll be able to sit down and tell you what I know. I haven't talked to anyone yet," Osborne said.