LINCOLN — Contract extensions have been offered to all 10 Husker football assistants, Nebraska’s athletic department confirmed Wednesday. And four of those extensions have already been finished.
Others are pending, while the extensions of a few contracts, because of a 2015 memorandum, must be approved by NU President Hank Bounds.
Nebraska assistant contracts originally ran through Dec. 31, 2019. A one-year extension — offered to all assistants, NU athletics chief financial officer John Jentz said — would extend the contracts to Dec. 31, 2020. NU looks to return coach Scott Frost’s entire assistant coaching staff in 2019, as none have taken jobs elsewhere.
The contract extensions of coordinators Erik Chinander and Troy Walters are subject to Bounds’ approval because they are more than $500,000.
Stipulations of Bounds’ approval are laid out in NU’s Executive Memorandum No. 13, amended Dec. 15, 2015. The memo grants authority to chancellors of each campus to, among other things, extend contracts, but if the salary matches or exceeds $500,000, or the contract length exceeds four years, NU’s president has final approval.
Bounds has similar approval authority on potential extensions for Athletic Director Bill Moos, Frost, Nebraska basketball coaches Tim Miles and Amy Williams, volleyball coach John Cook, baseball coach Darin Erstad, softball coach Rhonda Revelle and bowling coach Bill Straub. Erstad, Revelle and Straub all have five-year contracts, Jentz said.
In 2017, Bounds approved a one-year contract extension for then-coach Mike Riley, but effectively declined Chancellor Ronnie Green’s request for another year on Riley’s contract and a one-year extension to then-Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst’s contract, telling The World-Herald in September 2017 that he’d “revisit” the extension requests in December 2017.
By then, Riley and Eichorst were fired and Frost was NU’s coach. Bounds’ lack of approval on the extensions likely saved Nebraska some payout money.
Nebraska paid full severance on the remaining contracts of Riley ($6,235,393) and Eichorst ($762,439) in the 2017-18 fiscal year, which ended June 30, 2018. In total, NU paid $12,926,350 in severance payments in the 2017-2018 fiscal year, with $11,935,346 tied to Husker football.
The previous version — amended in 2002 — of Executive Memorandum No. 13 — titled “Delegation of Administrative Authority to Approve Academic — Administrative Personnel Actions” included no salary or contract length categories requiring presidential approval.
Josh Wegener was a ‘home run’ at Iowa Western; coaches are confident he’ll succeed at Nebraska, too
First, the Iowa Western standout was ranked as the No. 1 junior college center by JCGridiron.com. Additionally, the Huskers haven’t signed many Reivers over the years — the only other one to land in Lincoln is reserve offensive lineman Brian Perez, who spent 2017 in Council Bluffs as a reserve tight end.
The Iowa Western coaches think Wegener, a 6-foot-2, 300-pounder from Algona, Iowa, is equipped to handle the spotlight.
“There isn’t a better player that we’d like to send down that way for that staff to evaluate,” said Donnie Woods, Iowa Western’s offensive coordinator and offensive line coach. “Josh has the mentality of a guy that’s going to come in and put the work in, regardless if he’s the No. 300 center in the country or the No. 1 center in the country. That is what sets Josh apart.”
Wegener came to Iowa Western in 2017 as a highly touted defensive tackle, a “must-get’’ from the north-central part of Iowa, Woods said. In a program that has finished in the top three nationally six of the past seven years, he upheld those credentials. He broke into the rotation for coach Scott Strohmeier in his first season before tearing the ACL and meniscus in his knee in the fifth game.
Woods then broached the notion of moving Wegener to the other side of the ball.
“What I saw in him was a kid who I thought could direct our offense up front,” he said. “He’s super smart, and I need that guy at the center. Our centers have to be able to identify (middle linebackers), set the blocking schemes.
“All those little things that you need to play offensive line, Josh has. So when he made the switch, it was kind of a home run for us and for him.”
Wegener initially was skeptical about the move, but eventually warmed to it. He earned first-team all-conference honors despite going down in the ninth game with a lisfranc injury in his foot, a torn ligament between his first and second metatarsals.
At the time of the injury, Wegener held several FCS offers while FBS teams were entering the mix. But those FBS schools started to lose interest.
“Not many schools are looking for a mid-year injured guy to come in and not really play spring ball,” he said.
The 20-year-old graduated from Iowa Western with a 4.0 GPA, making him eligible for academic scholarships. That reduced the stress of seeking a full ride, and he looked seriously at Nebraska and Iowa State. Wegener decided on the Huskers, thinking his skills fit well in their spread offense.
Woods said he diligently watches offensive line film of the nation’s top junior college programs.
“As I went through the film, I couldn’t find one guy that was able to do the stuff that Josh does was able to do,” he said. “So when it came out that he was the No. 1 center in the country, it wasn’t a shock to us.
“He’s bought into the development side of it. When a guy starts playing with the technique you’re asking him to play with, and he has all the intangibles, the sky is the limit.”
Andy Jacobson, Wegener’s high school coach at Algona, said his former pupil has earned everything that’s come his way.
“He’s a great example of setting a high goal and not settling,” he said. “Nebraska’s going to get a guy that is going to come in and work his tail off.”
Wegener is rehabbing his foot in his hometown. He’ll head to Lincoln late this spring and join the team for summer workouts before enrolling in the fall.
If those in the Nebraska program are going to form opinions on Iowa Western based on his actions, he’s fine with that.
“I’m going to represent a lot of what Iowa Western is about,” he said. “I know that a lot of people are going to look at me and say, ‘This is why we do or this is why we don’t recruit Iowa Western.’
“There’s some pressure there, but I’m not too worried about it. I think who I am and what I believe in matches well with Iowa Western’s philosophy and with Nebraska’s philosophy. Stay out of trouble and work hard. There’s not much more you can ask for, you know?”
Woods isn’t a prognosticator, but if Wegener’s play leads to more Reivers joining the Nebraska program, he won’t be surprised.
“I’m not going to sit here and say that Josh Wegener’s going to be a 12-game starter for Nebraska,” he said, “but somehow, someway Josh will impact Nebraska football. And I know it’s going to be in a positive manner and we’ll be proud of however it all shakes out.
“They’ll understand how Scott (Strohmeier) runs the program, and that they need to take a few more guys of ours.”
Nebraska football spring game tickets go on sale to general public Feb. 6
Husker fans will soon be able to get tickets to the spring game.
Season ticket holders will get the first opportunity to purchase them on Feb. 5 at 10 a.m. Tickets will then go on sale to the general public on Feb. 6 at 10 a.m. There will be at least 15,000 tickets available to the public. There’s a limit of 10 tickets per account.
The 2019 spring game will be played April 13 and the kickoff time is still to be announced.
Fans can purchase tickets online at Huskers.com, by phone at 1-800-8-BIG-RED or in person at the Nebraska ticket office located in the Stadium Drive parking garage.
The majority of tickets cost $10, though there will be a limited number of club seats available for $20. Tickets for UNL faculty and staff cost $5. UNL students get in free, as do children in eighth grade or younger. There’s a limit of two complimentary youth tickets for each regular ticket purchased.
Nebraska drew a sold-out crowd of 86,818 fans for the 2018 spring game, a program record. That was also the largest attendance for any FBS spring game last year.