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Steven M. Sipple: If NU leaders indeed have AD in mind, it makes sense to close deal quickly

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If you're a fan of Nebraska athletics, you're perhaps hearing a lot of people saying "my best sources" are claiming this and that. 

A few of my best sources are a bit rattled. Hard to blame the kind souls. 

Nebraska athletics will do that to the calmest of people.

A day like Friday definitely has that impact.

Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos suddenly is out. He's off to Montana and eventually to a quiet life on his ranch in eastern Washington.

So, now what? 

Well, let's start by doing something to which Husker fans have become accustomed since the early 2000s. 

We start by contemplating potential new ADs. New leadership. A shakeup. Yes, again. 

Nebraska fans should be damned experts at this sort of exercise by now. We're such experts around here on AD searches, we even know who to follow on Twitter. If Lars Anderson, a Sports Illustrated (and Lincoln Journal Star) alum, is tweeting that his "most trusted @HuskerFBNation source" points to Ed Stewart as Nebraska's next AD, it makes sense to pay attention. 

Many folks scoffed when Anderson in mid-November of 2017 tweeted out Scott Frost's initial contract terms with Nebraska. But Lars nailed it.

As for the 49-year-old Stewart, he has a résumé you can't ignore. He's in his 15th year with the Big 12 as a member of the senior management team. His responsibilities include daily operation of football, and he's negotiated more than $150 million in bowl-game contracts. He's seen and done plenty.

Prior to his arrival at the Big 12, Stewart was an associate AD at Missouri, where he was administrative liaison for the football program, supervised Olympic sports, student-athlete development and safety, and was instrumental in fundraising and universitywide outreach initiatives, among other key duties. 

Did I mention he was Big Eight defensive player of the year for Nebraska's 1994 national championship team? A lot of Husker fans will be drawn to Stewart because of his playing prowess. At the same time, he apparently retains a healthy distance from Frost and his program, which suddenly seems like it's been put on notice.

There was already a certain amount of pressure on Frost to show in no uncertain terms this coming season that his program is turning the corner. Friday's news had the feel of heat being turned up another notch or two. We're once again headed toward another season in which every game will feel like a referendum on the program. Those type of seasons never feel particularly healthy for anyone. 

Such drama and pressure took a heavy toll on Frank Solich, Bill Callahan and Bo Pelini. Mike Riley didn't seem overly concerned about anything. 

There should be a certain level of concern among university leaders that all the drama is wearing out Nebraska fans. You hear a lot of distrust from fans. You hear a lot of skepticism about Frost, rightfully so given his 12-20 record. 

Meanwhile, there doesn't seem to be much consensus on how well Moos performed in his relatively short stay at Nebraska. It says here that he left the department in decent shape. In terms of leadership, he was Winston Churchill compared to his predecessor, Shawn Eichorst. Moos guided his charges through a pandemic in strong fashion after making three popular hires — Will Bolt is at least a triple off the wall, Fred Hoiberg retains a peculiar amount of popularity despite being 5-34 in Big Ten play, and Frost has taken to comparing his declining profile to that of a once-soaring country band now playing county fairs (RIP, Charlie Daniels). 

If Anderson's Twitter feed is on target, and Stewart is Nebraska's next AD, we could get an announcement in the coming week. No reason to dink around. I get the feeling this fan base is in no mood for a protracted search. Folks are a little on edge, it seems. 

If Stewart isn't the choice, heavy speculation will persist about Matt Davison, Nebraska's associate athletic director for football. People like to use his close relationship with Frost against him. I get that, but only to a certain extent. One should also consider his expertise and success in two mega-revenue producers for the athletic department — development (fundraising) and multimedia operations.

His sterling work raising funds during a pandemic for Nebraska's $155 million training facility is well-documented. But people forget he worked full time for a decade selling advertising for NU's former partner, Learfield/IMG. He's also served as an on-air analyst for 17 seasons. What's more, his relationships with key members of the University of Nebraska Board of Regents and other power brokers can't be ignored.

Nor can Trev Alberts be ignored. The Nebraska football legend's proponents tell you he's matured well as an AD while stabilizing UNO athletics. 

Another former Husker, Omaha attorney George Achola, watches the situation closely and hopes the Husker Football Lettermen's Association gets to have input. The association is growing in strength, and Achola provides excellent leadership. 

"As former players, we come from diverse vantage points — white, Black, urban, rural," he said. "We can bring viewpoints to the table that make for a better process, No. 1. You also have to understand that these guys will run through a wall for the university. We have a vested interest that the university always operates at a high level. 

"They need to get this right."

All of our "sources" can agree on that.

Contact the writer at ssipple@journalstar.com or 402-473-7440. On Twitter @HuskerExtraSip.

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