The best center in Nebraska history had a simple explanation for why he sat at a table on West Stadium’s third floor Tuesday afternoon, flanked by University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Ronnie Green and sporting an “N” lapel pin on his black suit jacket.
“I love this place and I’ll do anything I can to help,” said Dave Rimington, the school’s new interim athletic director thanks to an appointment slated to last up to 60 days and finalized late Monday.
Rimington, a two-time All-American during his mid-1980s Husker career and the 22-year president of the Boomer Esiason Foundation, made clear he is not a candidate for the permanent post.
“I’m not here to fire anybody, I’m just here to calm things down,” Rimington, 57, said. “We’ve got a great university here and I’m going to do the best I can to help with whatever I can to make it better.”
Green first reached out to Rimington on Thursday morning, within hours of firing Shawn Eichorst and before the school announced that move. He said Rimington was the first person he thought of for the interim job. At the time, Rimington was working from his New York home on Long Island.
“It was a cold call. He knew I was the chancellor because I had reached out to him the night before to try to get in touch with him,” Green said. “We arranged an opportunity to meet this weekend. We were set to meet at 8:30 in the morning and I texted Dave at 7:30 and said, ‘You know, it’s pretty casual here, this isn’t an interview.’ He came in and had a jacket on and was dressed nicely and he said, ‘I got your text and I had already been here for 15 minutes because I was so excited about what we were going to talk about.’”
Rimington worked out the details with the Boomer Esiason Foundation, where he said Tuesday he’s helped raise awareness, support and more than $140 million for cystic fibrosis research since becoming president in 1995. By the time he met reporters during Tuesday’s news conference, he had already met with NU coaches and staff.
Rimington said he hoped to help with the walk-on program, connect with former athletes and have a small role in the identification of the next athletic director.
Rimington, who will make $50,000 per month in this role, is regarded as perhaps the best collegiate center of all time. During his Huskers career, he became the only player in NCAA history to win the Outland Trophy, given to the nation’s best lineman, in consecutive years. In 1982, he became the only offensive lineman to be named Big Eight Conference Offensive Player of the Year. Now, the Rimington Trophy is given each year to the best center in the nation.
The award's namesake is one of 17 players to have his jersey retired at Nebraska.
“There’s not too many guys who have an award named after them," Huskers head football coach Mike Riley said. "The guy’s made a pretty good impact.”
Rimington has lived in New York with his wife, Lisa, and four children while working for the foundation, though he’s run football camps and held an annual banquet in Nebraska over the years and has family in Omaha.
“He is a proven leader in fiscal management, a proven leader in transparency, a proven leader in a charity that’s among the top-ranked charities in the field,” Green said.
In 2004, Rimington became NU’s first CoSIDA Academic All-America Hall of Fame member. During his NU career, he was twice named a first-team academic All-American.
“For someone to pull up from what he’s doing, like Dave is doing here, shows you how important he sees this opportunity being to help us,” Green said.
Green hopes Rimington will not be here long. The chancellor said the search for a permanent athletic director would be “aggressive in the search, both in terms of getting the right leader and the resources required for that, as well as in time.”
While Rimington assured he will not be the next athletic director, he left the door open for an eventual return to the school or the athletic department in some capacity.
“Two years from now, I’m going to retire from the Boomer Esiason Foundation when I turn 60,” Rimington said. “I’m going to come back here to Nebraska. It’d be great to be able to come back.”