With Plinske out, where will Warhawks turn next?
WHITEWATER—In 2003, Jim Miller wondered how UW-Whitewater would be able to replace Shawn Eichorst.
The Warhawks' athletic director at the time, Eichorst—now the athletic director at the University of Nebraska—left to become the Senior Associate Athletic Director at South Carolina.
Eventually, UW-W tabbed Paul Plinske as Eichorst's replacement in 2004. Nine years and as many national championships later, Miller and the Warhawks' faithful are facing the same question, as it was announced Wednesday that Plinske is departing to become the athletics director at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
“Any way you want to cut it, he was the architect of what went on over the last nine years,” said Miller, the longtime Warhawks baseball coach and an assistant to Plinske during his tenure. “I think that Shawn Eichorst came in here … and (he and the UW-W leadership) really laid the foundation for Warhawks athletics.
“Paul came in and took it to a new level.”
The question now becomes where the Warhawks go from here.
This much is known: Chancellor Richard Telfer will name an interim athletic director soon, and Plinske's last day is Aug. 23.
But exactly who that will be or how long they may be called on was not immediately clear on Wednesday.
“I'm honored to be able to leave this program to somebody else,” Plinske said. “I truly believe that Warhawks athletics is built to last. Chancellor Telfer is an incredible leader with great insight. He thinks of what's best in the short and long term not only for the athletic department but the institution.
“The program is in great hands.”
With the start of the fall sports calendar right around the corner—UW-W's football team opens its season on Sept. 7—the timing of Plinske's departure is less than ideal. Most athletic director openings become available and are filled at or near the conclusion of a calendar school year.
Might UW-W go an entire school year with its interim choice?
In 2003, Eichorst left his post in December, and the Warhawks waited until April of 2004 to hire Plinske.
Whatever the case, those close to the athletics department are confident that UW-W's job opening will garner strong candidates and that the program is in good shape moving forward.
“We've always talked about the support we've been able to get from our chancellors,” UW-W football coach Lance Leipold said. “As long as we have that culture and leadership in place, I'm very confident we will find someone who will take this on and continue to lead us in a positive direction.”
“I'm sure this job will generate an unbelievable amount of people that are interested,” Miller said. “This place isn't broken. We're not hiring a new AD because we're in trouble.”
Still, as the dust settles on Plinske's tenure, it'll be interesting to see what's next.