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Boehm: No regrets about leaving Pitt to join Pederson at Nebraska

Sunday, September 14, 2003

By Ron Cook, Post-Gazette Columnist

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Even as a student at Kansas State in the early-1980s, Marc Boehm routinely would blow off watching the losing Wildcats and come to Nebraska to see a real college football team.

"You have to understand I grew up with Nebraska football," Boehm said.

He was born in nearby Grand Island and spent time in Hastings, Neb., before moving to Topeka, Kan. His parents attended Hastings College with Tom Osborne, who would go on to become a legendary Nebraska coach.

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"I've always had a passion for Nebraska football," Boehm said. "It's in my blood."

That's why Boehm insisted he's sincere when he says he has no regrets about leaving Pitt as interim athletic director in May to take the No. 2 job at Nebraska under Steve Pederson, his longtime boss at Pitt.

"It just didn't feel right for me coming down to the wire at Pitt," Boehm said. "This feels right."

Boehm acknowledged he almost certainly would have stayed at Pitt if chancellor Mark Nordenberg had removed the interim tag from his title. But Nordenberg never made that offer, not even after his eight-person search committee unanimously endorsed Boehm as the next athletic director after Pederson left to take the Nebraska job in December.

"No, that didn't hurt," Boehm said. "I have no bitterness toward the chancellor or anyone else at Pitt. He was good enough to give me the opportunity and I ran with it. There were some tough decisions, some firings. But I was confident I was making the right decisions."

Boehm ran the Pitt athletic department for 4 1/2 months after Pederson's departure. He fired women's basketball coach Traci Waites and replaced her with Agnus Berenato from Georgia Tech. He also promoted assistant Jamie Dixon to men's head basketball coach after Ben Howland left for UCLA, although it's believed Nordenberg and executive vice chancellor Jerry Cochran had considerable say in that decision. Boehm's first choice for the job -- Wake Forest's Skip Prosser -- said he wasn't interested.

Boehm probably could have kept going as interim director for a long time. Nordenberg appeared to be in no hurry to make a change. It was only after Boehm left for Nebraska that Nordenberg rushed to hire Jeff Long, a senior associate athletic director at Oklahoma, to head Pitt's program.

But Pederson forced Boehm's hand. He had made it clear to Boehm from the beginning that he had a job at Nebraska -- the newly created position of executive associate athletic director -- should he not get the Pitt position. But by May, with Nordenberg dawdling, Pederson wanted a decision.

"I'd have loved to have taken Marc with me from Day 1, but I wanted him to have the opportunity to be an athletic director," Pederson said. "I also felt like I owed it to Pitt to leave him behind. He was such a big part of what we built there. I knew he'd be the perfect guy to keep it moving forward."

At Nebraska, Boehm oversees the men's and women's basketball programs and directs the marketing, development, licensing and ticket offices.

"I kept trying to figure out what I would do if he didn't come," Pederson said. "I never could come up with a good alternative."

"It's great to be working with Steve again," Boehm said. "We got so much done at Pitt and had so much fun doing it. We basically got to the point there that we, as a staff, were outworking folks. I have no doubt it will be the same way here."

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