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UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman Names Steve Pederson as Nebraska Athletic Director

By NU Athletic Communications
Steve Pederson addresses the media at his press conference on Dec. 20, 2002.
Steve Pederson addresses the media at his press conference on Dec. 20, 2002.
Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

LINCOLN, Neb. -- University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Harvey Perlman has announced that Steve Pederson has been chosen as the 12th Athletic Director at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The 45-year-old Pederson replaces Bill Byrne who announced on Dec. 3 that he was leaving Nebraska to accept the Director of Athletics position at Texas A&M University.

Pederson returns to his alma mater with six years of Division I athletic director experience, having served as the A.D. at Pittsburgh since 1996. He also has extensive experience as an administrator at Nebraska and at two other Division I programs. Pederson earned his bachelor?s degree from Nebraska in 1980 and worked at Nebraska from 1980 to 1986, first as a sports information assistant and football recruiting coordinator and then from 1994 to 1996 as the associate athletic director for football operations. He also had stints as an athletic administrator at The University of Tennessee and The Ohio State University.

Pederson said his love of Nebraska has never wavered. "There are a few very special places in the world of college athletics. The University of Nebraska is at the top of that list.

"I want to thank Chancellor Perlman for the confidence that he has shown in me to lead this department into the future. Nebraskans want and expect to be the very best. Our athletic staff will work harder than anyone else in college athletics to achieve the high goals that we set.

"We will move this program forward with pride and enthusiasm. I am proud and humbled to serve as Athletic Director at the University of Nebraska."

Perlman made the announcement at a press conference on Friday, Dec. 20 in Lincoln, Neb. Although a search committee had been selected, Perlman was pleased to be able to name Pederson the Director of Athletics before the holiday break. The appointment is effective Jan. 1, 2003.

"It is clear to me that Steve Pederson is the right choice for this position and we are pleased to have him back at Nebraska in a new role," said Perlman.

"The speed of the process of selecting and appointing Steve Pederson was due in part to the need to resolve the issue of his candidacy in the eyes of other potential candidates for the post.

"As we moved forward with the search process, it became very clear that, in the intercollegiate athletics community, all assumed that Steve was certain to be named as our next A.D., and we found that existing successful athletic directors were unwilling to enter the search until Steve had indicated that he would not be a candidate. In order to move ahead with our search, Steve?s candidacy had to be resolved one way or another. Earlier this week, our search committee chair, James O?Hanlon, another member of the search committee, Jo Potuto, and I met with Steve and were able to reach an agreement. Our Equity, Access and Diversity office approved a proposal from me to move ahead in this manner in the best interest of the search process and the university," said Perlman.

Pederson is credited with turning around the University of Pittsburgh athletics program. Since being appointed athletic director in November of 1996, Pederson has set the pace with a relentless dedication that has revitalized Pittsburgh into one of the fastest-growing programs in the country. Now Pederson is prepared to bring that same enthusiasm back to Nebraska.

A leader of drive and initiative, Pederson?s goal is to plan for long-term success. In addition to establishing a contagious winning attitude, he has also helped construct a collection of facilities that are perhaps unsurpassed in all of college athletics.

Pederson helped shape the vision of the Petersen Events Center, the recently completed state-of-the-art convocation center that has dramatically revolutionized the Pittsburgh campus. The Petersen Events Center provides the University with one of the finest college basketball arenas in the country and dramatically improves student life with sparkling new recreational facilities.

Additionally, Pederson oversaw a major renovation of Fitzgerald Field House, giving Pittsburgh?s Olympic sports programs locker and training facilities comparable to any school in the country. Trees Field also underwent major upgrades to assist the Panthers? rising baseball and softball programs. A new softball field is set to debut in 2003.

While Pittsburgh?s athletic infrastructure has grown strong, so too has his staff.

During his tenure at Pitt, Pederson has hired Big East Coach-of-the-Year honorees in football (Walt Harris), men?s basketball (Ben Howland) and women?s basketball (Traci Waites). No other athletic director in Big East Conference history can make that claim.

Pederson said his administrative philosophy is to surround himself with good people. "The thing I am most proud of is that I hire great people and let them do their jobs. That is the only thing I would ever take credit for."

The 2001-02 sports year may ultimately be remembered as the beginning of the next golden age in Pittsburgh athletics. The Panthers? football team closed the season with six straight wins and a bowl victory. Men?s basketball stormed to a Top 10 ranking, the Big East West Division championship and the NCAA Tournament?s Sweet 16. Ben Howland, meanwhile, was a consensus national coach of the year. Swimming and diving continued its Big East dominance. Baseball won 36 games, the program?s most victories in nearly a decade. Other programs continued to make strides up the competitive ladder.

The resurgence has continued in 2002. The Panthers? football team finished its season with an 8-4 record and will play in the Dec. 26 Insight Bowl against Oregon State, Pittsburgh?s third straight bowl appearance. Coach Howland?s men?s basketball team is off to a 7-0 start and is ranked third in this week?s coaches poll.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette dubbed Pittsburgh "Comeback U," and last year Pederson was named a recipient of the General Robert R. Neyland Athletic Director Award, annually presented by the All-American Football Foundation for outstanding administrative achievement.

Known for putting the interests of student-athletes first, Pederson has implemented such programs as the Panther Game Plan, which is aimed at their academic, athletic, personal and professional development.

No collegiate athlete in the country is better outfitted than Pittsburgh?s as a result of a comprehensive apparel partnership formed by Pederson with Aeropostale. The Aeropostale partnership, which began in 2001, marked the company?s first foray into the collegiate athletics realm. While at Nebraska, Pederson helped negotiate the first football contract with adidas.

Additionally, Pederson enlisted the talents of Peter Moore, one of the world?s top figures in sports marketing and image, to create the Pittsburgh Panthers logo and color schemes. The dynamic Panther logo and standardized blue and gold colors have been adopted by all of the University?s 19 intercollegiate sports. Moore also created the Panther eyetooth that was unveiled on Pittsburgh?s uniforms last year.

Pederson is active on several committees. He is the chairman of the Big East Conference Executive Committee and additionally serves as the Big East representative to the NCAA?s Football Issues Committee and is a member of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame District Screening Committee. Pederson has additionally served as the co-chairman of the Panther Leukemia Golf Open and the co-chairman of the United Way?s Day of Caring for Allegheny County.

Before being named Pittsburgh?s 10th A.D. in 1996, Pederson served the previous two and one-half years as the associate athletic director at the University of Nebraska from 1994 to 1996. As the Cornhuskers? associate director of athletics and director of football operations, he oversaw one of the most successful football programs in the country.

During Pederson?s second stint at Nebraska, he oversaw the refurbishment of the football administrative offices, and construction of a new halftime meeting room, postgame interview room and players and coaches locker rooms. He reorganized the program?s administrative wing and played a definitive role in Nebraska?s back-to-back football championships in 1994 and 1995 under Head Coach Tom Osborne.

Prior to Nebraska, Pederson joined the Tennessee football staff in 1991 as recruiting coordinator. A year later he was promoted to assistant athletic director for recruiting and then was elevated to associate athletic director for football operations in the spring of 1993. In his three seasons at UT, the Volunteers? recruiting classes were regarded among the nation?s top three nationally by several publications, including the 1994 class which was tabbed as the best in the country by several publications.

Pederson also served as the recruiting coordinator at Ohio State from 1988 through 1991 and helped rebuild the Buckeyes into the perennial power that they are today.

A native of North Platte, Neb., Pederson graduated from Nebraska in 1980 with a degree in business administration. He began his collegiate athletic career as an assistant sports information director at Nebraska in 1980. He spent one year as Ak-Sar-Ben?s Public Relations Director, before returning to Coach Tom Osborne?s staff as recruiting coordinator and administrative assistant in 1982. He left Nebraska in 1986 for private business, then returned to college football in 1988 at Ohio State.

Pederson and his wife Tami Osborne Pederson have three children: Mark (19), Kari (16) and Kristin (13). Tami is a professional violinist, who has played with the Pittsburgh, Omaha, Lincoln and Knoxville symphonies. She currently performs as a member of the Virtuosi String Ensemble and is the founder of the Fox Chapel Suzuki Violinists, a studio of young musicians whom she teaches privately.

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