FILE - In this Sept. 27, 2019, file photo, Nebraska Athletic Director Bill Moos speaks during an NCAA college football news conference in Lincoln, Neb. Moos abruptly announced his retirement Friday, June 25, 2021, saying he will step down next week.The announcement came as a surprise because the 70-year-old Moos has said publicly he wanted to stay in the job until he was comfortable the Cornhuskers football program had been turned around. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File)

Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos abruptly announced his retirement Friday, saying he will step down next week.

The announcement came as a surprise because the 70-year-old Moos has said publicly he wanted to stay in the job until he was comfortable the Cornhuskers football program had been turned around.

“To understand just how special Nebraska is, you need to spend time here, meet our people, visit our cities and towns and sit in Memorial Stadium in a sea of red on a Saturday afternoon in the fall,” Moos said in a statement. “I step away completely content, knowing that our athletic program is reborn and rebuilt and that it has a solid, stable foundation.”

Moos had told the Lincoln Journal Star late last year he had no plans to retire before his contract expired in December 2022.

“We’re going to move the dial here, and I don’t want to be looking at that success from afar,” he told the newspaper. “I have every intention of fulfilling the contract.”

Moos, whose salary was $1.15 million this year, hired 12 head coaches since leaving Washington State for Nebraska in October 2017. They include Scott Frost in football and Fred Hoiberg in men's basketball.

Moos also was part of a major fundraising project to improve football facilities, though former university system president Hank Bounds took the lead role. A new football building is scheduled to open in 2023.

Moos said much of what he accomplished was “hard to quantify and even harder for our passionate fans and supporters to see" but he said the work has "laid the groundwork for success that will soon be evident on the scoreboards.” Moos did not respond to a text message from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Chancellor Ronnie Green said Nebraska would begin a national search for Moos' replacement soon. Senior associate athletic director for external relations Garrett Klassy will serve as interim athletic director.

“I respect Bill Moos’ decision to retire and I want to thank him for his service to Husker Athletics and our university,” Green said. “Under his tenure, Nebraska has gained tremendous talent with outstanding new coaches and senior administrators. I particularly appreciate his steady and capable leadership during the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Two months after his arrival, Moos fired football coach Mike Riley and hired Frost, who grew up in the state, quarterbacked the 1997 national championship team and was coming off a perfect season at Central Florida. The Cornhuskers are 12-20 entering their fourth season under Frost and have not challenged in the Big Ten West or gone to a bowl game since 2016 under Riley.

”We will miss Bill and Kendra but wish them all the best in the future," Frost said. "I am grateful to Bill for all the work he has done and laying the groundwork for our future in athletics.”

Moos fired men's basketball coach Tim Miles in March 2019 and replaced him with Hoiberg, the ex-Chicago Bulls coach who played in the NBA for 10 years and had a successful run at Iowa State. Hoiberg has turned over the roster twice in two seasons and won a total of 12 games and finished last in the Big Ten both years.

The folksy Moos was always upbeat about the Huskers' future, sometimes raising eyebrows with his remarks, such as when he told a booster group that once Frost's program was up and running, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and then-Ohio State coach Urban Meyer would be “running scared.”

Moos had led the turnaround of the football program at his alma mater, Washington State. Moos hired Mike Leach in 2012, but the athletic department had an $8.5 million budget deficit when he left. Moos previously was the athletic director at Oregon (1995-2007) and Montana (1990-95).

By retiring, Moos gives up the $1.25 million he would have received under a deferred compensation agreement if he was still athletic director in December 2022.