It’s not 1971, it’s not 1983, it’s not 1995, it’s not even 2001, but Nebraska it can’t be like this. They haven’t finished a season at or above .500 since 2016. Since Scott Frost became coach in 2018, they’ve finished with a winning percentage better than .400 once. Nebraska is making some changes, many in fact, but one of those changes won’t be a new coach just yet.
Former Nebraska linebacker Trev Alberts was hired as athletic director in July. He had to make changes. Alberts could not let a Nebraska football team stand pat following a season that will finish no better than seven losses. Alberts announced that Frost’s contract will be restructured. That restructure will be a $1 million reduction, and Frost’s buyout number being cut in half from $15 million to $7.5 million for 2022.
Frost announced that his offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach, offensive line coach and running backs coach will not be returning to the team next season. At first glance, it is strange to see a coach maintain his position when his entire offensive staff is deemed bad enough to be fired. The money goes a long way to explain Nebraska’s Monday announcement, but it’s how Nebraska got itself in this position that is a bit less forgiving.
Hiring Frost was the logical move in 2018. While there’s a legitimate argument that he shouldn’t have been fired following two rough seasons, what was Nebraska thinking when it offered him a contract extension in 2019 with a burdensome buyout? It was November 2019 and Nebraska was well on its way to a 5-7 season after losing to Purdue the week before its bye week. Nebraska then lost to Wisconsin two days after Frost’s extension to 2026 was announced.
Frost is a legend at Nebraska. He was the starting quarterback the year that they won their last national championship, a split with Michigan in 1997. He was the typical Tom Osborne option quarterback, rushing for 1,095 yards and 19 touchdowns. They went undefeated, but similar to the 2020-21 Milwaukee Bucks, a toe ended up saving their season.
They were at the 11-yard line, down 38-31 with seven remaining in a November game against Missouri. Frost launched a pass into the endzone that wide receiver Shevin Wiggins couldn’t haul in, but he kicked the ball into the air and the ball was snagged by tight end Matt Davidson — current Nebraska Associate Athletic Director — for a touchdown. Nebraska won the game in overtime following the infamous “flea kicker.”
Exactly 20 seasons later, Frost coached a team that had one of most improbable runs in the history of college football. He took over at UCF in 2016 and the team rebounded from a winless season 2015 to make a bowl game with a 6-7 record in his first season. The next season, UCF went undefeated but was not selected to participate in the College Football Playoffs. They settled for defeating Auburn in the Chick Fil-A Peach Bowl. The alma mater then called and Frost went running back to the Cornhusker state.
Two seasons as a coach, only one of which concluded with a record over .500, isn’t normally what you would expect for a high-profile hire. Frost didn’t even recruit UCF’s entire 2017 roster, but he threw the” flea kicker” and had connections in Florida. It was certainly a hire that would more than satisfy Cornhusker alumni and fans.
With two sub .500 seasons in Frost’s first two as coach, there was no reason to reward him. The athletic director at that time, Bill Moos, has since retired, but there are surely many active alumni who were involved with that decision. The group decision was to extend a person who had been a Division I head coach for four seasons, and led a team that finished over .500 once. There wasn’t even a promising recruiting class to justify him staying around to coach the class all the way through. In his four years at Nebraska he’s brought in only one recruiting class rated higher than 20th, per 24/7 Sports. That was his 2019 class, rated 17th.
Also, Nebraska now plays in the Big Ten West. During Frost’s tenure they’ve been nowhere near the top spot in a division with these *wink* perennial national championship contenders: Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Northwestern, Wisconsin and Purdue. The team in that group to most recently win a national championship is Minnesota in 1960. None have even won a Big Ten title since the conference expanded in 2014.
The only real similarity between Frost and the legendary coach he won a championship with is not properly handling players accused of committing crimes. At the beginning of Nebraska’s dominant 1995 national championship season, Sports Illustrated published a lengthy piece on Osborne’s thoughtless and callous handling of these situations, including once hiding a gun in his office.
Frost didn’t go that far, but the Maurice Washington situation was originally handled questionably at best. In 2019, Washington was charged with sending his 15-year-old ex-girlfriend a threatening message along with video of her performing sexual acts on classmates. Frost suspended Washington for one half. Washington was ultimately dismissed from the team in 2020 for reasons not related to the pending criminal case, according to Frost.
Now it’s 2021. Nebraska does not have the same advantages that it did 30-plus years ago. They don’t have a strength program far more advanced than the other college football teams, and almost every team plays every Saturday on national television. Sure when the Cornhusker faithful sometimes let their dreams run wild after the Frost hiring they fantasized about being the best again, but they know what everybody knows. What Nebraska was in the 1970s and mid 1990s likely won’t ever happen again and that’s no fault to Frost.
However, there’s no way that they expected a 5-7 season to be the height of Frost’s tenure. Now they have to fire his assistant coaches first and wait a year to get the money right.
Let this be a lesson to college football teams yearning for the glory days. There’s nothing wrong with looking back to make a hire, just don’t cement a coach into a contract before the team wins more than half of its games at least once. That play that you remember where you were in the stands, the parking lot, or your parents’ house is not worth the millions and the failure. Just watch the damn play at your leisure on YouTube.