Middle America’s most depressing battle of in-school ineptitude — Fred Hoiberg versus Scott Frost — has been extended. Nebraska announced Hoiberg is coming back, and he’s bringing his six Big Ten wins in nearly three years with him. Will Scott Frost, an awe-inspiring 10 conference wins over four seasons, finish his career with more B1G wins than his basketball counterpart? Who cares! In the Cornhusker coaches’ fight for conference inferiority, both men can restructure their contracts but only one can be crowned least awful.
Nebraska athletic director Trev Alberts said Thursday night that Hoiberg will be returning to Lincoln for what desperately should be his last year. Most mayors get a full four-year term, and I guess this is no different even though the team is 7-20 after finishing 7-20 the prior year, and 7-25 the season before that. (Allow me to do the math, that’s 21-65 overall.)
Alberts said he let Hoiberg know that being 351st out of 358 teams in scoring defense wasn’t acceptable, and the coach presented him with “a plan to me that I believe is in the best long-term interest of the Nebraska athletic department and our men’s basketball program.”
What is that plan you ask? He answered that question before a reporter could pose a follow-up, saying in the same breath, “Additionally, Fred has agreed to restructure his contract to help us make the changes that are necessary to reorient our program.”
It appears that dollar signs trumped X’s and O’s because that restructuring dropped Hoiberg’s buyout from a rumored $18.5 million down to $11 million. Outside of an exemplary women’s volleyball program, the university’s most recent, noteworthy accomplishment(?) was making ESPN’s “FBS schools spent over $533.6 million in dead money over 10+ years” article. Only Auburn ($31.2 million) had more dead money than Nebraska ($25.8 million).
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Running on the fumes of clout from his three-plus years coaching the Chicago Bulls, Hoiberg has been able to land (convince?) a few four star recruits or transfers to play for him, but winning has not followed. They’ve finished dead last in conference play in his first two seasons, and they’ll need a miracle over their final four games to avoid making it three for three.
“As I said when I was hired three years ago, it is an honor to be the men’s basketball coach at the University of Nebraska, and I am excited to continue to lead the Husker program,” Hoiberg said. “This has always been a special place to me and my family, and we have grown to love the Lincoln community in our time here.”
The only thing that has grown recently for fans of Nebraska men’s athletics is frustration. Frost, 15-29 overall, also redid his deal after another abhorrent year. This iteration of the football team has a particular knack for finding new ways to blow close games, while the basketball team just gets blown out. Under Frost, the football team is 5-20 in one-score games, and 41 of Hoiberg’s 65 losses have come by double digits.
If you’re like me, I feel bad for you because you’re also a Husker fan, but also maybe try watching the volleyball team, or going for a hike on fall Saturdays, or finding an NBA team, or apathy. Don’t get me wrong, I am fully invested at the beginning of every football season, but that enthusiasm vanishes with the first mind-numbing loss. (This year, that happened the first week against Illinois.)
Nebraska basketball fans are conditioned to lose — or jump ship to Creighton during hoops season depending on their loyalty and parents’ affiliations. (I see you rocking that navy blue turtleneck under your Eric Crouch jersey, Jay-sker fans. What’re you, afraid of failure? Fucking cowards.)
Hoiberg couldn’t stop or even marginally disrupt the losing, and his job is already hard enough at a by-designation-only “football school.” You want improvement? How about settling for less sting when it ends.
People forget that Ty Lue played at Nebraska. If only he could coach there, too.
Whatever, such is life.