Nebraska's devotion to Scott Frost is admirable, albeit misguided
Only in Nebraska.
Like a unicameral legislature, Scott Frost’s continued employment is something you would be unable to find in any other state.
In a way, it’s admirable. A true tribute to Cornhusker loyalty. If Frost were a native of 49 other states, it would be over. The latest bungling of a potential win over a Top-10 opponent would have been the final straw.
Instead, the first Nebraska coach to begin his career with 4 straight losing seasons since Bill Jennings in 1960 has been granted a stay of execution. And at least Jennings earned his by ending Oklahoma’s 74-game Big Seven winning streak.
There are 3 reasons Frost will be back in Lincoln next year.
- He agreed to a decrease in salary and buyout — aka, “The Harbaugh Plan.”
- Nebraska has lost to 4 Top 10 teams by 9 points or less. And whereas many would see these losses being a result of coaching shortcomings — whether in execution or recruiting — at this point “the boys tried hard” is good enough for Nebraska fans.
- He’s a Nebraska legend who provides a direct link to the ever-fading glory days. And Nebraska fans are worried that is as close as they can get to those glories.
That’s it. There are no other rounds in the chamber.
You certainly can’t point to the incoming recruiting class. At the moment, Nebraska has only 9 commits with signing day just over a month away. That puts the Huskers at 14th in the Big Ten.
And “you just can’t recruit to Nebraska these days” doesn’t hold water as an excuse.
According to 247 Sports’ composite rankings, the Huskers have signed top-5 classes in the B1G in each of Frost’s 4 years in charge. So he’s done a pretty good job on the trail despite having nothing to offer but terrific facilities and a vision for the future.
A future that has yet to arrive.
So what does it say about his ability to develop these players that Nebraska dwells in last place in the Big Ten West?
The sad state of Nebraska football
Upon the conclusion of Nebraska’s 26-17 loss to Ohio State, I had seen more than enough. I wrote that it was time for the Cornhuskers to move on.
With a bye week coming and no chance to make a bowl, what was the point in waiting?
To my surprise, I found myself inundated by pro-Frost messages on social media. You would have thought I called for the College World Series to leave Omaha instead of the firing of a football coach with a .357 winning percentage.
The response was similar when colleague Ryan O’Gara outlined just how unlikely it is that this scheme to retain Frost for another year will actually work. True believers came out of the woodwork, convinced that there is no better football coach for the University of Nebraska than Scott Frost. That this is the only choice that makes sense for the program.
What a sad place for a fanbase to be dwelling. Nebraska hasn’t been this bleak since it was a Springsteen album.
At this point, I feel kind of bad for dumping on Frost. I hadn’t accounted for a proud program to have such a depressing mindset. It’s like imagining a world where Notre Dame fans begged to keep Charlie Weis.
There was a time when Nebraska had so much pride that back-to-back seasons of 7-7 and 9-3 were seen as grounds to run off Frank Solich.
Reading the replies this week, something became very clear to me. The utter mishandling of the Solich firing by doofus AD Steve Pederson is a deep psychic wound from which Nebraska fans have never recovered.
The mindset appears to be “we can’t let that happen again,” as if a bungled coaching search is an inevitability. Which, to be fair, is a reasonable mental rut to fall into given the past 20 years of results.
But I believe the time has come for Nebraska fans to allow themselves to think bigger. There’s no need to continue settling for something less than mediocrity. Because it appears the Cornhuskers finally have a leader who knows what he is doing.
Trust in Trev Alberts
Though those of us in the media are universally skeptical about Alberts keeping Frost around, it is an unquestionably shrewd decision. Alberts understands his fanbase. Clearly we do not.
A majority of Nebraska fans would rather see Frost get one more chance to succeed than do the obvious. Sentimentality, like corn syrup, is thick. By giving in to that desire, Alberts has bought himself plenty of capital when he inevitably has to swing the axe next year.
He’ll also potentially save a ton of money that can be used to induce a new coach to Nebraska. Between the lowered salary and buyout, Alberts just saved the Huskers $8.5 million if he fires Frost a year from now.
It’s a win-win scenario for Alberts.
Should this actually work out, he’ll be commended for having the patience to stick with Frost. And if it doesn’t, he’ll have surplus cash to find someone better to go along with a reputation as a fair dealer.
Perhaps best of all, he’s got a full year to create a list of candidates to keep tabs on in 2022 — insurance against a repeat of Pederson’s post-Solich fiasco.
So yes, there is good reason for Nebraska fans to buy into the leadership of a legendary former player. They just may be focusing on the wrong one.