Some thoughts on Scott Frost's extension: Why now, and what it means
Twelve days removed from Willie Taggart getting fired with a 9-12 record at Florida State, 8-13 Scott Frost got a 2-year extension at Nebraska.
Two programs in different places made completely different decisions on the future of their respective head coaches. One didn’t believe in the vision, the other bought in even more.
On the surface, it evokes an interesting discussion as to why certain coaches have more leverage than others. Some will use that as a reason to question why Frost got an extension, especially considering how underwhelming 2019 has been. For starters, different people are making that decision.
Let’s pick the brain of the person who did make that decision on the Nebraska side, athletic director Bill Moos.
He was pretty candid about that decision when it was announced before Saturday’s game against Wisconsin:
Nebraska AD Bill Moos on the Scott Frost extension:
“It just made sense to do it now – I was going to do it anyway. This, I think, is a good piece for good morale and some energy within our team and our program.”
— Evan Bland (@EvanBlandOWH) November 16, 2019
Do you speak “athletic director?” Don’t worry, I do. I’d be happy to translate that quote for you.
“We gave him the extension because we were desperate for some momentum going into the home stretch of the recruiting cycle.”
That, in my opinion, is at the forefront of a decision like that.
Nebraska entered the day at No. 33 in the 2020 class rankings (247sports). That’s roughly 5 weeks out from the Early Signing Period. That’s behind the likes of Northwestern, Iowa, Wisconsin, Purdue and just 1 spot ahead of Minnesota. The Huskers have just 13 verbal commits. Only Rutgers and Illinois have fewer total commits than Frost’s program.
You don’t need me to translate that. That’s not great for Frost’s third recruiting class. That’s why in his mid-week press conference, Frost was asked about the on-field struggles carrying over to the team’s recruiting.
“People see where this is going and we’re not going to lose sight of that,” Frost said, in a video captured by Matt Reynoldson of KLKN. “This group has done an unbelievable job of getting the program turned. It’s certainly not happening as fast as I want it to. But we’re gonna get it done. That’s why I’m here. [We] knew this thing wasn’t in great shape when we took it over and we knew we had a lot of things to fix. We’re in the process of doing that.
“I think there’s a tremendous opportunity for recruits to come in and try to make an impact early. That vision and opportunity is going to help us on the recruiting trail a lot.”
Combine that with the ESPN story that came out this week that quoted Tom Osborne saying he thinks Frost “feels the weight of this thing.”
That explains the timing. As Moos said, he planned on doing it anyway. He picked Saturday morning ahead of a 3-game stretch to end the season in which Nebraska had matchups against Wisconsin and Iowa, both of whom are teams currently ranked in the Top 25. If Frost can’t win his first game against a ranked foe at Nebraska, the Huskers will spend bowl season at home for the third straight year.
You bet Moos wanted to make sure Nebraska wanted to get some offseason momentum.
So there’s another question that many are probably asking, and understandably so — Frost wasn’t going anywhere so why did the Huskers compete against themselves with the extension? It’s a fair question.
It’s one that The Athletic’s Andy Staples threw out there:
Oh, to have an employer gullible enough to bid against itself. https://t.co/LK8KIyVTWx
— Andy Staples (@Andy_Staples) November 16, 2019
(Andy and I actually had a bit of a back and forth about it. You can see that exchange here.)
Recruiting is a fickle business. Negative recruiting happens everywhere.
If I’m a B1G West coach and I know a kid is strongly considering Nebraska, I’m telling him “sure, Frost is under contract. But do you really think that fanbase with those expectations are going to give Frost 5 years?”
It’s easy to convince people that a coach is on the proverbial hot seat, even if Nebraska fans would sooner give up Runza for life than they would bail on Frost. The last thing Nebraska wants is a recruit even thinking about “wait, could Frost be on the hot seat by the time I’m a sophomore?”
By extending Frost, that’s not in question. Instead, he can walk into any living room for the next month and say, “I started off 8-13 and they still gave me a 2-year deal. The administration has my back. They have patience. Come be a part of a program on the rise and I promise you won’t be hung out to dry.”
If Frost wants to use that pitch, I’m on PayPal.
I know what you might be thinking — that might make sense in theory, but didn’t Nebraska just become more financially committed to Frost just in hopes of finishing the recruiting cycle strong?
Yes and no. We don’t know the buyout numbers of the new deal just yet, but if that’s still relatively unchanged, not much will change in terms of the financial commitment. Frost isn’t going to simply coach out the remainder of his contract on his current deal. Athletic directors never do that anymore because of the recruiting impact. There’s no such thing as a lame-duck coach. Why? It’s too easy to negatively recruit against a lame-duck coach.
From an AD’s standpoint, Moos knows his tenure is going to be defined by the Frost hire. If Frost fails, his job is on the line, too. He won’t even be around to deal with the ramifications of that buyout. That’s why it might be viewed as hedging to be anything but aggressive with Frost’s contract.
So now, we know more than ever that Moos is all in with Frost. There wasn’t ever any doubt of that. While the results haven’t been what he hoped for yet, there’s logic behind a move that some might’ve waited to make.
It’s Frost or bust for Nebraska, just as we always thought.