There are some troubling big-picture issues with Scott Frost's handling of the Maurice Washington situation
A month before he coached his first game at Nebraska, Scott Frost spoke about a strong policy with recruits that made national headlines (via Omaha World-Herald).
“And I’ll tell you this right now — if there’s anything negative about women, if there’s anything racial or about sexuality, if there’s anything about guns or anything like that, we’re just not going to recruit you, period,” Frost said in July 2018. “Piece of advice for you — what you put on social media, that’s your résumé to the world. That’s what you’re trying to tell the world you’re all about. That’s how you’re advertising yourself. Be smart with that stuff.”
Thirteen months later, Frost kicked off Year 2 at Nebraska. At halftime, he announced that sophomore running back Maurice Washington would play in the second half.
Washington was suspended in the first half because he’s currently facing felony child pornography charges for “possessing a video or photograph of a person under 18 who is engaging in or simulating sexual conduct and a misdemeanor count of distributing that video without consent, leading to the person suffering emotional distress (via USA Today).”
Washington allegedly sent a video involving his ex-girlfriend, who was 15 at the time, performing unwanted sexual acts with classmates without her consent. Washington did not record the video, nor was he in the video but he was accused of sending it to his ex-girlfriend. She told authorities that Washington sent her the video along with a threatening message.
With Washington still awaiting his next hearing (on Tuesday), Frost ended his suspension at halftime. He added in the halftime interview on ESPN after announcing Washington’s second-half status that “we’re not running the ball very well right now.”
And there it is.
Frost, for whatever reason, decided that a sophomore tailback facing felony child pornography charges was too important to suspend for 1 whole game or to keep suspended until a verdict is reached. Well, it’s not “for whatever reason.” We know the reason. Washington has All-B1G potential and the Huskers needed him because they weren’t running the ball very well, obviously.
Glad to see Frost is sticking to his hard stance against his players putting out there that’s “anything negative about women.”
For the “innocent until proven guilty” crowd, I look forward to you explaining why Bill Belichick should’ve kept Aaron Hernandez on the roster until he was convicted of first-degree murder. (And no, that’s not my way of saying that what Washington is accused of doing is equal to murdering another human being.)
Playing sports at an NFL or college level is a privilege, not a right. Frost decided to wipe his hands clean of the matter and pretend that a 1-half suspension coupled with internal discipline was enough for someone standing trial for a felony.
“We won’t consider any additional discipline for him until the matter is completely adjudicated, so the plan was to sit him in the first half and play him the second,” Frost said after Saturday’s game (via 247sports). “He’ll play going forward. I won’t have any other comment about it until it’s adjudicated in California.”
Instead of going down a road of hypotheticals — like whether or not the too-close-for-comfort score impacted Frost’s decision — let’s just break down what a message like that sends.
As the words “Nebraska running back” and “child pornography felony” roll across the ESPN bottom line, it probably isn’t the best look for the university administration. That is, the same administration who Frost said helped him decide Washington’s punishment. Either way I look at that decision process, it worries me.
If Nebraska’s administration really did make that call, it shows you how all-in it is to make sure Frost has every tool possible to make that expected Year 2 jump. If it was one of those situations where Frost sat down with administration but it was just Frost explaining the situation to them and making a ruling, I worry about how much power he has there. Already.
We’ve talked in the 2010s decade about the abuse of power from coaches like Urban Meyer, Joe Paterno and Art Briles. That is, coaches who bent rules for players and coaches — in completely different ways — in order to benefit their teams.
The worst look for someone like Frost, who has as good of a reputation as anyone nationally right now, is to be accused of doing anything that resembles abuse of power. We don’t know if Frost actually made that final decision on Washington’s punishment.
We do know that Frost wouldn’t reveal a decision on Washington’s status all week, just telling media members that it would be a game-time decision.
Speaking of those media members, there’s something else that worries me with this Washington situation. If there’s a local media member who criticized Frost’s move on Saturday, I haven’t seen it. And I’m not talking about some snarky off-handed comment said during some media scrum. I’m talking about a rant about why the message Frost is sending both to his program and to the public with playing Washington was a bad one.
If Frost is already in a place where his decisions are void of criticism in that media market — the same one that Bo Pelini accused of being far too critical on numerous occasions — that worries me. It’s not good when the local media doesn’t feel like it can openly criticize a coach without worrying about consequences. Frost, in the eyes of many, is considered the last hope for getting Nebraska back to glory. Like, if he can’t do it, nobody can.
When he took over at the end of the 2017 season, Frost vowed to get his alma mater back to where it was when he was the quarterback and Tom Osborne was running the show. As much as Osborne is regarded as one of college football’s all-time great coaches, his soft disciplinary actions are still debated. His handling of the late Lawrence Phillips is something that Frost probably remembers all too well.
The summer after Nebraska came off the 1994 national championship, Phillips broke into Frost’s third-floor apartment and assaulted his ex-girlfriend Kate McEwen. Phillips then dragged her by the hair down three flights of stairs and smashed her head into a mailbox.
Was Phillips kicked off the team by Osborne? Nope. A 6-game suspension. He got to start in the national championship, too (Phillips rushed for 165 yards in a 62-24 victory against Florida). Osborne subscribed to the belief that Phillips needed football in his life because of the organization it provided. The likes of Meyer and Nick Saban have taken criticism for saying similar things about disciplining players.
Frost’s handling of Washington’s situation suggests he’ll subscribe to that theory, as well. He’ll play the angles when he needs to. If administration isn’t going to step in and local media isn’t going to criticize him for decisions like Washington’s, Frost won’t lose the court of public opinion (assuming he’s winning games).
Piece of advice for Frost — how you discipline players, that matters. That’s what you’re trying to show people how you act as a human, as a father and as a leader of 18-22-year olds. That’s how you’re advertising yourself. Be smart with that stuff.