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Blog #152- December 1, 2017

Well, Nebraska got the man they wanted to lead the Husker football team back into relevancy in college football.   Scott Frost, the former Husker quarterback of the 1997 national championship team and head coach at Central Florida, signed a seven-year, $35-million contract last week.  He proceeded to bring his entire coaching staff with him to Lincoln.

It wasn't a done deal until Frost had a long phone conversation with his former coach, Tom Osborne.  Frost had just completed a 12-0 season and won his league championship game.  He also had developed a deep love and affection for the upstart university in Orlando, and he had some important questions to ask.  Those questions revolved around the university administrators and their attitude toward the football program.  Osborne said he'd check out the situation and tell Frost whether the job suited him.

University president Hank Bounds and University of Nebraska-Lincoln chancellor Ronnie Green fired then athletic director Shawn Eichorst after Nebraska was beaten by Northern Illinois in September.  Bill Moos, who had athletic director stints at the University of Oregon and Washington State, was brought in to evaluate the program and make any necessary changes.  Osborne reported to Frost that he believed all three administrators would be strong advocates for the football program.

Head coach Mike Riley lost four of the last five games of the 2017 season, which made the decision to fire him an easy one for Moos at the conclusion of the season.  Moos had identified Frost as his top pick to follow Riley, but he stated that he didn't want to push the situation since Frost was still in-season and riding a wave of winning games.  Following the American Athletic Conference championship game on December 2nd, Frost informed his team that he was returning to his alma mater to take the reigns of the Husker program.

The announcement of Frost's signing sent waves of euphoria throughout the state of Nebraska.  Having a native son returning to Lincoln seemed to be the answer to an entire state's prayers.  The previous football coaching hires following the 2002 dismissal of Osborne's handpicked successor, Frank Solich, had no ties to the state or Husker football program.  Bill Callahan, Bo Pelini, and now Mike Riley, could not bring consistent success to the program.  In fact, Riley's 2017 team wallowed through a 4-8 season, the worst record since 1961.

Frost was considered the "hottest" coaching property following the 2017 season.  Other coaching openings at Oregon, Florida, Mississippi State, Texas A&M, and Florida State also had their sights on Frost.  But when Moos offered Frost the position, it was hard for Frost to say no to his alma mater.  Over 150 football lettermen, several from Frost's 1997 team, were in attendance at the press conference when Frost was introduced as the head Husker.  He promised that the team would play fast, practice fast, work hard, and have the most fun of their lives.  Frost also promised to resurrect the famous walk-on program and to recruit the best players from the state of Nebraska, something Riley did not do during his three years in Lincoln.

Frost has a lot of work to do on the recruiting front.  Riley had only eight commitments lined up for 2018.  When Riley was fired, several of those commits backed away from the Huskers.  Frost and his coaches are recruiting the players who had committed to Frost at Central Florida.  Frost is also looking heavily at junior college players, something Riley never considered.

Riley landed on his feet, though, garnering the assistant head coaching job at his former school, Oregon State.  One of his former players was named the head coach last week, and offered Riley the position.  Nebraska owes Riley a little over $6 million from his contract.  That number will be reduced since Riley picked up the new job.  But he still will be receiving a lot of monthly checks from the University of Nebraska athletic department for many years to come. 

Frost is the only coach in the history of college football to take an 0-12 team to 12-0 in only two seasons.  Nebraska has a brutal schedule next year, with Michigan and Michigan State joining Wisconsin and Penn State and the rest of the Big 10 North. If he can get Nebraska to bowl eligibility in his first year, that would be considered a small miracle.

But the cupboard is not bare at Nebraska.  There are many talented players wanting to be coached up and wanting to win badly.  Frost wants to create a culture of family and unity within the team.  Both of those traits were lacking badly this season. But Frost is young (only 42), and he and his staff project a lot of passion and energy on the field.  Let's hope that they can teach the Husker players how to win again.  But it won't happen unless there is unity of purpose with the players, too. 

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