On Monday afternoon, Nebraska University athletic director Trev Alberts made a much-anticipated announcement regarding his head football coach.
It might not have been what the college football world was expecting.
Scott Frost will return for a fifth season in Lincoln as he continues his work to resurrect the storied program from its downward trend. While Alberts nor the university provided details what was referred to as a “restructured contract”, it’s a safe bet that performance-based indicators will play a sizeable role in future compensation as Nebraska faithful await the results promised over half a decade ago.
Alberts also noted that Frost has “a clear plan and vision for the future” of Nebraska and that he and Frost “share a love of Nebraska and this football program.” For his part, Alberts was a Cornhuskers star in his own right, capturing the Dick Butkus Award and Jack Lambert Trophy as the country’s top linebacker in 1993.
In a college football universe where coaches are often judged on the immediacy of progress and program development, why did Nebraska decide to stick with Frost rather than lure a rising talent like many schools are set to do this fall? We take a quick look inside the decision.
It’s (sometimes) all about the buyout
As we’ve seen in many instances, motivated athletic programs can be willing to pay any amount of money to get out of a bad relationship. After all, look no further than Rutgers’ most recent payouts to fired coaches and administrators topped $22 million, according to an NJ.com report in 2019, shortly after Chris Ash was fired.
Frost, by virtue of his 2019 extension, would be owed $20 million if he were fired January 1, 2022. That number will incrementally shrink (by $5M per season) through the end of his contract in December 2026. That’s enough to rank just outside the Top 10 nationally in buyout worth. It’s unlikely that Nebraska, considering the entire scenario, would fancy taking on such a substantial to simply send Frost packing.
Not yet, at least.
Fan support appears to still exist in Lincoln
In admittedly unscientific fashion, I perused the usual comment sections and hashtags associated with Monday’s announcement and found mostly positive sentiment among Nebraska faithful. Frost, after all, has built up an incredible amount of goodwill in his home state from his playing days. And although the athletic department has gone to great lengths to keep the Huskers’ near 400-game sellout streak alive during the program’s recent struggles, the calls from prominent boosters and supporters apparently haven’t grown quite loud enough to tip the scales.
Now, armed with a vote of confidence from his athletic director, it’ll be interesting to follow how Frost’s fan support continues into next season, and perhaps beyond, if the team’s struggles continue. Most big-time college football fanbases, especially those of Nebraska’s ilk, have an expiration of patience, and it’s safe to wonder if that line is drawing near.
Nebraska was a rebuild upon Frost’s arrival
Let’s be clear: the Huskers were not a very good team when Scott Frost left UCF to return home after their undefeated run in 2017. After Bo Pelini was fired in 2014, Mike Riley went 19-19 in his two seasons and the program appeared to be spinning its wheels after its run of mainstream success, found mostly during its days in the Big 12.
As with any program in need of a fresh start, challenges were expected – and they’ve been well-documented. Frost has gone 15-27 and has already been eliminated from postseason contention for the fourth consecutive season.
In 2021, the Huskers have found themselves on the wrong side of several one-score games, but have proved capable of competing against top-flite competition. Respectable results to No. 3 Oklahoma (23-16), No. 20 Michigan State (23-20), No. 9 Michigan (32-29), and No. 6 Ohio State (26-17) paired with a complete dismantling of Northwestern (56-7) have some believing that a course reversal might not be far off.
Later Monday, it was announced that Frost had fired four members of his coaching staff including offensive coordinator Matt Lubick, offensive line coach Greg Austin, quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco and running backs coach Ryan Held – perhaps related to the agreement hashed out between Frost and Alberts.
What does this mean for Rutgers?
Nebraska currently represents a Big Ten west division crossover game that the Scarlet Knights should be competitive in, and in the last two meetings, they have been. The Cornhuskers took a 10-point win at home in 2017 with Chris Ash at the helm, and Greg Schiano’s group played them tough in Piscataway last December before falling short, 28-21.
Looking ahead, Frost and his new-look coaching staff will visit SHI Stadium in Rutgers’ Big Ten opener next September but won’t lock horns again until 2025 in Lincoln, meaning Nebraska’s immediate trajectory doesn’t have a great deal of on-field impact. Recruiting is always competitive, of course, and a dramatic shift in program direction can impact all of the Big Ten and beyond.