Nebraska appears to be in pretty good hands. They’re the hands of a man who has been a cattle rancher and an offensive lineman, which means aligned values at a place such as this, but there’s more to Bill Moos than simple symmetry.
He’s a pro. At least when it comes to football, and, given the state of things, it might be a few years before anyone notices if he isn’t a pro at everything else an athletic director has to do.
Football is Nebraska’s biggest problem at the moment and Moos is on it.
You get the sense from him that this isn’t just a business problem – though it certainly is that – but almost a moral problem. In the world Moos grew up in Nebraska football was one of the programs that represented what all the other programs wanted to be. For it not to be that, well, it just ain’t right. Everyone eventually has to confront the reality that the world they knew doesn’t exist any longer. The baseline reaction is to refuse to accept it, wax about the way things were and wail about the way things are.
The smart reaction is to take what you can from the past and figure out how those hard-earned lessons can apply in today’s world. It’s not easy to blend those two things, and most athletic directors only get once chance – one hire – to get it right. It takes either a genuis or a football guy to figure it out.
We know Moos is the latter, and we'll see on the former. Both his sons played college football. He played college football. During a press conference about his decision to fire Mike Riley on Saturday and what happens next for the Cornhuskers, he managed to mention at least three other games going on this weekend: UCF-USF, Ohio State-Michigan and Washington State-Washington. He talked about former Oregon coach Mike Bellotti and current Washington coach Chris Petersen, current Texas A&M coach (for one more game at least) Kevin Sumlin and former Arkansas coach (as of last night) Bret Bielema.
You can get some of that from simply being around the game for a long time, but I think most of it comes from a general and genuine love of the sport. It’s easy to know a lot about that which you truly love.
And that’s to Nebraska’s advantage here. If the Huskers are coming back from the depths of the 2017 season, and all that came before it, it’s going to take passion and knowledge.
This is the sort of statement you can regret writing in about four or five years, but I have few questions about either when it comes to Moos.
Figure I should have few concerns about things I say coming back to haunt me if Moos doesn’t.
For example, there’s little advantage to saying something like this: “This table is set as well as any place in the United States in regards to resources, facilities, infrastructure and fan support. It’s all right here.” Even if it makes the fans feel good to hear it, that’s a statement that could be used against you if things don’t pan out.
Moos doesn’t care. He didn’t need to let us know that he has six coaches he’s considering and that Scott Frost is one of them. He did.
When asked about how long a turnaround might take, the PR playbook would tell you to avoid mentioning a timeframe at all. If you do you mention it, make sure to give you a few more days/months/years than you need. Under-promise, over-deliver.
Instead, Moos said this: “The usual rule of thumb is year three. Places I’ve been before, we had to build and create everything that we already have here so even three was a little bit early. It was four and sometimes five. But at Nebraska, depending on what the offense is, the defensive scheme, two. And more realistically, probably three.”
You have to be completely crazy or supremely confident to put that sort of expectation out there.
It’s still quite early in his tenure, but I have a pretty good idea of which one Moos is. The expectations, timeframe and just enough parts of the plan to keep everyone calm are out there.
Now there's just what might seem like a long wait for the results.
But if you were paying attention Moos did what he could to warp time. Everything seems a little quicker when you have hope.
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.