Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Nebraska Naming Locker Room in New Facility After Former Head Coach Frank Solich

April 25, 2023

Former Nebraska head football coach Frank Solich never felt comfortable coming back to Lincoln. His unceremonious ousting two decades ago brought hardship on his family and angered fans and players alike. Solich went 58-19 at Nebraska. He coached Nebraska’s last conference championship (1999) and in the program’s last attempt at a national championship (2001). Still, after two somewhat disappointing seasons, former athletic director Steve Pederson made the call. He fired Tom Osborne’s chosen successor on November 29, 2003. On Saturday, he was back in front of Husker fans on Tom Osborne Field for the first time in 20 years.

Standing next to him at the 45 yard line, ceremoniously outlined in red to honor Solich, was athletic director Trev Alberts. Previous repeated efforts to bring Solich back to Lincoln fell short. Alberts stayed persistent and Solich retired in 2021. New head coach Matt Rhule reached out to Solich after accepting the job. The collective communication between Alberts and Rhule, as well as fan support, finally convinced Solich. Alberts announced the return during his March radio appearance, where he teased something else.

Alberts finally shared that other announcement at halftime of Saturday’s Spring Game. The locker room inside the new nine-figure athletic facility will be the Frank Solich Locker Room. The Touchdown Club of Nebraska requested the name with a donation to the project. Club resident Terry Connealy called it a fitting honor because of Solich’s relationship with his players. Nebraska’s Go Big project is on schedule to partially open this summer.

“Frank Solich is a key part of the success and history of Nebraska Football, and is worthy of this recognition,” Alberts said in a statement. “Coach Solich had great respect from those who played for him, and even players like myself on the other side of the ball were impacted by his coaching, toughness and leadership. We are grateful to the Touchdown Club of Nebraska for stepping up to make this naming opportunity a reality and proud that Frank’s name will be displayed in this facility for decades to come.”

Solich’s career at Nebraska started as part of Bob Devaney’s first recruiting class. He played fullback from 1963 to 1965 and gained the nickname “Fearless Frankie.” Following a successful high school coaching career in Omaha and Lincoln, Solich joined Tom Osborne’s coaching staff in 1979. In the last 15 of those seasons, Solich served as Nebraska’s running backs coach. Solich then took over as head coach upon Osborne’s retirement. A year after his termination at Nebraska, Solich led Ohio to 115 wins in 16 seasons.

Connealy, a native Nebraska who played a prominent defensive role on defense in the early 1990s, joined the halftime celebration. He stood alongside Osborne, chancellor Ronnie Green, Solich’s family and Alberts at the 45 yard line on Saturday. In the video package, Connealy explained the opportunity to donate to the new locker room fit within his group’s intention to embolden Nebraska football players. Connealy called Solich a player’s coach who expected a lot of players and always respected them.

“He impacted to so many players while he was here that it felt like a fitting way to honor him,” Connealy explained in the HuskerVision video.

Rhule gave his own hat tip to Solich on Saturday. Nebraska ran a fullback trap on the first play of the Spring Game, a 7-yard gain. Janiran Bonner relayed the ball from the official to Rhule after the play. The offense took a timeout so Rhule could hand the ball to Solich on the sidelines and crowd could applaud the former head coach.

The night before, Solich invited Rhule to an event mainly for former Husker players in the Memorial Stadium suites. Rhule and his wife, Julie, arrived after their event for mothers of current Huskers. The new head coach said it was special to be a part of that.

“It was really special because at the end of the day we all come and go as coaches but the impact he’s had on his players is really, really important to me to be reminded of and see,” Rhule said after the Spring Game. “I’m just really, really grateful for him as a man and as a person, as a coach. He’s someone I’ve always looked up to and he’s always been so kind to me.

“To hand the ball off to the fullback on the first play and to hand the ball to him is kind of a bucket list item for me.”

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