Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Nebraska Picks Search Firm in Hunt for Next Football Coach

September 22, 2022

The Nebraska football team has played under the leadership of six coaches since Tom Osborne’s last game. That includes interim tags on both Mickey Joseph (current) and Barney Cotton (2014).

But it’s the one coaching move made nearly 20 years ago that still haunts those at the university’s summit.

“The contrast of when we changed coaches here many years ago, and the drama that was associated with that, between the Solich-Callahan, now all of you probably remember that really well,” UNL Chancellor Ronnie Green said in a meeting on Thursday. “We don’t want that. We want this to be a well-thought decision, takes the appropriate time to do it.”

Green and athletic director Trev Alberts met with members of the media on Thursday to discuss a litany of topics, coinciding with the announcement of the school’s new multimedia rights deal. At the end of that conversation they shed some light on the high-profile vacancy atop the school’s football program. Their intent is to right the ship, go through every channel necessary to make Nebraska football a consistent competitor. That includes learning from past mistakes.

Most Husker fans remember the school’s move to fire Frank Solich in 2003, as Green referred to. The decision brought questions and the press conference announcing it, memorably, brought upset players. Then-athletic director Steve Pederson embarked on a chaotic head coaching search that culminated in hiring sitting NFL coach Bill Callahan. Nebraska hasn’t won a conference championship since.

Change swept college football since then. Nebraska hasn’t kept up. Those in leadership intend on making the calculated moves to ensure their next one won’t be a disaster.

“I’ve reached out to several of my colleagues, I have talked to a couple of folks,” Alberts said. “The feedback is, there’s no reason Nebraska can’t be successful. We have so much going for us. It’s been really, really good.”

Alberts confirmed the school is partnering with search firm Collegiate Sports Associates in the school’s process of identifying and hiring a football coach. CSA has helped schools fill leadership positions across the country, including a role helping identify Alberts as Nebraska’s current athletic director. The agency boasts coach placements of football coaches Lincoln Riley (USC), Jeff Traylor (Texas-San Antonio), Luke Fickell (Cincinnati) and Jake Dickert (Washington State) among its accomplishments.

Nebraska’s athletic director laid out the hiring process during his Sept. 11 press conference announcing former coach Scott Frost was fired. In that press conference Alberts said the school needed to identify what it wanted in a candidate before moving forward.

“At the end of the day for us we need to get some clear definitions about what those coaching qualities look like,” Alberts said on Sept. 11. “What does our unique culture need in terms of coaching and what is our culture is going to be as a team? So there is a group of people that I am well aware of and interested in and would like to talk to and we will go through that as we move forward but right now we have an opportunity to support the team as we move forward.”

Alberts laughed about Twitter rumors, none he said were accurate, before admitting logistics behind a coaching change are different now. Early signing days and transfer portal windows provide new hurdles. The challenge, Alberts said, meant it would be some time before they came to a decision. That could, understandably, bring unrest among the fan base.

Nebraska was the first school to fire its head coach this year, falling on the same timeline as USC’s dismissal of Clay Helton. Since that decision, Arizona State announced it has “parted ways” with former head coach Herm Edwards.

This will also be the first head coach hiring for a Big Ten school since the conference announced its new massive television rights deal that will net the conference over $1 billion annually.

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