Buying in. It's something that can be difficult to understand or quantify. It's also a term that can be thrown around quite a bit when a new coaching staff takes over a team.
After Saturday's loss to Troy, coach Scott Frost met the media for his usual post-game press conference. He was asked about his locker room and whether or not it's one that would bouce back after starting 2-0. His answer grabbed plenty of attention.
“When I got here I heard that last year [fighting back was] not what happened," Frost said. "This year, that’s not the sense I get from them. The sense I get from them is they want to be great. The effort they’ve been giving us leads me to believe they want to be great. We have a tough game next week, and this will get worse before it gets better but it’s always darkest before the dawn. I know where this is going, so I want every guy in that locker room to be on board.”
Frost also mentioned his message to the team, which was essentialy two choices: fight back or give up. For those not willing to buy in?
“I also told them that if anyone doesn’t want to stay on board this ride with us, let me know now and we can get off," Frost said. "I know where this is going, we just haven’t had the results early that we need.”
Since Frost brought up the buy-in (or lack of it), a hot topic at Monday's press conference was about the buy in and who may or may not be falling in line with the new staff.
Each player that took the podium was asked about it and their answers were illuminating. Senior outside linebacker Luke Gifford’s answer, for instance, showed the message from the staff has been consistent. It also proved a turnaround like this takes time.
“That’s how it’s been since they got here," Gifford said. "I think a lot of that process has taken place. For the most part, I think guys’ hearts and what they want to do is in the right place. But sometimes it’s a process and it doesn’t happen overnight. And we’ve seen a lot of good things happen in the last eight months, nine months. But there’s always, with a new staff and a new team and a new mentality, a makeover in this program. And it’s going to take some time sometimes.
"So we’re on the right path, we’re definitely on the right path but there is still some of that, you know, that it’s got to be a full buy-in. And when things go wrong, like the last two weeks, that’s when it really becomes apparent. We've got to make sure as a team and as leaders and captains that we stay on top of that.”
The adversity the team has faced early in the season may have come as a surprise to some but junior inside linebacker Mohamed Barry believes they team just needs a taste of winning again.
“They need to figure it out," Barry said. "I say you look what you’re doing first but I know 100 percent I’m bought in. I know that. We all have to be bought in and challenge ourselves to get better. We are this close to being that team. You all see it and we know we’re not the same team as last year. When we get that confidence when we taste winning, it’s going to be great things that happen this season.
"We just have got to get the first win in and it’s going to be good.”
While it’s nice for the coaching staff to hammer home the message of total buy-in, the real catalyst for change needs to come from the players themselves. Frost has said before that good teams police themselves. When players hold each other accountable for being late to meetings, missing Sunday meals on the day off or not bringing a notepad to meeting, that’s when the magic can happen.
The new coaching staff has put a lot of time into working on the overall culture in Lincoln. It doesn’t feel “toxic” but more like it's not up to the standards this staff wants to be able to produce championship level football.
The players have openly talked about Frost saying that he needed to prepare the team better in the locker room after the game. In fact, freshman cornerback Cam Taylor had some of the most pointed comments about the topic post-game.
“It’s on us," Taylor said on Saturday. "Coach Frost came in the locker room with a message that it’s his fault but not it’s not. It’s our fault. We lost the game. We are actually on the field but he’s just getting us prepared. He can do all that he can but we have to play ball.”
That level of accountability is what needs to spread to build the type of culture these coaches want to build. There is a lot of work to be done but many of the players are openly talking about it. For now, that's a step in the right direction.
Greg is the Recruiting Analyst for Hail Varsity and has covered Husker athletics since 2013. He has always had a passion for sports while growing up in the Chicago area. As he got older and had to hang up his cleats and sneakers, he realized his passion for sports went beyond just watching and attending games. He has covered many events from the Rose Bowl to championship boxing matches. If he’s not talking sports, he’s hovering over his grill. He is married to an amazing woman, Kim, and they have a dog that barks when Greg yells at the TV during games.