Athletic Director Bill Moos has been in the game long enough to have seen his fair share of coaching searches, but even for something known as “silly season” this might be the silliest.
“I’ve never seen this many top programs open up,” he said.
In addition to Nebraska, schools like Florida State, Tennessee, Florida, Arizona State, Texas A&M, Arkansas and UCLA either were or are searching for coaches. And that’s just the cream of the crop. All eight of those schools ranked among the 31 winningest programs entering the 2017 season, and Moos viewed every school with an opening as competition for Scott Frost.
“If I were the athletic director at Missouri, Oklahoma State, or UCLA, my sights would’ve been on this guy,” Moos said while seated next to Frost at Sunday’s press conference. “Doesn’t matter that I’m at Nebraska. He is, in my opinion, not only the premier young coach in America, I believe he was everybody’s first choice, and I got the pick of the litter. We got the pick of the litter.”
Whether Frost was or was not the first choice for any other team will remain unsaid, as it almost always does in situations like this. But based on reports Florida, the first power team to make a coachin change this season, made its interest known. Tennessee, the second power team in the market, seems to have considered every potential candidate at this point, though not by design. Florida State didn’t lose Jimbo Fisher to Texas A&M until late this week, at which point the wheels were already in motion for Frost to return to Nebraska, but the Seminoles were rumored to have interest. And should the Seminoles make a run at Oregon coach and Florida native Willie Taggart, the Ducks almost certainly would’ve made Frost, who spent seven seasons in Eugene, an offer.
Each school of course has its own list of priorities for a hire, but Frost’s candidacy had the universal appeal of “next-big-thing” status. He was, without much debate, the top candidate in that category and Moos explained why.
“We all know that he has a passion for Nebraska, and we know that he is a very, very good football coach. He’s got great integrity, he’s got great morals. He cares about his players,” Moos said.
There’s also the offense. After beating Memphis 62-55 in double overtime to win the American Athletic Conference championship, UCF finished the regular season averaging 49.4 points per game, the best mark in the country this year and the highest average since Baylor and Florida State both averaged more than 50 points per game in 2013. The Knights also ranked second nationally in yards per play (7.6), second in yards per passing attempt (10.5) and 22nd in rushing yards per play (5.2).
“I said back when I had my press conference that the style of offense that will capture the attention of the Big Ten is the Chip Kelly, Scott Frost, offense. You saw it, and if you didn’t see it [Saturday], I mean my heavens it was a track meet, and the option’s going, and the quality quarterback, and the tight ends, and very good play, all of that is going to be very exciting for our fans.”
Will it play as well in the rough-and-tumble Big Ten? Frost wasn’t worried about having to adjust his system to his new conference.
“I’m hoping the Big Ten has to modify their system to us,” he said.
Plenty of opponents have since Kelly introduced his brand of up-tempo spread at Oregon. Frost has taken that and mixed it with his own experience, which includes playing for and coaching with some of the greatest coaches in the game. When the résumé includes de facto apprenticeships under the likes of Tom Osborne and Bill Parcells that gets people’s attention, too.
But only one place was “home,” as Frost put it Saturday night. That may have been Moos’ ace in the hole, but so was the patience it allowed him to have as UCF completed a run to a conference crown.
“Upon my arrival, I wanted to look at all the options that I had, and started to look at some people that would work here very well,” Moos said. “I never felt, and I will reiterate, that we didn’t need to make a coaching change in the middle of the season. Look at the places that did it. They can’t find a coach and some settled for their third choice.”
“All my things were lined up and as it got further along in the process, I knew Scott was the coach that I wanted. I had talked to the chancellor and the president and they were behind me 100 percent. Really the fact that we let Scott take care of his business of coaching his team and giving him that space, was the right thing to do and here we are today. I feel really good about it.”