“There’s not a lot of empirical data out there to suggest this will work.”
That’s what Nebraska athletic director Trev Alberts told the Omaha World-Herald and Lincoln Journal Star in November of 2021 after announcing that Scott Frost would return for a fifth year under an altered contract structure following a 3-9 season.
Instead of leaning on the data (or lack thereof), Alberts publicly cited Frost’s background as a Husker and native Nebraskan in his reasoning. There were likely other factors at work behind the scenes as well, not the least of which were financial concerns as evidenced by the restructured contract and lowered buyout come Oct. 1, 2022.
However, Frost didn’t even make it to Oct. 1. After a 45-42 home loss to Georgia Southern, Alberts pulled the plug. So why now?
“At this point, I just felt like we owed it to the players to give them a different voice, perhaps slightly different vision,” Alberts said. “Give them some confidence and opportunity. We’ve got nine games, we’ve got seniors on this team that have invested a lot for a long time. I know how disruptive these changes are. You’re not just affecting the players’ lives, you’re affecting all the coaches and their families, and I understand that.
“But we needed to do something. We needed to inject something into this team to give them the confidence and and hopefully help them compete. Nothing would please need more than to see a pretty significant change and help this team get over the hump.”
Throughout the four seasons and three games of the Scott Frost tenure, we’ve seen things that have worked. At various points, different parts of the program have operated at a high level. We’ve seen talented players and effective units and schemes. However, at no point was Frost able to put it all together to form a complete team capable of winning games, as evidenced by his overall record including a 1-2 start this season.
“I think at the end of the day, there has to be accountability,” Alberts said. “When you run a professional organization that has high standards, accountability has to matter. Scott and I talked about this very clearly — 16-31, obviously, was not at a level that was acceptable to us.”
Frost’s last-ditch attempt to get things turned around in Lincoln — the offensive coaching changes he made and transfer portal activity — appears to have paid some dividends with the early play of the running backs, receivers and quarterback Casey Thompson, but it was far too little and way too late as the recruiting and development misses by the entire staff over the past few years have cost the team dearly, particularly on defense and the offensive line.
These things are always hard to quantify, but the fan sentiment surrounding Frost seemed fairly split last season despite the continued struggles. Frost still had a large and vocal contingent who believed in his ability to get the job done. That split likely existed among the big-money boosters as well.
However, after arguably the worst defensive performance in program history in a home loss to a Sun Belt team that also went 3-9 last season, whatever supporters remained no longer had a leg to stand on.
“I thought it would work,” Alberts said. “Listen, we all have short memories, but Scott Frost was among the absolute leaders in that cycle of coaching, and Scott’s a good football coach. Scott is going to go on to be a successful coach. I told him that this morning and he agreed. Scott’s a good football coach. The right situation for him will emerge and I think he’ll be very successful. I was determined to work with him and try to balance that very delicate balance of not meddling — because that’s last thing I think administration should do is start dictating to coaches how they operate their deal — but be supportive. But it is what it is. It didn’t work, and that’s why we’re here today.”
For whatever reasons went into the decision, Alberts retaining Frost only to fire him three games into the season appears to have set the program back once again and turned 2022 into a likely lost season rather than one that could have been spent on building for the future.
Now the Huskers will move forward and look to salvage what they can from this season with associate head coach Mickey Joseph siding into the interim head coach role.
“I communicated to Mickey that Mickey’s the head coach,” Alberts said. “I won’t meddle in Mickey’s decision-making process. I encouraged Mickey to be the head coach and make decisions as the head coach. So he’ll ultimately have an opportunity, probably with all of you, to explain some of the changes with the team. There will be some structural changes and things that I think Mickey believes in which will be good going forward.”
A fifth year for Frost did not work, and the program has moved on. Prior to Alberts’ press conference, a group of players was out on the field at Memorial Stadium working with strength coach Zach Duval. They have a big game on Saturday to prepare for.
“This place will always be bigger than any one person, and that’s the way it has to be,” Alberts said.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.