Nebraska athletic director Trev Alberts wanted it to work.
Scott Frost already completed three seasons of disappointing football when Alberts took over as athletic director. Wholesale changes on the coaching staff in the offseason didn’t bring immediate success. Then came Saturday and a 45-42 loss to Georgia Southern. It didn’t sit well. Alberts said he didn’t sleep well all night. It gave way to “a day I hoped would never come,” as Alberts called it.
The two former Nebraska standouts met at 11 a.m. One informed the other they were fired. At 12:24 p.m. the Nebraska athletic department sent out emails explaining that Frost was no longer the head coach of his alma mater. Frost got a chance to speak with the football team and said goodbye before leaving Memorial Stadium for the second time in less than 12 hours. Alberts held a press conference in the afternoon.
“In a way, it’s unfortunate and sad that we’re here today,” Alberts told cameras during Sunday’s press conference.
Alberts explained that the program wasn’t where it once was. It wasn’t at a level anyone associated the Husker football team wanted it at. Even the Wood River native, born of Nebraska heritage and with the momentum of an undefeated season at Central Florida, couldn’t create success. A change, Alberts determined, was needed.
The athletic director explained there are nine games left in the season and those in charge “owed it” to the players to bring in “a new voice.” He said they also owed the fan new energy and enthusiasm. Associate head coach Mickey Joseph will take over as interim head coach for the remainder of the season.
“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 seriously, 16-31 is not at a level that was acceptable to us.”
Alberts said the university did not negotiate an agreement to lower Frost’s buyout. Frost’s contract was restructured last year and his buyout would have dropped in half, from $15 million to $7.5 million, effective Oct. 1. Alberts said a change was made now because he felt like they owed it to the players to give them a chance to win. He wouldn’t comment on outside boosters. Alberts later said Nebraska has the resources to be competitive in the current college football head coaching market.
Nebraska will conduct a national search for its head coach. Alberts said he’ll reach out to many in his circle for multiple perspectives. That, however, doesn’t mean the job has been offered. Alberts also dismissed the rumor that the school has already sought third-parties and agents. He said he didn’t have a shortlist but does have a few names he’d like to talk to right away.
Joseph could earn the permanent head coaching job through results. Alberts said he’ll do anything he can to support the remaining players and Joseph going forward. As of Sunday, Joseph is the head football coach at Nebraska. And if Joseph decided to make additional changes to the coaching staff, Alberts said he would support it. Alberts anticipated “significant changes.”
“I just love to see this team continue to grow, compete, make progress, represent the values of Nebraskans, be tough, win the line of scrimmage, do the fundamental things that teams need to do to win games,” Alberts said. “And I think we can get there. We stopped talking about championships, we stopped talking about things we used to do.”
Discussions have already begun to identify traits those in power seek in a few football coach. Alberts believed great coaches have high character and build cultures. He wants a head coach with authentic leadership. He also wants a coach that can relate to the modern student-athlete. It’s a search for “the right leader, the right fit,” he said, while finding someone who can utilize Nebraska’s strengths in raising the program.
Alberts reiterated it’s not that Frost didn’t possess those things. He said Frost will be very successful in the future and was determined to make it work. He wanted to be supportive without meddling, just as he aims to do going forward.
“We were all in to help Scott be successful,” Alberts said. “Everyone wanted Scott to be successful.”
The state also wanted Frost to be successful. The quarterback who transferred in and redshirted during Nebraska’s historic 1995 National Championship and then led the program to its last National Championship two years later. Former NFL safety who hung his cleats up in favor of a headset. The Wood River native who returned as a graduate assistant before moving onto coaching stops in Kansas State (graduate assistant) and Northern Iowa (co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach) before his big break. Frost made a national name for himself as an assistant at Oregon when the Ducks were a national figure in the rankings. He was offensive coordinator of the enigmatic Ducks offense that scored at a blistering pace.
Frost’s name was one of those floated when Nebraska parted ways with Bo Pelini. Instead, the program went with Mike Riley and Frost got his head coaching start at the UCF. He went 19-7 in two years at UCF, including a 13-0 season that ended in a Peach Bowl win. Then came the call home.
The Frost era never got off the ground. Alberts arrived after three full Frost seasons, desperate to make it work.
“But it didn’t work, it is what it is and that’s why we’re all here today,” he said.