Nebraska kickstarted the 2022 coaching carousel on Sunday by doing the inevitable, albeit a few weeks earlier than expected: Cornhuskers athletic director Trev Alberts fired Scott Frost after Nebraska’s 45-42 loss to Georgia Southern, ending a woeful 16-31 run over five seasons for the former Husker QB. Another former Husker QB, Mickey Joseph, will take over as interim head coach for the rest of the season.
Frost’s firing was inevitable and long in the making, yet the timing was quick. What happened?
Image Matters In Lincoln, Cash Doesn't
There’s been a lot of reaction to the decision by Alberts to make the move immediately following the Georgia Southern loss and not hang on until Oct. 1, when Frost's buyout was due to drop by $8 million. So why not eat the month of September and still get out on the open market before Thanksgiving to save some cash?
Honestly? Blame Oklahoma. To be clear, Nebraska wanted any and all coverage of Frost as their head coach to stop as soon as possible, but Saturday’s home game against historic rival OU plays a huge part in this. Alberts is a former Husker linebacker who understands the fragile pride and thin success this fan base has felt in the modern age. Even if Joseph provides a momentary spark as interim and the Huskers play OU better than they did Georgia Southern, it’s worth it to the school to salvage some self-worth.
Also, don’t sweat the $8 million if you’re a Nebraska fan. The Huskers are about to be the first team in the Big Ten to work the coaching market with the knowledge of the league’s new gargantuan TV deal is headed to their pockets, meaning they can pay – a lot – on credit
First to Market Helps
The Huskers pushed the increasingly absurd start of the coaching carousel up just a handful of days: Last year USC fired Clay Helton on Sept. 14, and this year Frost was let go on Sept. 11. With the firing out of the way and Joseph installed as the interim, Alberts and company can operate openly, travel freely (watch those flight tracker web sites, though!) and potentially hire a head coach as quickly as possible, so that said new coach can build a staff, work the portal and salvage recruiting.
The trend of early firings may diminish in coming years with an expanded playoff – More teams with a shot at the playoff means fewer early firings AND fewer available coaches as they work deeper into January. But for now, the Huskers have time on their side and plenty of attention to tout the strengths of a brand that still packs a ton of financial power and fan interest. At least until Auburn opens.
Beware the Lists
Within minutes of Frost’s announced dismissal, Twitter was flooded with names of potential replacements from college football reporters at major outlets. To be crystal clear – those aren’t names on any actual list. It doesn’t work that way that quickly. The names you’re seeing are a collection of coaches thought of as logical fits for the situation in Lincoln based on their current or past work, or names being pushed by various agents. That’s it. Alberts will go about compiling actual candidates in the coming days and weeks, and as we’ve said already, he’s got the luxury of time.
Anyway, Here’s a List (Sort of)
That being said: Come on, what kind of coaching gossip column doesn’t have a list? I understand the urge to forecast, but I’ll stick to my guns and won’t just throw out names for the sake of it. Instead, what’s best to focus on in the short term is what direction Alberts and Nebraska will head, which determines the type of coach they’ll hire.
1. The Splash: You can consider this akin to the “poach” hires of the 2021 cycle. With all that forthcoming B1G TV money Alberts could haul in a major name at a current program for a ton of money if only to keep up with the USCs of the world. To satisfy these criteria, we’re talking about a sitting head coach at a good program who you’d be hard-pressed to see leaving. Enjoy speculating!
2. The Fit: Far less interesting but infinitely more logical (and probably better set up to win) would be program architects who have encountered situations similar to Nebraska’s problems and understand the region. Specifically, this is why you’re seeing names like Iowa State’s Matt Campbell, Kentucky’s Mark Stoops, and Kansas’ Lance Leipold, the last name of which might’ve made Husker fans laugh until this past Saturday.
3. Prior Title Experience: Alberts could rubber-stamp a former national title winner to give the Huskers instant consideration. Someone who’s won in the SEC and the Big Ten. Someone available and on TV. Someone who really doesn’t want his career to end as the worst head coach in Jacksonville Jaguars history. Maybe he’s out there.