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Nebraska Football: Who Should the Cornhuskers Hire to be the Next Head Coach?

Nebraska Football: 5 Newcomers to Watch for the Cornhuskers

College football's coaching carousel is already off and running for the 2022 season after Nebraska fired Scott Frost on Sunday. Frost was dismissed at his alma mater following a disastrous 45-42 loss to Georgia Southern, dropping his overall record to 16-31 in Lincoln. Frost came to Nebraska after a successful stint at UCF but never managed to post a winning season or guide the Cornhuskers to a bowl game. Mickey Joseph will work as the team's interim coach for the final nine contests.

Related: Coaching Candidates to Replace Scott Frost at Nebraska

Contending for national championships on an annual basis is unlikely, but Nebraska should be more competitive. Getting to bowl games and contending for the Big Ten West title (while divisions are still around) is a reasonable expectation. Athletic director Trev Alberts should have plenty of interested candidates for the vacancy. Nebraska is going to pay well, has a rich tradition, and the willingness to win.

Who should Nebraska hire to replace Frost? Athlon's editors and contributors debate which coach is the best fit in Lincoln: 

Nebraska Football: Who Should the Cornhuskers Hire to be the Next Head Coach?

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Nebraska should aim high in its search by first finding out if Kentucky's Mark Stoops, Wake Forest's Dave Clawson or Cincinnati's Luke Fickell have any interest. I think it's unlikely any of those three leave their current job for Lincoln, but athletic director Trev Alberts needs to find out. Assuming those three coaches are not interested, Iowa State's Matt Campbell or Kansas' Lance Leipold would be the next coaches on my list. Campbell is 44-34 at one of the Big 12's toughest jobs and has the right background of developing a strong team culture to go with talent development to succeed at Nebraska. Leipold is a similar fit in terms of coaching style, and he's also won at different levels, including Wisconsin-Whitewater and Buffalo. Kansas has showed marked improvement in Leipold's 14 games on the sidelines and is off to a 2-0 start after an upset win at West Virginia. Also, Leipold coached as an assistant at Nebraska from 2001-03, so there's plenty of familiarity with the program.  

Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR)
Even though it's Nebraska, I'm not sure just how much of a preferred destination the job is these days. The decision to part ways with Scott Frost may have been the right one given the direction the program was trending but if a believed alumnus can't make it work in Lincoln, who can? I think the focus needs to be more on the right fit than the name. Mark Stoops may actually fit both parts of that equation, but I have a hard time seeing Kentucky letting him leave and why would he considering the consistent success he's now enjoying in the SEC?

Working from this list, my eyes land on more guys in the "Realistic or Not" category, namely Dave Clawson, Luke Fickell and Lance Leipold. From the main candidates, I think Matt Campbell would be a great hire but does he need to leave Iowa State? I'm not so sure, especially if this isn't the next rung on his own ladder (Iowa could come open in the near future). Similarly, I don't think Clawson will leave Wake Forest given the current state of affairs with the Cornhuskers program and where it ranks in the pecking order of the Big Ten. Fickell may be inclined to make the move from Cincinnati, except for the fact that his school is joining the Big 12 next season so he'll be at a Power 5 job soon. That leaves Leipold, who has already done a remarkable job in a short amount of time at Kansas, and he has previous Nebraska ties. As poorly as things have gone for the Huskers, there's no argument which job is better. If Leipold is interested and I'm AD Trev Alberts, I would do everything I can to bring him back to Lincoln.

Ben Weinrib (@benweinrib)
Nebraska became the first program to fire its head coach this season — and didn't wait three weeks to cut his buyout in half — because it wants to be able to control the hiring market and make a splash. It's an ambitious move, but it may be necessary considering the state of the program. Nebraska has more history than most college football programs but also hasn't been to a bowl game since 2016, ended the season ranked since 2012, or won more than 10 games since 2001. It's worth it to aim high for a Matt Campbell or Dave Clawson, but it seems more likely to me that they end up with someone like Lance Leipold. While not an earth-shattering hire, he'd bring much-needed competency to Lincoln after having success at several other midwestern schools, including, amazingly, and relatively speaking, Kansas.

J.P. Scott (@TheJPScott)
I’d like to see Mickey Joseph get a fair shot if he’s able to win five or six games and gain the respect and trust of the locker room.

Otherwise, you are almost obligated to make Matt Campbell an offer that makes him one of the highest-paid coaches in the Big Ten.

The other two logical options are Lance Leipold and Chris Klieman. Both won multiple national titles at lower levels of football in the same part of the country. Both appear to be improving the programs they’ve recently taken over in a short amount of time. Leipold is familiar with the Nebraska program. Klieman has key members of his staff with Nebraska ties.

So to recap, I believe there are four choices that would all make sense in the right scenario.

Chip Minnich (@ChipMinnich)
Matt Campbell of Iowa State would be my first call. Young, Midwestern background so he would have an understanding and appreciation for the Nebraska football culture/history, and has made Iowa State a consistently formidable opponent. More importantly, Campbell has demonstrated an ability to develop the talent he has recruited, even though Iowa State’s recruiting classes are not among the nation’s best.

Related: Coaching Candidates to Replace Scott Frost at Nebraska

Kane Webb (@FightOnTwist)
This is a tricky question because Nebraska is in a weird place. Prior to the announcement of USC and UCLA joining the Big Ten, Nebraska could’ve probably gotten away with saying the Rose Bowl is the goal, rather than national titles. But I am not even sure Wisconsin will be able to remain Wisconsin under the new format, never mind the Huskers achieving those goals.

Nebraska as a national title contender is something that’s been relegated to the past. The fans may not want to hear it, but Lincoln is simply never going to be a destination for any coach or players. There are just too many other opportunities in college football to sell people on history and history alone.

If I am any kind of winning coach I would use my first really solid season at Nebraska to hold them hostage for a Mel Tucker-style contract. The current A.D. has already shown that he will pay up if it’s important enough. All he had to do was wait a couple more weeks and the buyout for the coach they just fired would have dropped in half. Instead, Nebraska decided to give him $15 million for winning 16 games. That’s not the best position to be hiring from and a smart coach would exploit it down the line if he were also a winning coach in Lincoln.

Todd Saelhof (@ToddSaelhofPM)
Give associate head coach Mickey Joseph a chance to see what he can do as the interim guy for the rest of the season. The Cornhuskers haven't played badly under Scott Frost, as evidenced by the 5-22 record in one-score games. They just haven't won. So maybe the right system is in place, but they need the new-ish voice with a head for making better decisions in the crunch. Joseph could end up being the next "hire."