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Nebraska Football: Why No One Actually Expects the Cornhuskers to Return to 1990s Form

Nebraska Football: Why No One Actually Expects the Cornhuskers to Return to 1990s Form

Nebraska Football: Why No One Actually Expects the Cornhuskers to Return to 1990s Form

Regardless of if you view the Nebraska Cornhuskers football program from within the state's borders or from a national perspective, let's be clear: the Huskers simply aren't relevant on the grandest stage right now. The number of years without a conference championship continues to increase. There's a current streak of seasons without a postseason bid.

You'd have to go back to the Bill Jennings era (1957-61) to find a stretch like that. For those that despise the Big Red and/or love to kick a program when it's down, there's no time like the present.

What makes it even more delightful for such individuals is not only does Nebraska find itself floundering. They're doing so under the leadership of a former national championship-winning alumnus. It's no stretch to say that Scott Frost has been — and continues to be — confident in his abilities, and why wouldn't he be?

After finding success at Oregon and UCF, it's clear he knows how to map out a winning strategy. The position he found himself in when taking over the reins in Lincoln is different from previous stops, though. While we could examine this in-depth (as has been done to death), there's another aspect that hasn't been addressed nearly as often.

When confidence in Frost's abilities is displayed by fans, media, his staff, or the man himself, there is a familiar response that pops up. To paraphrase: "It's not the 1990s anymore."

Many believe that no matter how hard Frost or any other coach tries, the time of long-term college football relevance originating in Lincoln is done, never to be seen again.

Here's what those individuals need to realize: this isn’t news. They could share the same view that Nick Saban is crushing it at Alabama, Mike Leach has an affinity for pirates, or Michigan and Ohio State abhor each other.

The reaction is the same: Yes, and?

Tom Osborne captured lightning in a bottle during that 60-3 run that featured three national championships. Recruiting success was through the roof, those prospects were developed accordingly, and team unity had perhaps never been greater.

Not only that, but consider Osborne's staff. Assistants like Charlie McBride, Milt Tenopir, and George Darlington turned down head coaching gigs to stick around. And did so for decades. McBride spent the least time at Osborne's side — a scant 23 seasons. Darlington had been around so long, he played a part in 300 Cornhusker victories (a then first-time accomplishment at this level).

This continuity doesn't happen in modern-day college football. If a coach isn't in the twilight of his career, more often than not, they're working their way up the ladder. That's one of the reasons why articles about the hottest coaches on the market come out yearly like clockwork.

If P.J. Fleck continues to see the kind of success he's had at both Western Michigan and Minnesota now, would anyone bat an eye if a program with more prestige and resources made him an offer? Of course not. Nor would you be stunned if Fleck took the job. Because that's simply how the game is played now.

College football is full of pageantry and magical moments. But when you break it down to its foundation, it is still very much a business. When opportunity knocks, long-tenured coaches up and down the ladder have to at least stop to weigh the pros and cons. The exceptions to this rule, of course, are those already at the top (Saban, Dabo Swinney, Ryan Day, etc.) or those with a legitimate dream scenario (Frost).

Recruiting is another argument often brought up in regards to the Big Red's potential success. Yes, it is more difficult to sell prospects on the idea of playing football in Lincoln today. The current national and global situations only compound that.

All this to say that not only does a minority of people associated with Nebraska anticipate past success to repeat itself, but expectations have shifted. The landscape of the sport has rapidly changed from even during the BCS days not long ago.

Despite everything we've just run down, why should Frost or anyone else who holds the title of head coach stop fighting to get to the top of the mountain?

That's not any way to go through life. Once a person or team stands atop the world, looks down on creation, and can proclaim themselves the absolute best repeatedly, it becomes an addiction. And the allure only gets stronger every time it’s accomplished.

When Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, and others inevitably dip — that won't come any time soon, but it will happen, if only momentarily — they won't yield. Everyone involved won't congratulate each other, pass out slices of sheet cake, and call it a day.

Champions don't do that. Multiple-time champions consider it a sin. The ones lucky enough to claim the title of "dynasty" for a time, let alone "blue blood," recognize this suggestion as an insult.

Texas hasn't seen ultimate glory for 14 seasons and hasn't won their conference in nine. But they're not going to stop grinding until everyone from ESPN on down has no choice but to again legitimately declare them best in the land.

Michael Douglas won an Oscar for Best Actor during the same year Notre Dame could last claim their pinnacle of performance. The Fighting Irish came close eight years ago. But they didn't accomplish their main goal. And that's the issue.

Nebraska, Texas, and Notre Dame. These are all brands right now. Varying levels of success, but still incredibly marketable. The other thing these programs have in common is they're not going to stop clawing to get back to where they once were. Call it delusion or whatever you like, but the spark's still there and it's not going away anytime soon.

Back to the point of all this.

Those involved in the daily goings-on with Nebraska football already know that the past is the past. But as much as any fan or pundit wants those in Lincoln to just give up and go quietly into that good night, it's not going to happen. Everyone's on the same page. The sport has evolved. That's why a $155 million, 350,000-square-foot complex is eventually going to sit on campus for Frost to utilize.

The Cornhuskers aren't going to stop laboring because the current situation isn't ideal or going their way. The game and its grandest achievement are woven into the fabric of the community and its culture. No, it's not the 1990s anymore, and Nebraska isn't running roughshod over the competition year after year.

But trying to talk the Big Red out of putting their all into getting back to the top is going to fall on deaf ears. For better or worse in whoever's eyes, the spark won't fade. Now, it's time to consider that the comment isn't insightful at all, but rather a sign of laziness.

— Written by Brandon Cavanaugh, part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Be sure to follow him on Twitter (@eightlaces). To contact him, click here.