It's been 20 years since the Nebraska Cornhuskers were able to call themselves "National Champions." Tom Osborne's Huskers claimed a share of the 1997 National title on the back of a 42-17 win over Peyton Manning and the Tennessee Volunteers in the Orange Bowl. It was the last game Osborne ever coached. It also was the last college game that Scott Frost — Nebraska's quarterback — would ever play in.
Two decades later, the Nebraska football program looks nothing like it did in 1997. Four different head coaches have tried to replicate what Osborne did in Lincoln during that time. All have failed. All were fired.
On Saturday, it was announced that Frost would become Nebraska's fifth head coach since Osborne stepped down.
Frost was the people's choice. He was athletic director Bill Moos' choice. And he was the right choice.
Scott Frost is a Nebraskan. He won at Nebraska and he's on the Mount Rushmore of Nebraska's legendary option quarterbacks. His resume as a player and coach — both at the collegiate and professional levels — is everything anyone could ever want. He's exactly what a once elite and now downtrodden program needs.
Scott Frost must succeed.
Throughout the last 20 years, any time the topic of firing a Nebraska coach comes up, there's always a question that gets tossed out there: "Who would want to come here now?" For a long time, that question meant very little. Who wouldn't want to coach there? After all, Nebraska was a blue blood program — a destination job.
Thanks to a change in the college football landscape, television deals and conference realignment, you could make the argument that that's no longer the case.
Nebraska is a broken program in the middle of nowhere that has to work harder and spend more money than the likes of Penn State, Alabama, Notre Dame, USC, Texas, Oklahoma and the Florida schools just to get recruits to visit. Even with a bottomless checking account, that's a tough sell in 2017.
This is why Frost must succeed.
He's the best young head coach available. You could argue he could have had any of the high-profile FBS jobs (with the exception of UCLA and Texas A&M) available simply by picking up the phone and saying he wanted it. If Frost hadn't grown up and played in Nebraska, there's not a chance in the world that the Huskers would have a shot at him. But he is from there. He did play there. He has become a successful coach and his stock has hit its peak right when Nebraska's has hit its valley. It seems as though it was written in the stars.
This is going to take patience. Frost is not a quick fix in Lincoln. We just watched the worst season of Nebraska football since before Bob Devaney took over the program in 1962. We are looking at a roster of returning players that may be the least talented overall since before Devaney as well. And the Huskers are staring down a brutal 2018 schedule.
Due to only his ties to the state and program, Frost will have a longer leash than other coaches would have had. He's going to have all the time and resources he needs to do what he needs to do to get Nebraska football back to being consistently competitive. In today's game, that all you can ask for — but it must be done.
If Scott Frost is unable to rebuild the Husker program within the time frame of his first contract in Lincoln, more questions — hard questions — will be asked. They won't be about who would want to coach at Nebraska. They'll be about who could coach at Nebraska. The questions will be about whether or not it's even possible for this program on the plains to overcome the evolution of the game and return to prominence. The questions will be about whether or not what Tom Osborne did as a coach and Scott Frost did as a player was the exception or an attainable standard.
As the confetti rained down on Frost in Orlando, with tears in his eyes, he told the nation he just wanted to celebrate with his team after defeating Memphis for the AAC title. Halfway across the country, Husker fans raised drinks and celebrated with friends. They celebrated for Frost, and they celebrated the fact that he was coming home.
Now the celebrations are over. Now the work begins and the answers to those uncomfortable questions will begin to be revealed. It's Frost or never.
— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. His work has appeared on SI.com, FoxSports.com, Yahoo!, SBNation and Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.
(Photos courtesy of Getty Images)