April 19, 2024

Scott Frost ‘dying’ for chance to coach after growing older, wiser from disappointing Nebraska tenure


SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Scott Frost is available. Actually, Scott Frost is more than available.

“For the first time in my life, I don’t know what’s next,” the former Nebraska coach told CBS Sports. “I’m dying to get back in.”

You don’t see many national coach of the year winners as young as Frost, 49, without a job, but these are different times and unique circumstances. 

Earning multiple coaching honors after leading UCF to an undefeated season and New Year’s Six bowl win over Auburn in 2017, Frost went back home to Nebraska for a chance to lead his alma mater.

This meant more than just the comfort of going home. The native son from Wood River, Nebraska, starred at quarterback for the Cornhuskers and won a national championship — the program’s last in 1997 — after transferring from Stanford.

The prodigal son returning did not result in a happy ending. Two hiring cycles have passed since Frost was fired after a 1-2 start in 2022. Fifty-two schools have changed coaches since, some of which gauged Frost’s interest. 

The experience made him older and wiser. He may be anxious to get back, but at one point during a 70-minute conversation, Frost pulled out his phone and proudly showed videos of his young son playing touch football. These are the days you can’t get back. He knows that. 

Frost also knows he lasted longer than the athletic directors who hired and inherited him. Bill Moos retired in June 2021 after three years and eight months on the job. Trev Alberts, a fellow Nebraska legend, inherited — and later fired — Frost. He recently left for the same role at Texas A&M after only 32 months on the job.

Nebraska also cycled through three school presidents during Frost’s tenure. That may say more about the administration than Frost, who put in eight years at his alma mater between playing and coaching. 

The former Huskers quarterback chooses not to reflect on those days. In fact, he prefers not talking about Nebraska.

“This is bad to say to a media guy, but I’ve never wanted to be a critic,” Frost said. “I’ve wanted to be in the arena.”

The “arena” to which Frost is referring is the coaching profession. 

Over breakfast at a Scottsdale eatery, Frost agreed to discuss the past, the state of the game and his future. It’s clear he will be back coaching even if that means working his way back up the ladder. 

Frost is comfortable living in Scottsdale with his three young children. He has time to plan. The family prefers the location so much that it might be hard moving back to a small college town. The NFL also remains an option. In the end, though, Frost has 15 million (the amount of his Nebraska buyout) reasons to take his time. 

“My whole life I was a little league player and a high school player and then a college player and then an NFL player and then a [graduate assistant], and then a position coach, then a coordinator and then a head coach,” Frost said. “It was on a trajectory, and I knew what was next.” 

That’s not so much the case at the moment, which is OK. Let’s not forget: At one point, Frost was the hot, young coach who went 13-0 at UCF. In those four-plus seasons at Nebraska, however, he went 16-31, the worst record for a Huskers coach since Bill Jennings (1957-61).

Nebraskans can continue ripping Frost, but that becomes tiresome when you’ve already torn apart the other coaches who followed the legendary Tom Osborne. Better to look to the future themselves.

Who knows whether the program can ever get its mojo back with the Big Ten expanding and the dissolution of divisions making it more difficult to play for a conference championship. 

Nebraska struggled to find an identity in the modern era when it transitioned to the Big Ten in 2011. It fired Frank Solich, a former Big 12 Coach of the Year, who was 58-19 in six seasons leading the Huskers. Bill Callahan, who had guided the Oakland Raiders to a Super Bowl appearance, didn’t pan out. Bo Pelini won at least nine games in all seven of his seasons, yet he didn’t last. Mike Riley, a former Pac-10 Coach of the Year, went 19-19 in three seasons. 

Frost’s innovative spread offense that worked so well at Oregon and UCF failed to produce the same results at Nebraska. Was that part of the problem? Ryan Day’s (similar) scheme has been good enough to go 56-8 at Ohio State. At the same time, Jim Harbaugh and Michigan took the game back to the stone age, winning a national championship and toppling the rival Buckeyes in three consecutive seasons.

“I know this, there’s some good coaches out there. I’m a good coach. I belong doing it,” Frost said. “I just don’t know for sure where that’s going to be right now. If the right head coach job comes along, I’d take it. If the right coordinator job comes, I’d take it.”

Frost’s replacement at Nebraska, Matt Rhule, has renewed Big Red optimism after going 5-7 in his first season, tied for Nebraska’s best record since 2016. Rhule went out of his way to praise Frost, telling On3 in November, “To me, if you’re a smart coach? You follow good staffs.” 

College football has reshaped itself in the 18 months Frost has been out of the game. When he left, the one-time transfer rule was a month old; name, image and likeness had been around for 14 months. College football was just settling into the new normal where a good portion of success is tied directly to your NIL collective. 

“As a coach, Nick Saban said it,” Frost said. “It used to be a 45-week-a-year job. Now, it’s a 52-week-a-year job. You’re scouting other teams’ players, recruiting year-round, raising money for NIL year-round.

“The part I love about college football [is] taking an 18-year-old kid and watching him leave as a 22-year-old man who has life figured out. You played a part in that.” 

As an assistant at Oregon, Frost recruited both Marcus Mariota and Justin Herbert. Mariota won the Heisman Trophy in 2014 while leading the Ducks to a berth in the first College Football Playoff; Herbert developed from a from three-star prospect to first-round NFL Draft pick during his time with the program. 

At UCF, a place upon which Frost looks back fondly, his prized QB pupil was McKenzie Milton, who led the Knights on that undefeated charge in the 2017 season. 

“In 10 years, UCF could be a [national] power,” Frost said of his old employer. “It’s the best college town in Florida by far. Orlando? The campus is beautiful.”

Those aforementioned star signal callers tied to Frost makes it all the more strange he never got consistently reliable play from the position during his time at Nebraska. That also played a role in the Huskers losing some historically close games. 

  • Nebraska’s last 13 losses under Frost all came by single digits. 
  • All nine losses in 2021 were by single digits, the most in the AP Top 25 era (since 1936). 
  • Nebraska was 4-21 in games decided by seven points or fewer under Frost. 

That’s either a trend or some terrible luck. Maybe both. Whatever the case, it shouldn’t damn his prospects of stepping back into the coaching profession. 

“Coaching is what I do,” Frost said. “It’s what I’m good at. It’s what I love.”

At this point, Frost gets philosophical. Forget about what it looks like, just winning again would be great. 

“You think the Steelers [with the Immaculate Reception] said, ‘We really got lucky and the ball [ticked] off somebody’s foot and Franco Harris caught it. We shouldn’t have won?’ Frost said. “Whatever it takes, you win.”





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