The image I’ll remember most from Scott Frost’s first day? Elevator doors.
There are four of them on Memorial Stadium’s third floor and as the noon press conference approached Sunday — as the media and athletic department officials awaited Frost’s entrance — those doors kept opening. Each time, 10 to 12 former players spilled out, like lead blockers on a quarterback draw. The difference: these guys had camera phones.
They just kept coming, Huskers from the 1950s to the 2010s, filling the space around the chairs.
There were Frost’s old teammates like Aaron Taylor and Kris Brown but also dozens of guys from generations before and after the '90s. Tom Heiser. Mark Traynowicz. Doug Glaser. Corey McKeon. Josh Banderas. Trey Foster. At least three played before Bob Devaney. One drove in from Illinois.
And when Frost arrived, they greeted him with an ovation. At one point, Frost looked up to the fourth floor, where people were hanging over the railings. I’ve been to dozens of press conferences. I’ve never seen anything like it.
And when Frost cracked his first joke at their expense — “Most of these guys have been eating too much” — they roared with delight. For more than 30 minutes, they hung on every answer, nodding when the new coach preached, smiling when he boasted.
“He’s kind of a smart-ass, isn’t he?” former offensive lineman Harry Grimminger said. “I like that.”
Frost is their representative, their voice. And he hit all the notes they’ve been saying for years. His remarks, both at the main table and later off to the side, were as much an indictment of the past as a blueprint for the future. Several came with a bite.
Like this one, when I asked when he last attended a game here:
“I haven’t felt comfortable here in awhile because it didn’t feel like home to me. I think the new leadership here helps it feel like home.
“Listen, I’ve been paying alumni dues for many years to keep the two seats in East Stadium that my grandpa bought in 1947 after the war. I still have those seats. I might not need them now, but that’s how special this place is to me. I’m glad that I think the time is right to try to build it into what it was again.”
Or this one, about meeting NU Athletic Director Bill Moos:
“There have been roadblocks here that have been in the way of football success, and they were created unnecessarily. I think Bill and Ronnie (Green) and Hank (Bounds) are going to be the type of guys that remove those types of obstacles instead of placing more in your way. That’s going to be a part of our chances to get this done.”
Frost's inner circle includes people who weren't happy the past 15 years. And he holds his own grudges. I’m interested how the chip on his shoulder will influence his decisions.
He must be careful of leaning too heavy on the old blueprint at the expense of innovation. When times get tough, he must keep his eyes on what's next, not re-litigate old fights.
Frost carried a relatively low profile at Central Florida. He faced little scrutiny. That’s going to change exponentially. Maybe not next season. But down the road, for sure.
For now, Frost hits the ground running with a whole state at his back. Among his notable gifts — the power to connect with players, the wisdom of 25 years around brilliant coaches — is an extraordinary drive.
Unlike his predecessors, Scott Frost has been preparing for this job his whole life. One reason Husker fans feel so good today is the sense that Frost won’t let himself fail.
“The difference with this job is it's not just a job, it’s personal,” Frost said. “This is home. There’s gonna be great things about that and some tough things.
"I think at the end I decided I was willing to deal with them because winning here would be the most rewarding thing I could do.”
* * *
>> Truth: Ohio State lost at Iowa by 31 points. OUCH.
But you know what else is true? The Buckeyes won football games the last two Saturdays of the season — over Michigan and Wisconsin, no less. Alabama won zero. The Crimson Tide’s last win came Nov. 18.
That’s the problem I have with the College Football Playoff committee’s decision. It rewarded a team that failed to win its division. Honest to God, Auburn should’ve called in sick for the SEC championship game — or just let Alabama go instead. The Tigers would’ve been in the playoff. They were punished for qualifying for Atlanta.
How stupid is that system?
Dan Wetzel, who’s probably given more thought to college football’s postseason than anyone, wrote a column Sunday that is 95 percent right. He suggests cutting conference championship games and expanding the playoff to eight teams.
The problem is how do leagues identify a champion with so many teams. What if Ohio State and Wisconsin both go 7-2 in league play? Who gets the nod?
It would be a mistake to revert to the old Big Ten model, which relied on silly Rose Bowl tiebreakers.
I think the ideal solution is smaller conferences. Split the 64 Power Five teams into eight divisions and give every division champ an automatic berth. Or maybe seven divisions of nine teams — with a wild card for Notre Dame or the best Group of Five team.
Americans love small government, right? So why are we building super-conferences?
Maybe there’s a compromise here. Four 16-team leagues that maintain their behemoth status for revenue purposes. But both division winners get an automatic bid.
There would still be a major advantage to being a top-4 team; you get a first-round home game and an easier path to a national championship. But at least we’re removing these ridiculous eye tests — and the backdoor paths to playoff qualification.
I’ll say this about Alabama. They looked mighty good against Mercer.
>> “Philly Cheesesteaks,” I said.
Bill Moos laughed: “I know it. I came forward today.”
After Sunday’s press conference, I joked with the Nebraska athletic director about meeting Frost in Philadelphia. Give him credit for coming clean.
Moos drew rave reviews Sunday for doing everything right in this coaching search. His Main Street charm and decades of experience have proven valuable.
But here’s something that hasn’t received much attention. Moos offered the job to Frost before he fired Mike Riley. And his messenger to Frost was the football radio analyst, Matt Davison.
Now, call me naive, but can you imagine what Bo Pelini might have done if he got word that Shawn Eichorst was doing that kind of thing behind his back? Take cover!
Maybe Riley was aware the whole time — that wouldn’t shock me — and chose to take the high road. But this episode demonstrates how much more smoothly this stuff goes when the groundwork is laid well in advance.
Look, we can pick on Steve Pederson the rest of his life for the botched 2003/2004 coaching search. But the contrast to Moos’ pursuit of Frost is striking for so many reasons.
Pederson fired Frank Solich on Nov. 30, 2003. He probably had a guy who got cold feet and backed out. I can sympathize with him there. But three weeks later, Pederson called a press conference to play everybody for fools. He told Nebraskans he hadn’t offered the job to anybody and he wouldn’t be rushed. Ha-ha.
Here’s a 2004 Daily Nebraskan column I wrote about Pederson's coaching search. I think 22-year-old me was even more sarcastic than 36-year-old me.
>> $5 million for Scott Frost sounds about right. But the bigger eye-opener is the $5 million pool for assistant coaches. Whoa. Mike Riley’s staff in 2017 was at about $3.8 million, and that's counting Bob Diaco's $825,000.
>> Some coaches are more interesting in print than on the radio or TV. You can listen to a 30-second sound bite and think, “Huh, he didn’t really say anything.” Then you read the quote in the newspaper and it actually says a lot.
Frost is the opposite. I think broadcasters are going to have a hard time choosing the best sound bites. There will be plenty to pick from.
Here's the quote, to me, that summed up the day:
"This place — Nebraska — watching it from afar, has lacked a unity of purpose and a togetherness for a while. ... Walking into the weight room and seeing 150 former players that are cheering for me in unison shows me that I think we can get the unity of purpose back.”
>> Here’s a sound bite that didn’t make my morning column, an astute perspective on Frost’s hire from the old Academic All-American Rob Zatechka.
“This would go down as the great unanswered question if it didn’t happen. The great what-if in Nebraska football history. This needed to happen — succeed or fail — just to answer that question.”
>> The column includes references to 85-year-old Cliff Dale. Interesting note on him.
His dad, Ben, and uncle Jack both were NU lettermen, too. Ben played in 1916 and Jack in ’18. By that point, Ben was in Verdun, France, fighting in World War I.
>> Why did Tiger Woods stop talking to Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley?
>> Here is Dan Wetzel again on the monumental sports gambling lawsuit in New Jersey and why the NFL should break from its antiquated ways.
>> Finally, how bad is the AFC in 2017? A team can lose six of its last seven games and still be tied for for first place!
Playtime is over, Kansas City. You get co-leaders Oakland and San Diego the next two weeks at Arrowhead.
Football coaching influences through the years? Scott Frost had many — and big names, too
Scott Frost wasn't hurting for big-name mentors through his football playing and coaching career. A look at some of the people who influenced Frost — named head coach at Nebraska on Saturday — along the way.