LINCOLN — In the days before he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, Tom Osborne told me, “You can’t save everyone. But that doesn’t mean you don’t try.”
Osborne was referring to the late Lawrence Phillips, the troubled and talented running back whom Osborne suspended but did not dismiss from the team after Phillips assaulted his former girlfriend. Phillips would continue to find trouble and died in prison.
Scott Frost studies from the Book of Osborne. But now he must write his own chapters, forge his own legacy.
On Monday, Frost said running back Maurice Washington would not play this week and didn’t appear to be in the team’s immediate plans. He added there were circumstances in which Washington could one day return.
On Monday, Frost said running back Maurice Washington would not play this week and didn’t appear to be in the team’s immediate plans. He added that there were circumstances in which Washington could one day return.
Is Mo gone for good? Who knows? With five games remaining, it appears Washington won’t play again this year. But Frost intimated that there’s a way for the sophomore to return.
Why bother? Why not cut the cord on a young man who has had his share of drama at NU?
As we learn about Frost the coach on the field, we see the man off the field, too.
Frost stood by Washington this season by allowing him to play while he was charged with a felony in California for allegedly sending a 10-second sex video of an ex-girlfriend on his phone. The case continues to be postponed and held up in California courts.
Washington’s father died when Maurice was 8 years old, and the young man struggled without his father. Does Frost see himself as someone who can provide the father figure role to over 100 players?
Last winter, at the Christ The King banquet in Omaha, Frost revealed that he has been a long-time foster parent to a young man in Oregon. It’s a cause near and dear to his heart and values.
The other side to that is there is a program to run and games to win. Nebraska football is a business, too. And Frost is at a critical point in building the culture he seeks.
Forget the talent and never mind going to a bowl game this year. These are secondary issues to the overall culture that must be built. Now is the time to draw the line on matters of discipline and what is and isn’t allowed.
It’s the life of a head coach in 2019, and Frost touched on that balance Monday.
“Coach Osborne was this way,” Frost said. “He wasn’t quick to crumble kids up and throw them away. Some of those kids who are in some of these situations, if they’re gone out of this program, that road doesn’t lead to very many good places.”
But Frost also acknowledged that there comes a point when you throw your hands up and say “we tried.” It appears Washington has pushed the coach to that point with team violations other than the California case.
Frost is learning you need great players to win, but ultimately the entire team must buy in to a culture they all believe in and respect.
It doesn’t help the current state of this season. But this is a long-term building project. And it’s gotta be done right.