Bill, Bo and Mike, thanks for coming to Nebraska. We hope you enjoyed your millions of parting gifts.
No offense intended, fellas. We just want to try to win our old way. The Nebraska way. And we got the guy wrapped up on Sunday who is going to do that for us.
We made a mistake with Frank Solich’s firing, that much is now clear. Well, maybe more accurately and less controversially, we made a mistake with Steve Pederson — the native son athletic director who decided the only way forward for the proud program fresh off the dominating 1990s and a trip to a national championship contest in 2001 was to cut ties with the past and remake it in his own pro-style, West Coast image.
I recall thinking at the time of Bill Callahan’s introductory press conference that winning might be really nice, but that something even more important was being lost in the transition. Then that No. 1 nationally ranked recruiting class was faxing in their national letters of intent to play for the big ‘N’ a year later — and even after a losing season that saw us forcing square pegs into round holes, I admit I got lost in that joy of quick national relevancy.
It turned out to be short-lived and then agonizingly elusive.
We can rehash the past 14 seasons between Solich and Frost. I think we can summarize it with one word, though: Fracture.
Our players haven’t had many seasons when they felt like the full fan base was standing behind them, through thick and thin. We can point fingers all we like at things like suspect administrative support or ego-driven decision making from the higher ups. Maybe it was subpar coaching, or unreasonable expectations. I’m sure all of these things played a role in fan behavior.
But it’s in the past now. No more need to go there and argue that which we can no longer change.
Enter Scott Frost.
I won’t waste space introducing him. His accomplishments as a player are known, his coaching pedigree is without rival, and he has shown to be capable in turning a program that went 0-12 in 2015 to 12-0 in 2017.
What I will preach is patience, love and joy.
I know, those sound more like words befitting a Hallmark holiday card. But it is Christmas early in Nebraska. The gift we were all asking for came early. It’s here.
And now, it’s time to enter “the process.”
Frost alluded several times in his introductory press conference to the blueprint that worked for generations at Nebraska, and what its core tenet was. Unity. That’s what we’re getting with his arrival — a return of the soul to the program. For many years, we expected the players we invited to Nebraska — and even ones from here who were too young to recall the glory days — to play with that same swagger, fire and drive. Sometimes, you wanted to walk on the field and get in their face masks and explain it to them when it seemed to be absent.
But the problem was that the men leading them weren’t cut from that same cloth as former players. Bo Pelini was the closest to it, but he also fueled the team’s engine with a toxic blend that seemed to exhaust clouds of negativity.
So back to those words — patience, love and joy. Frost will provide those things to his players.
Patience with urgency is not only possible, it’s necessary. So are realistic goals and expectations. That doesn’t mean it’ll be easy for the team. Quite the contrary. They’re going to find out what it takes to be champions here, and it may not resemble what they’re used to. Realistic expectations still assume attacking the work that needs to be done.
Frost and his staff will also love these players, as do the Central Florida guys they must leave behind. When you ask a lot of someone and the work ethic arrives and is applied, you tend to respect those boys. I believe the Cornhuskers will be asked to do a lot by this new staff, and when they rise to that occasion it will be met with a motivating emotion unlike any other.
Finally, there will be joy. Frost talked to the players and media about that important ingredient. The grinding parts of the process will not be without an element that makes it worthwhile.
The fans have their roles, too. They need to apply the same three traits to this team in other ways to give the program the real chance it needs to rise to prior levels.
There must be patience for a new culture to take hold and time for players recruited for the system to arrive and assume their responsibilities.
Love ought to be unconditional for a group of guys who are practicing like a team of yesteryear, and who are the Cornhuskers regardless of their record. The days of leaving the stadium in disgust need to end, and I’m guilty of that myself. We’ve spoken through those actions, and the leadership moves that needed to be made to arrive at this point were made. Unconditional support is a key ingredient of a real and lasting turnaround, and if fans want to be a part of that happening they need to be accountable to a higher standard.
Lastly, joy can’t solely be a by-product of winning, for the players or the fan base. Filling that stadium, cheering great effort and feeling good about the purpose behind the program is vital and genuinely ought to be enough. We can applaud the foundation being placed, the walls going up and the finishing touches being applied. It won’t become a grand house overnight, but there can still be joy in achieving each of those parts, each in their own turn. Anyone who has ever built something knows this.
We got what we wanted, Husker fans. We say we believe in the old blueprint because it worked, but also because it was a reflection of the values of the citizens of this state. “Nebraska” — and all that word entails — is indeed back by virtue of this hire. If that ultimately doesn’t equate to championships, we should still proudly support it for all else it does mean. There simply are no shortcuts to exercising belief through action. There’s also nothing more satisfying than a win that comes from walking that long road together, with what coach Frost calls “a unity of purpose.”
Welcome home, Scott. And welcome back, soul.