By Steve Beideck
Following the announcement Sunday that Scott Frost had been fired as head coach of the Nebraska football team, there was only one remnant on Level 6 of Memorial Stadium of the native son’s 47-game tenure as the leader of the storied Husker program.
A large, framed photo of Frost leading the Huskers onto the Memorial Stadium field was still hanging on the wall between the south and north entrances to the room where weekly media conferences are conducted.
In the photo, Frost is wearing a gray Nebraska football sweatshirt and that stern, determined look that defined his time as both a Husker player and coach.
Removed was the sign by the door of Suite 612 that let people know this was the suite reserved for members of Frost’s family and guests.
That suite will now be occupied by family and friends of interim head coach Mickey Joseph, who was elevated to that role Sunday by Athletic Director Trev Alberts. Nebraska’s next game is Saturday at 11 a.m. against historic rival Oklahoma.
“I want to thank Mickey Joseph for taking on this role,” Alberts said during a hastily called news conference that summoned about 80 members of the media Sunday afternoon. “There’s nine games left in the season. I think we owe it to the players, we owe it to our fans, to give these players an opportunity in these last nine games.
“We have good players on this football team. So having a different voice and having some new energy and enthusiasm we’re hoping can make a difference for this team.”
When announcing his decision to fire Frost after a 1-2 start to the 2022 season, Alberts, himself a decorated Nebraska football legend, said it was a long night trying to decide what was best for the program following the Huskers’ 45-42 loss to Georgia Southern.
Frost was notified of his dismissal by Alberts just more than 12 hours after the Huskers had lost their second game of the young season, both against underdogs.
That loss was the first time in the 100-year history of Memorial Stadium that the Huskers had dropped a game in which they had scored at least 35 points. Before Saturday, Nebraska had won 214 previous games when they had reached that 35-point milestone.
Alberts said that kind of performance wasn’t good enough for one of the nine college football programs that have won at least 900 games.
“At the end of the day there has to be accountability,” Alberts said. “We run a professional organization that has high standards. Accountability has to matter. Scott and I talked about this; 16-31 (Frost’s four-plus-year record) obviously was not at a level that was acceptable to us.”
Alberts said he met with Frost at 11 a.m. Sunday and informed him of his decision to end Frost’s time as Nebraska’s 33rd head football coach. The two of them then went to the NU locker room to meet with the team. Alberts said the players were notified via email to come to North Stadium for the meeting.
“I think the team really cares about Scott, and Scott really cares about the team,” Alberts said. “It’s been a tough day for Coach Frost, our coaching staff and our players. This is a day that I hoped would never come.”
After addressing the team, Alberts said he and others with him then left the locker room so Frost could privately address the team.
“Scott spent time with the team, and those conversations will remain with the team and Scott,” Alberts said. “Finally, I invited Mickey Joseph, and he came in about 11:45 and spoke to the team. He walked them through some of the changes he envisioned.”
Alberts told Joseph that he was the head coach and that he wouldn’t meddle in his decision-making process over the next nine games.
“I encouraged Mickey to be the head coach and make decisions as the head coach,” Alberts said. “I think there will be some changes, some structural changes. He will explain that to all of you.”
Joseph didn’t attend Sunday’s news conference. The previously scheduled Monday press conference also was canceled later in the afternoon. The first time Joseph likely will be available to field questions from the media is Tuesday.
There were no other staff changes made Sunday, but Alberts did say that if Joseph believed he needed to make some changes to the coaching staff, he was free to do so.
“If he chooses to make some of those additional changes, we will support those changes as well,” Alberts said. “But I’m not aware of any of those that he anticipates at this time.”
Frost is due to receive a $15 million buyout because he was fired before Oct. 1. Had Alberts waited until after that date, the buyout would have been reduced to $7.5 million. Alberts said Sunday there were no changes to that agreement.
“There is no negotiated settlement,” Alberts said. “The University of Nebraska has a long history of living up to what they agreed to, so the contract is what the contract is, and of course, the university will comply as we always do.”
Alberts said he landed on Joseph to be the interim head coach after reviewing what some of the other members of the coaching staff were responsible for, especially with the next game just six days away and being one of the featured matchups of the weekend.
“Mickey’s not calling the plays,” Alberts said. “Coach (Mark) Whipple is (and) there’s a lot of responsibilities for the head coach that lie outside of football. We need to have Coach Whipple focused on game planning and play calling all week.
“And obviously defensively we have some very significant adjustments to make so (defensive coordinator Erik Chinander) has got to be really focused there.”
The Huskers gave up 642 yards of offense to Georgia Southern, which was just 14 yards shy of the Nebraska school record for most yards allowed in a single game of 656 set by Oklahoma in 1956.
A national search will be conducted for Frost’s permanent replacement. Alberts said third-party help would be used, primarily for logistics. He also knows this search will generate a lot of speculation and rumors.
“There’s going to be a lot of innuendo,” Alberts said. “I want you to know that these sorts of decisions and processes are not made in a silo. I have a lot of great mentors and friends that we’ll be working with.
“I intend to reach out to a lot of people. So if you hear that Trev Alberts reached out to XYZ coach, it doesn’t mean that I’ve offered the job to XYZ coach. It might very well be true (about reaching out) but that doesn’t mean I’m trying to hire that coach.”
Finding out what others think about the Nebraska head coach job is a process he’s looking forward to undertaking.
“I think there’s some fabulous coaches out there that have a perspective about our job that I can benefit from,” Alberts said. “So I’m going to reach out to a lot of people. I’d like to get a perspective of a coach who isn’t here right now about our job, and what the uniqueness is and the needs and those sorts of things.”
For the next two-plus months, Alberts said the top priority needs to be on the next nine games.
“We have said all along I would just love to see this team continue to grow and compete and make progress,” Alberts said. “Be tough. Win the line of scrimmage. Do the fundamental things that teams need to do to win games. I think we can get there.”
Alberts also said tempering of expectations also should be a part of the process.
“We will stop talking about championships,” Alberts said. “We will stop talking about things we used to do. We will just get really process-oriented and detail-oriented. Ultimately when you start doing those fundamental championship-type things, those types of wins follow.
“We need to stop focusing on that and start focusing on those small fundamental things that ultimately lead to those types of things. So those are the things we will do.”