The ‘best year’ of Scott Frost’s life gets even sweeter as he becomes Nebraska’s next football coach

The ‘best year’ of Scott Frost’s life gets even sweeter as he becomes Nebraska’s next football coach
New Nebraska coach Scott Frost arrives at Memorial Stadium on Sunday morning. (World-Herald News Service)

LINCOLN — Scott Frost smiled with tears in his eyes. He’d just coached Central Florida to a conference title in front of a home crowd.

“The best year of my life,” he said.

That magical year will end with him headed back to the state where he was born, grew up and won a national title playing quarterback.

Frost is coming home to resurrect Nebraska football after its worst season in more than a half-century.

Athletic Director Bill Moos announced Saturday he had hired Frost as the program’s 33rd coach. He replaces Mike Riley, who was fired after a 4-8 season. Frost will be formally introduced today at a noon press conference.

Current Husker players applauded the hire on social media, typing snowflakes as a nod to Frost’s name. Saturday night, the video boards inside Memorial Stadium featured a picture of the 42-year-old Frost and the words “Welcome Home.”

“It is a great honor and privilege to have the opportunity to return to Nebraska and to lead the Husker football program,” Frost said in a statement. “I have been fortunate to be at a wonderful school the last two years, but Nebraska is a special place with a storied tradition and a fan base which is second to none. I am truly humbled to be here. The state of Nebraska and the Husker program mean a great deal to me. This is home.”

Moos said he was “thrilled” Frost was returning to his alma mater.

“I truly believe that we have hired the premier young coach in the country and that exciting times lie ahead,” Moos said.

Legendary coach Tom Osborne — who coached Frost in college and whom Frost personally thanked in the announcement — praised Frost’s coaching skills last week.

“Scott is obviously a great coach and very good person,” Osborne said. “He has good values, and he’s really steady. He’s the whole package.”

A seven-year, $35-million deal will make Frost the highest-paid coach in school history and one of the top 15 highest-paid coaches in the sport. Consider it the price of courting one of college football’s hottest coaching prospects, one who flipped UCF from 0-12 to 12-0 in two years and won a 62-55, double overtime thriller over Memphis in the American Athletic Conference championship game on Saturday.

Frost and his staff will coach the Golden Knights in their bowl game — likely the Jan. 1 Peach Bowl — even as several assistants, including future Husker defensive coordinator Erik Chinander, follow Frost to Nebraska, which has been working on the contracts over the last week. Some of Frost’s assistants could be on the road recruiting as soon as today. Nebraska supported Frost coaching the bowl game, in part because it creates buzz around a Husker program that just cratered to a 4-8 record.

Nebraska wasn’t the only school interested in Frost, according to various national media reports. Florida inquired, for example.

But Frost called only one of those schools home. Nebraska.

“The pull to alma mater won the day,” said UCF Athletic Director Danny White at his own press conference. NU and UCF coordinated the timing of the announcement once Frost made clear he was picking the Huskers.

Frost is the first coach since Frank Solich to both play and become coach at the school. Solich’s firing in 2003 helped trigger a 15-year run of mediocrity for the Huskers that included record-breaking blowout losses, embarrassing sideline tantrums and fans streaming from Memorial Stadium in sorrow and frustration. Zero conference titles. Just four divisional titles. Just five bowl wins.

Nebraska’s sellout streak remained intact. Not much else did.

And so the task of delivering the Huskers back to greatness falls to Frost, the son of two high school football coaches — Larry and Carol Frost — who became a prep legend at Wood River High School and was the last quarterback to start for Osborne before his retirement.

After playing two years at Stanford, Frost transferred to NU, serving as scout team quarterback on the 1995 national title team. Husker defensive players, seeking to punish Frost for spending two years at Stanford, were merciless in their treatment of him.

“We were never harder on a player, any particular player, than on Scott,” ex-Husker star Jason Peter said earlier this fall. “We thought this dude, he wanted to jump on the train that’s won a few titles and is moving at full speed, so we tried to make him cry, quit, you name it.”

Frost didn’t quit. He started 26 games for Nebraska and won 24 of them. In 1997, Nebraska won the Big 12 title and beat Tennessee 42-17 in the Orange Bowl. NU headed into the night No. 2 in the coaches poll behind Michigan. After the win, Frost, on CBS, stumped for his coach and team.

“I don’t think anybody out there, with a clear conscience, can say that Nebraska and especially Tom Osborne — that great man — doesn’t deserve a national championship for this!” Frost said that night. “At least a share!”

On a Nebraska welcome video sent out on social media, an audio recording of Frost’s words played as the soundtrack.

Husker fans know: Nebraska got its share of the crown. College coaches — Osborne’s peers — delivered the vote. Osborne had coached his last game.

Frost’s coaching journey was still a decade away. He spent parts of six years in the NFL and embarked in earnest on a coaching career in 2006, starting as a graduate assistant at Kansas State. The bulk of his coaching experience came at Oregon, where he spent seven years embedded in the meteoric rise of Ducks football under Chip Kelly, who recently took the UCLA job. Under Kelly, Frost coached wide receivers and learned the spread, run-focused, up-tempo offense that built on Osborne’s option principles. In the years Frost was at Oregon — 2009-2015 — the Ducks had the nation’s Nos. 8, 1, 3, 2, 3, 4 and 5 scoring offenses. Frost became offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Oregon in 2013, developing quarterback Marcus Mariota into a Heisman Trophy winner.

After rebuffing coaching overtures from several schools, Frost chose UCF in 2016, citing the school’s potential and proximity to talented recruits. UCF led the nation in points per game this season, mowing down opponents the way Osborne’s old offenses used to do in the 1980s and 1990s. As Frost won — and he and his wife, Ashley, welcomed a newborn son — Nebraska’s current team kept losing. NU fired Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst in September, replacing him with Moos, who was repeatedly peppered with questions about Frost even before Moos had fired Riley on Nov. 25.

White, the UCF A.D., was asked if it was helpful that Moos kept answering those questions about Frost.

“Probably not,” White said.

But sources strongly praised Moos’ “sensitive” pursuit of Frost, who wanted to focus on the AAC title game. Most of Frost’s assistant coaching staff has already been assembled so the Huskers can hit the ground running in recruiting. The three-day December signing period begins Dec. 20. NU was open to letting Frost coach UCF in the bowl game, although he’ll spend most of his day-to-day work at Nebraska for the next several weeks.

Still, Frost was clearly emotional on Saturday as he celebrated his conference championship with UCF players and took questions from the press.

“They should give you time after the season to make these decisions, and they don’t,” he said.

Within the hour, he’d told his team he was leaving. Moos sent an email to donors and season ticket holders. Then the media — which has known for weeks Frost was the No. 1 target — received the announcement.

Sunday, the native son returns.

Scott Frost Introductory Press Conference

When: 11:50 a.m. Sunday

Where: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln

Radio: 103.1 FM, 1600 AM, 105.5 FM and ncn21.com

TV: Watch live as new Husker football coach is introduced

Scott Frost’s contract with Nebraska makes him highest-paid coach in school history

Nebraska was expected to open its checkbook for the next football coach. It did.

New Husker coach Scott Frost has agreed to a seven-year, $35 million contract, which would make him the highest-paid coach in Nebraska history.

The annual salary would rank third in the Big Ten behind Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, according to USA Today. Frost’s deal also would place him No. 10 nationally, behind Texas’ Tom Herman at $5.48 million and TCU’s Gary Patterson at $5.1 million. Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz has a 2017 base salary of $4.55 million, 13th-highest.

Harbaugh’s contract pays him $7 million and Meyer’s deal pays $6.43 million a year. Former Husker coach Mike Riley received $2.9 million in 2017, ranking 41st among collegiate coaches.

Alabama coach Nick Saban, a winner of five national championships, earns a base salary of $11.13 million. Dabo Swinney, the Clemson coach who beat Saban in the national title game last January, makes $8.53 million, the second-highest salary in the country, according to USA Today. It’s been reported that new Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher will receive a 10-year, fully-guaranteed deal worth $75 million, which would place him near the top of the salary rankings.

Frost’s seven-year contract matches the longest in Nebraska history. Men’s basketball coach Tim Miles also received a seven-year deal in 2012.

NU Athletic Director Bill Moos said after Riley was fired that he would examine the market and see whether Nebraska’s compensation package is competitive.

“I can remember not that long ago — probably about 20 years ago — there were only three or four college football coaches making $1 million per year. That has changed quite dramatically since then,” Moos said in a recent interview.

Scott Frost has an experienced coaching staff at UCF — how many could join him in Lincoln?

Nebraska coaches recently have retained various members of the prior coaching staff while bringing members of their current coaching staff.

When Bill Callahan was hired in 2003, he kept two coaches, Turner Gill and Scott Downing. He also brought offensive coordinator Jay Norvell with him from the Oakland Raiders.

Bo Pelini retained two coaches, Shawn Watson and Ted Gilmore,  and brought Barney Cotton, Ron Brown and Marvin Sanders back from Frank Solich’s staff.

Meanwhile, Mike Riley cleaned house, but brought four coaches, including defensive coordinator Mark Banker, with him from Oregon State.

Here’s a look at Scott Frost’s current staff at UCF. How many will join Frost in Lincoln?

* * *

Offense

Troy Walters, offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach

Hometown: Born in Bloomington, Indiana (Went to high school in College Station, Texas)

Alma mater: Stanford (1999)

Walters is a finalist for the 2017 Broyles Award after directing a Golden Knights’ offense that leads the nation in scoring at 48.3 points per game and is ranked in the top 10 in seven statistical categories. Prior to UCF, Walters was Texas A&M’s wide receivers coach in 2010, at North Carolina State in 2012 and was the wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator at Colorado from 2013-15. Walters helped Texas A&M receivers Ryan Swope and Jeff Fuller each set school records each in single-season receptions and yards. Under his guidance, Colorado’s Paul Richardson set a then school-record of 83 catches in a season and became CU’s first wide receiver to earn first-team all-conference accolades since 1997. As a senior at Stanford, Walters won the Biletnikoff Award as the country’s best wide receiver and helped lead the Cardinal to the Rose Bowl. He had an eight-year NFL career with four different teams.

Greg Austin, offensive line coach

Hometown: Cypress, Texas

Alma mater: Nebraska (2006)

Austin was a guard for Nebraska from 2003 through 2006 before beginning his coaching career at Oregon in 2010. At Oregon, Austin coached alongside Frost in the 2010 BCS National Championship loss to Auburn and a pair of wins in the 2011 Rose Bowl and 2012 Fiesta Bowl. In 2013, Austin followed Oregon coach Chip Kelly to Philadelphia. During his three seasons in Philadelphia, the Eagles ranked in the top 12 in yards per game, including the top five in 2013 and 2014. He joined UCF when Frost was hired in 2016.

Sean Beckton, tight ends coach/recruiting coordinator

Hometown: Daytona Beach, Florida

Alma mater: UCF (2003)

A UCF wide receiver from 1987-90, Beckton served as the Golden Knights’ wide receivers coach from 1996-2003. In that time, he coached future NFL players Brandon Marshall, Mike Sims-Walker and Doug Gabriel. Beckton coached wide receivers for the Arena Football League’s Orlando Predators in 2008 and returned to UCF in 2009. He coached defensive backs from 2009-11, wide receivers from 2012-15, and he became the tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator in 2016. He finished as the school’s leader in receptions (196) and receiving yards (2,493).

Ryan Held, running backs coach

Hometown: Overland Park, Kansas

Alma mater: Nebraska (1998)

One of Frost’s teammates at NU, Held was a walk-on wide receiver from 1993-96 and served as an undergraduate assistant coach in 1997. After two seasons as a defensive graduate assistant at Tennessee (1998-99), he was the head coach at NAIA Peru State (2001), NCAA Division II Oklahoma Panhandle State (2002-04), Southwestern Oklahoma State (2005-08), Highland (Kan.) Community College (2012-13) and Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College (2014-15). Held was hired as UCF’s running backs coach in 2016.

Mario Verduzco, quarterbacks coach

Hometown: Pittsburg, California

Alma mater: San Jose State (1988)

A football coach since 1977, Verduzco’s experience has ranged from a defensive backs, quarterbacks and linebackers coach to recruiting coordinator, offensive coordinator and head coach and he has worked with legends such as Bill Walsh and Terry Shea. Verduzco, who joined Frost at UCF in 2016, previously served alongside Frost at Northern Iowa in 2007-08. Verduzco was the quarterbacks coach in Cedar Falls from 2001-14, as well as the co-offensive coordinator from 2006-14. He helped the Panthers to six Missouri Valley titles and eight appearances in the FCS playoffs.

Frank Verducci, offensive analyst

Hometown: Glen Ridge, N.J.

Alma mater: Seton Hall (1980)

Verducci, who has coached every offensive position group except quarterback, mentored under six Hall of Fame coaches in his time, including Hayden Fry, Bill Snyder, Barry Alvarez and Dick LeBeau. He has coached in college and the NFL for more than 30 years and joined the UCF staff for the 2017 season. Verducci held coaching roles at Colorado State (1980), Maryland (1981-83), Northern Illinois (1984), Iowa (1985-86, 1989-98) and Northwestern (1987-88), before spending eight seasons NFL with four different teams. His brother, Tom, is the senior baseball writer at Sports Illustrated and an Emmy-winning announcer for the MLB Network and Fox.

Defense

Jovan Dewitt, associate head coach/linebackers coach/special teams coach

Hometown: Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Alma mater: Northern Michigan (1996)

Dewitt worked as a defensive coordinator at Northern Michigan (2004-05), St. Norbert (2006-08) and Northern Iowa (2009-11). At UNI, he coached LJ Fort, who would win the FCS National defensive player of the year award and currently plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Dewitt starred for Northern Michigan (1993-96), earning two NCAA Division II All-America selections and Midwest Intercollegiate Conference Defensive Player of the Year. He returned to NMU as a graduate assistant (2000-01), then made stops at Fort Scott Community College (assistant coach) and Fairmont State (assistant coach/offensive/special teams) for the 2002 and 2003 seasons. Dewitt has also served as linebackers coach at Florida Atlantic (2012-13) and joined Army as the special teams coordinator and outside linebackers coach (2014-15). He was hired at UCF before the 2016 season.

Erik Chinander, defensive coordinator

Hometown: Allison, Iowa

Alma mater: Iowa (2002)

After joining Oregon as an intern, Chinander served as a defensive graduate assistant before following Chip Kelly to the NFL as an assistant defensive line coach in 2013. He returned to Oregon as the outside linebackers coach (2014-15) and followed Frost to UCF, becoming the defensive coordinator. Chinander was a walk-on offensive lineman for Iowa from 1998-2002 and helped lead Northern Iowa to the FCS national championship game in 2005 and the semifinals in 2008 as the tight ends coach. He coached with Frost at UNI during the 2007 and 2008 seasons.

Mike Dawson, defensive line coach

Hometown: Pepperell, Massachusetts

Alma mater: UMass-Amherst (1997)

Another member of the Chip Kelly coaching tree, Dawson coached with Kelly at New Hampshire, serving as an offensive line coach, linebackers coach and defensive coordinator. Dawson joined Kelly in Philadelphia as a defensive quality control coach in 2013 and then moved to assistant defensive line coach for 2014-15. In 2016, Dawson was hired by Frost to coach the defensive line at UCF. Dawson was also the linebackers coach for Akron (2006-08) and the special teams coach for Boston College (2009-11).

Travis Fisher, defensive backs coach

Hometown: Tallahassee, Florida

Alma mater: Central Florida (2002)

Under Fisher’s tutelage, UCF saw a record number five defensive backs — including all four starters from 2016 — sign NFL contracts within the same month. Shaquill Griffin was drafted in the third round by the Seattle Seahawks while T.J. Mutcherson (Houston Texans), Drico Johnson (Arizona Cardinals), D.J. Killings (New England Patriots) and Jeremy Boykins (Tennessee Titans) signed free agent contracts in May 2017. Following his own playing career at UCF, Fisher became the Golden Knights’ highest drafted defensive back. He was selected by the St. Louis Rams in the second round of the NFL draft and registered 341 tackles and nine interceptions. He began his coaching career in 2013 as UCF’s defensive quality assistant under coach George O’Leary and in his first season the Knights reached the Fiesta Bowl.

Tom Osborne declines comment on Nebraska hiring Scott Frost; former coach, A.D. says anything ‘should come from Bill Moos’

Retired Nebraska coach and Athletic Director Tom Osborne was in Omaha on Saturday afternoon to watch the Lincoln East-Lincoln Pius X boys basketball game at Millard West.

Osborne’s grandson, Christian Wilke, plays for the Spartans, and news that Nebraska was going to hire Scott Frost as its 33rd coachbroke during the game.

Frost was Nebraska’s quarterback in 1996 and 1997, Osborne’s final two years as coach.

During the second half — which East won 63-50 — Osborne watched the game and was seen chatting on his phone, even entertaining a toddler in the stands.

On his way out after the game, Osborne declined to comment on the news.

“Anything about that from the athletic department should come from Bill Moos,” the 80-year-old said. “Anything else about that should come from Scott.”

Nebraska regents like the hiring of Scott Frost, credit new A.D. Bill Moos for making it happen

University of Nebraska regents and administrators expressed giddiness Saturday night over the hiring of Scott Frost.

They also cheered Athletic Director Bill Moos, on the job for only a few weeks, for locking down Frost, perhaps the most sought after college coach among those considered available.

Frost’s Central Florida team remained unbeaten Saturday with a double-overtime win against Memphis.

“We’ve got a coach,” Regent Howard Hawks of Omaha said in celebratory fashion.

Said Regent Bob Phares of North Platte: “Great hire.”

“So we’re off to the races,” Regent Hal Daub of Omaha said.

Regent Jim Pillen of Columbus, who played for the Huskers in the 1970s, said it was going to be terrific to have all Nebraskans fully behind the Huskers again.

“It’s been a while,” Pillen said.

Regent Tim Clare of Lincoln said Moos, Chancellor Ronnie Green and President Hank Bounds deserve the credit.

Frost, Clare said, is “not only an outstanding winning coach, but also one who understands our culture and understands what Nebraska is and what Nebraska’s all about.”

Frost went to high school in Wood River, Nebraska, and played quarterback for the Huskers.

Regent Paul Kenney of Amherst said excited constituents were calling and texting him. Hiring Frost is “something we needed to have happen.”

Green credited Moos and said it was an exciting day.

He said in a written statement that not only is Frost considered the premier young coach in college football today, he’s a native son, a former national championship player and an Academic All-American.

Bounds welcomed Frost and his family back to Nebraska. “The best predictor of future performance is past performance, and Scott Frost’s record speaks for itself,” Bounds said.

Regents Chairman Bob Whitehouse of Papillion said Frost was “certainly the first choice.”

Whitehouse called it “a good thing and a good time for Nebraska right now.”

Regent Rob Schafer of Beatrice said Moos “did a nice job dancing between the raindrops,” referring to the finesse most likely required to get Frost.

And, Schafer said, it’s a fine day to be a regent. Now they can get back to governing the education, research and outreach missions of NU. They won’t have to field calls about football, he said.

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