Allow me to pick your brains for a moment…
*ANY NAMES MENTIONED ARE JUST FOR THE ARTICLE AND NOT ANY SORT OF CONNECTION TO THE PROGRAM*
We all hope Head Coach Scott Frost has a successful year five, myself included, it’d be the easiest outcome for all of us –fans, athletic department, Frost himself. He gets to keep his job and we have success and are relevant again, but, if for some reason losing happens again with Nebraska Football in 2022,and they are looking for a new coach next year, allow me to beg this question: What are YOUR expectations? What do you want from this program? Do you just want it better than it is now? Do you want them to take a big swing and try to get back in the upper echelon? Are you content with being Iowa? Yeah, I said it. With its current state, Nebraska would be ecstatic to be where Iowa is currently. They send numerous players to the NFL, they’re nationally ranked pretty much every week, they win 8-10 games a year, oh AND they beat their rivals, AND ranked teams. Boy, I know at least I would. I don’t care about the history of either program, we all know it, I know Jared on the pod has said the same. That’s just part of the problem, fans are so quick to cite the history of both programs because we have nothing else to say currently. It’s ‘what have you done for me lately?’ A whole lotta nothin’, that’s what. Make no mistake, I strongly dislike the black and gold, but it’s hard not to see their success in recent years compared to their “rivals.”
On the other hand, do you want to be on the level of Ohio State, Clemson, etc. Do you, as a fan, even think it’s possible to get back to that? Sports are weird, all it takes is one peak year to cement a legacy, looking at you 2021 Michigan. I ask again, what do you want out of this program as a fan, and what are your expectations in 2022?
“But we already had an 8–10 win coach and fired him for that!” Yes, and he wasn’t fired for winning games, we all know that. He was fired because his boss was a child who couldn’t handle a little criticism. At least he’s gone too. Plus, if Bo Pelini is such a good coach, then why is nobody clamoring to hire him anymore? It sure isn’t his attitude, that hasn’t stopped Brian Kelly from getting jobs. I’ve always held the opinion that if Nebraska kept Bo the on-field product would slowly dwindle, and he would have been fired anyway and they’d be in the same spot they are now. The pod guys can vouch for that. If Frost would have won 8-10 games each year, he would have gotten a lifetime extension already, of course he practically has one already with his deal. I think Pelini even got a rolling one-year extension anyway as it was.
Where was I? Ah yes, what should the expectations be. Let’s just say hypothetically, Frost doesn’t meet whatever these mystery goals are and is fired. Who should be the choice?
Urban Meyer - The guy is a proven winner. He’s won 3 National Championships at two schools, maybe a fourth title at a third school if you count Utah. Did the Utes claim that title? Or is that just something Frost and UCF do? Okay that was low-hanging fruit, you caught me. Before the BCS and the Alabama Invitational – er, College Football Playoff – National Championships have always been “claimed” and everybody went along with it because that was the system. Urban puts the entire Big Ten on notice, and with the “new” Big Ten coming in 2024, a splash needs to be made. Hey, at least if we hire him we don’t have an AD that will spew his mouth off and put a target on the program right away. I wonder if Michigan and Ohio State are still shaking in their boots? Urban also has enough of a resume that he doesn’t have to “hope the league has to adjust to him.”
Urban is also approaching 60, coming off a laughable stint in the NFL and it’s very well-documented that he hates losing, so if he becomes a college coach again it will be at a program that’s already built up. This remains a pipe dream. He also doesn’t have the greatest track record as a human. What will 2023-2025 Urban Meyer do? Will he turn his program into a power like he always does, or has the game passed him by? This is certainly a swing for the fences move.
Luke Fickell – If there was a time to jump from Cincinnati, it was last year. Now that they made the playoff AND have joined a power conference if such a thing exists, there’s no chance he goes to do another rebuild project in my opinion. Cincinnati hasn’t lost a regular season game in two years. In the past three years they’ve won 33 games. Nebraska has won 15 in four years. Do you think Fickell is going to leave what he has for that? Not a chance. Not to mention he grew up in Ohio and has never left, even as a coach. However, if he ever was to leave it would be for one of the super conferences and likely the Big Ten where he is familiar.
The track record for coaches from the American is also not great after jumping to a P5 job. Tom Herman was fired, Frost isn’t good, Mike Norvell has left much to be desired at Florida State, and he was the last American opponent to beat Fickell. Fickell comes from the Urban Meyer tree and has won big. He knows what winning football looks like. This hire would be a lot like Meyer – a big swing that can take you to the next step. For every bad AAC coach that has jumped, there are the Matt Rhule’s, who is now coaching in the NFL. And speaking of…
Matt Rhule – The resume speaks for itself. He turned Temple around in four years, taking them to back-to-back 10-win seasons and a conference title. He then went to Baylor on the heels of their giant sexual assault scandal and went 1-11 his first year. One win. He won 11 games by Year 3 and played in the Sugar Bowl. That’s called a culture change. He parlayed that into an NFL head coaching job with the Carolina Panthers and hasn’t been able to gain much traction, winning just ten games in two seasons. Granted, Christian McCaffery has been hurt but that’s still no excuse to hitch your wagon to Sam Darnold, and now Baker Mayfield. NFL coaches get no time anymore, and he may not make it through the season if they are bad again. If the Panthers are bad and the Huskers are bad, Rhule needs to be the first call in my opinion. This is a guy that’s built up programs and knows what he’s doing. He can get the best out of his players. This is a sure-fire way to build up the program again, because Rhule doesn’t care about the history, he cares about the now.
The drawback of course is that he doesn’t have a penchant for staying at places long. If he builds it back up and leaves, so be it, that means he was doing a good job. Would you, as a fan, be okay with a coach leaving after building the program back up? I think I would at this point. NFL success, or lack thereof, has no bearing on collegiate success, they are completely different environments. Nick Saban and Steve Spurrier lasted two years in the NFL. They’re decent college coaches. These three are the big hits, if Nebraska can somehow land any of them, those are huge swings to put them back on the map.
Dave Aranda – The current head coach at Baylor, he took over for Rhule, and like Rhule, struggled his first year, winning two games. Unlike Rhule, he won the conference in Year 2. The more impressive thing is that those are his only two years as a head coach. He topped it off by winning the Sugar Bowl. He has experience in the Big Ten as the defensive coordinator at Wisconsin for three years, and then spent the next four seasons at LSU, winning a National Championship as the defensive coordinator. An interesting piece came out about Aranda last year during the season and Baylor’s turnaround about how he never really wanted to be a head coach, but he thought the time was right after speaking with Baylor. With Oklahoma and Texas leaving, Baylor with Aranda might be set up to dominate the conference. I don’t disagree that the new Big Ten and SEC are going to attract coaches like never before, it’s the place to be with all the money coming in comparatively, but some guys are just comfortable, Aranda seems like that guy. Why would he leave a good situation where he could potentially be the top program in a few years to try and rebuild one? It might be too early, but I would put Aranda in the above group. He’s proven he can win, and in a short time, not to mention all the different championships as an assistant and now head coach.
Dan Mullen – See, here is where it gets tricky. He is out of a job, had a great run at Mississippi State, but fizzled out at Florida. He’s also part of the Meyer tree and is considered an offensive guru. He went to a bigger job where expectations are higher and flamed out, that’s not a great endorsement for another program with high expectations. I can be sold on this but his short tenure at Florida should give anybody pause.
Lance Leipold – This man can coach. He was an assistant under Solich for a year, won numerous National Championships at the Division 3 level, took Buffalo to the most success it’s ever seen, and is now trying to turn Kansas around. What’s the theme? Small schools. How would he do at a bigger school, albeit one he is sort of familiar with. If you want 7+ wins, Leipold is probably your guy, or somebody like former Minnesota coach Jerry Kill, and if you’re happy with that, great. There is no wrong way to “fan.”
Group of 5 head coach or Power 5 assistant – How about a shot in the dark on coaches that have had success but are unproven in higher roles? I think the Group of 5 head coach is really the only thing they haven’t tried at this point. NFL coach (Callahan) didn’t work, Power 5 assistant (Pelini) worked, sort of, but his time was up, offensive genius and alumni (Frost) hasn’t worked. They haven’t tried “sitting Power 5 head coach” but those guys just don’t really move anymore. Remember how I mentioned 7+ wins? This category is for you, too.
I don’t know what’s going to happen, and maybe the program surprises us all and wins 8 or 9 games. If they do, great, but insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result, etc. There are all kinds of options, and given where the program is at currently, I think it’s fair to ask what your expectations as a fan are.