After Nebraska joined the Big Ten in 2011, fourth-year football coach Bo Pelini stood before hundreds of media members from across the conference and boldly declared that the Huskers had nothing to worry about.
“We’re going to do what we do, and we’re going to do it well,” he said. “We’re not really going to adapt what we do to the conference. We’re going to hopefully make the conference adapt to what we do.”
The best-laid plans, right?
Nebraska is stuck on zero Big Ten titles. It has yet to lose fewer than four games in a season since jumping from the Big 12. It certainly has failed to impose “what it does” on the rest of the league.
And it showed the controversial Pelini the door after the 2014 campaign, and gave the garden-variety Mike Riley the boot after last year’s 4-8 debacle.
So, now what? Well, there’s tremendous hope for a Huskers rebirth. There’s newfound belief in the notion that the league’s West division might someday counterbalance the dominant East.
The difference is Scott Frost. In 1997, the native Nebraskan quarterbacked the Huskers to a 13-0 record and a shared national championship with Michigan. Twenty years later, he coached UCF to a 13-0 record and a self-proclaimed (read: highly unofficial) national championship.
Frost is home again in Lincoln, the most talked-about new coach in the Big Ten since Jim Harbaugh returned to Michigan in 2014.
What Harbaugh has thus far been unable to do with the Wolverines — put them in line for championships — Frost will aim for with the Huskers. Frost, 43, checked any political pretensions at the downtown Marriott door Monday before telling it like it is during the league’s annual gathering of coaches, top players and media.
“Nebraska stood for a lot of things when it was great,” he said.
Integrity, character, unity, player development, hunger, a blue-collar culture — according to Frost, all those attributes that defined the program in its heyday under Tom Osborne have been compromised at times over the years.
“Coach Osborne had the formula that Nebraska figured out. Some of the things he did to make the program arguably the best in the country can still work today. Nebraska has just done away from them. We’re going to adopt a lot of things again and do it in a modern way and do it in a way that recruits and kids are going to want to be a part of.”
Unlike some of his predecessors, Frost is happy to keep Osborne close to the program.
“Coach Osborne is my hero in this sport, in this business,” he said.
Osborne coached the Huskers for 25 seasons, never once losing as many as four games. His last five teams were a combined 60-3, capped by perfection in ’97, his final ride at the wheel.
It’s a heck of a lot for Frost to live up to. But someone needs to at least begin to bridge the divide for the Huskers, and Frost seems just right for the task.