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

December 3, 2017 GMT

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.