11/10/05 Scott's Thoughts by Scott Frost Sometimes I think that I care too much. I was in Lawrence on Saturday and I saw our guys go down in defeat at the hands of a team that we had beaten every year for almost four decades. I can’t tell you how hard it was to watch. Seeing Jayhawk fans yelling and jeering and storming the field made my stomach turn. Now in the wake of that loss I have been hearing all sorts of opinions about what is going wrong and what should be changed. Some of them make some sense and some are ridiculous. People everywhere I go are asking me for my views on the program. I certainly don’t have all of the answers, but I can offer you some of my feelings as a former player who has bled, sweat, thrown-up, cried, fought, been criticized, been vindicated, and been a part of a champion while wearing Husker red. I have concerns and a few problems with some of the things that have happened surrounding our beloved program. I have talked to a lot of other players and they have the same concerns. I cannot speak for any of them or for anyone else, but I think people would like to know how ex-players feel, and I think that my opinions probably reflect those of most of the guys who have been a part of Husker football. Let me begin by reiterating that the reason so many of us are so frustrated is that we care so much. That concern is what sets Nebraska apart. I started my career at another institution where it is not nearly as rare to go five and six, and I’ve seen first hand how much more passion there is surrounding Husker football than almost every other program in the country. Sometimes I don’t think that some of the people in the program right now knew what they were getting themselves into when they signed up to come here. That leads me to my first major concern about what is happening at Memorial Stadium- the complete and intentional departure and detachment from anything that had to do with the way it was. Let’s start with the people. We didn’t just get a new coaching staff two years ago, there was basically a house cleaning. So many of the people in South stadium who made Nebraska what it was either left or were forced to leave that many of us as former players do not even feel comfortable coming around the campus anymore. That’s a shame. It was commonplace when I was playing to have ex-players like Cory Schlessinger, Tyrone Williams, and Will Shields come to meetings or compete against us in passing league. Now, most guys don’t even know who to call if they want to watch a practice. I know they kept Coach Gill around when they brought in the new staff and he was a link to the past, but he moved on. Jimmy Williams and Marvin Sanders weren’t asked to return. Their excellent coaching abilities aside, it sure would be nice to have someone like them on the staff that is familiar with the traditions of Nebraska football. It isn’t just university employees either, it’s also the players. When we won the national championship in 1997, nine out of our eleven starters on offense were from the state of Nebraska. We had a system in place that was able to organize and develop more athletes, therefore there were more players on a Nebraska practice field than most schools normally have. A great number of those players were walk-ons from the state of Nebraska who would give their heart and soul for the football team. Not only did that create a team that cared more about winning, it also made for a huge amount of caring and involvement throughout the state. When you live in a town like Funk, Nebraska, and you know Kyle Larson personally, it generates a sense of pride in our state for a program that could take boys from our own hometowns and develop them into players who could compete with and beat anyone. I’m all for going to California and Florida to recruit great players. Heaven knows we need guys like Marlon Lucky and Harrison Beck to make us better, but I also wish we wouldn’t stop making the effort to bring home-grown athletes along as Huskers. If you want more proof about the complete overhaul of Nebraska football, look at some of the small things. Why after so many years did “Husker Power” fail to be a worthy slogan for our team? Now it’s “the power of red”. Why did the program where the coaches went to Lincoln, Omaha, and a town out west to show loyal fans the game film end? Talk about a way to help keep fans interested and loyal (fundraising!). Even Herbie Husker got an overhaul from blonde to brunette. It almost feels like anything that symbolizes or relates to the Huskers of Devaney, Osborne, and Solich was simply not good enough anymore. That leads me to the next major concern that I have right now-its character. I’m not making this point to attack or demean anyone. I just know the kind of character that people throughout the program used to have. It all started with Tom Osborne. The man simply has more honor and integrity than anyone I have ever known. When he knew something was right, he did it. When he knew something was wrong, he always stayed away. I never once got cursed at by a Nebraska coach on the football field. Our coaches had a biblical devotional every morning before they started their meetings. Tom would never promise a recruit playing time, he would simply tell them that they would get a fair opportunity to show what they could do. The best complement that you could get from him is that you were “a pretty good player”. He’s the kind of guy that could lead a group of people to accomplish the absolute most that they were capable of accomplishing. The character didn’t just end with Tom either. Ron Brown and Turner Gill are two of the best people I know. Milt Tenopir was like a father to most of the guys who played for him. The relationship that Charlie had with most of his guys, while slightly different, was wonderful. It was like a big family, and that environment made us all want to work harder and succeed that much more. We simply did things better and cleaner at the University of Nebraska than they did it anywhere else. There was an element of class about the program that was the envy of every other college football team. I want to become a college football coach, and I plan on looking for a place to start a career in that field after this season is over. A few months ago I told Ron Brown that I wanted to coach. His advice to me was that if I was getting into coaching just to try to win games and be around football, then it wasn’t worth it. It would drive me crazy and the hours wouldn’t be justified. If I was going to coach on the other hand, with my primary goal being to try and impact the lives of the guys that you work with than the job could be more rewarding than almost anything else I could do. I’m paraphrasing a little bit, but you get the point. I really think that for most of the staff, winning was a goal that was secondary to shaping us as players into good men. I’m not saying things are different now, I don’t know. I would just hate to see us become like everybody else in college football. We have always been special, and I hope we always will be. Building on that point, I would like to add this. It is not fair to be calling for the firing of any of our coaches right now. Everyone is entitled to their opinions about how things are going on the field, but we owe these guys a fair chance to get things turned around. If I was a coach that took over a program like Nebraska I would feel like I deserved at least three or four years to fully integrate my philosophies and tactics as a coach and leader. Granted there probably needs to be signs of improvement along the way, but it’s not fair to be talking about a change right now. It also doesn’t make sense to be firing so many arrows at the staff in the middle of the season. These guys have a job to do, and the fewer distractions they have, the better they will perform. On top of that, we don’t want the players feeling like they are in the midst of a firestorm. We don’t want them worried that they might have a new coach in a year or two or three. I have heard rumors that some of our vaunted freshmen are kicking around the idea of transferring. We can’t lose these kids. Whoever is coaching needs talented players. There is a time and a place for everything. If things haven’t improved by the end of the ’06 season then maybe people should voice their opinions on who is the right person to lead our program, but not right now. Now is the time that we should be supporting our team and our players so that they understand that they are a part of something special. People always ask me what I think about the West Coast Offense. I simply say this. They are going to have to prove to me that it is the best way to win in Lincoln, Nebraska before I believe it. I’m not saying it can’t work. There are all sorts of different kinds of offensive systems that work in college football; everything from Utah’s spread offense to USC’s west coast, to Air Force’s option attack. If you have the right players and you coach your system well, most offenses can be successful. You can’t argue with the success that the WCO has had at both the collegiate and professional levels. It can work, but the jury is still out as to whether it will work here. On the other hand, I hear people arguing that a running and or option attack like the one we used to run is outdated and won’t work anymore. Let me tell you something- not that much has changed since the mid-nineties. The athletes are not that much bigger and stronger. Einstein didn’t come back to life and invent a defense that can stop a properly run belly option. Like I said, any system can work if you teach the right players the right way. That being said, there were reasons why Tom Osborne ran the system that he did (reference my blog from 9/14). You don’t have to throw the ball every down to win. You don’t have to run it every down either, but some kind of running game sure would help. Finally, my biggest frustration as a former player is the way in which some decisions have been made by the administration as well as the way some things have been handled. It is hard for me to comment on some of these situations because I have heard most of the stories second and third hand, but there are a few things I feel alright talking about. The first is the dismissal of the old coaching staff. I’m not sure exactly what happened, but I know that some of those people were not treated very well and not given a fair chance. There were a lot of Nebraskans who wanted to see a change in the coaching staff when Frank was in charge. Whether you wanted a change or not, you have to agree that those guys deserved to be treated with respect and they deserved to have the administration be up front with them. From letters slipped under doors to pointless and insincere interviews, the whole process seemed to be devious and harmful to a lot of people that many of us as former players are loyal to. After the firing of these people, the search for a new coach began. It was this process that left many of us confused and agitated, because it was done solely and completely by one man. Most major programs, when they hire a new coach, will put together a search committee. There are people who are loyal to our program who would have been tremendous resources in the selection process. I would have loved to have seen a committee made up of gentlemen such as Tom Osborne, Charlie McBride, Monte Kiffin, Ahman Green, Grant Wistrom, Mike Minter, Barry Alvarez, and Al Papik help identify the best candidate to take over our program. I guarantee that when Notre Dame picked a new head coach last year, more than one person was in on the decision. It’s just hard for me to believe that someone who probably couldn’t draw up an over front or and under front is the best person to pick a football coach. I actually think that things could have ended up worse, especially when you consider some of the other coaches that were rumored to have planes waiting at their local airports. The decision was made; our program is headed in a completely new direction. Now we all have to deal with it. All of us, including the administration. If those guys get things turned around and we start winning games and championships than everyone will look like a genius. If things don’t turn around, then we all know where the majority of the criticism will be directed. I know as a quarterback that when the team did well, I got a lot more praise than I deserved. When the team didn’t do well, far more than my rightful share of the blame fell on my shoulders. It goes with the territory. Steve Pedersen brought that on himself when he was so cavalier in making these tough decisions. Right or wrong, hero or villain, he took a big risk and painted himself into a tight corner. Time will tell how everyone is viewed in the history of our program. I know I am not the only one who feels this way about all of these issues. Most of the guys that I played with are more vocal than I am about many of these things. It isn’t just former players either. I know the stadium project hasn’t raised all of the money that they need yet. There are several people, and most of us know who they are, who could write a check tomorrow to have the whole facility finished. They’re not doing it because they are not happy with the state of affairs at South Stadium. I love Nebraska football. I love the state of Nebraska. I long for the days when the characteristics of the team we put on the field on Saturdays exemplified the characteristics of the hard working people of our state. We used to have the Taj mahal of college football programs. Now it feels like someone took 40 tons of dynamite to our proud and noble masterpiece and built a three bedroom ranch in its place. I’m not saying all of these things to be malicious or overly critical of anyone, but when it comes to a state institution, people have the right to be judgmental. I just want to share my opinions with all of the Husker fans out there who care as much about the program as I do.