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Frost comes home with hopes of unifying program

Scott Frost is home, and home is different than other places life can take you.

Home is where you can joke that it looks like some former players have been eating too much, and that’s what Frost did during a news conference Sunday when he was introduced as Nebraska’s head football coach.

When you’re home you talk about a legendary former coach, like Frost did of Tom Osborne, but it sounds more genuine, because he’s also your mentor and friend.

Home is where you smile when the athletic director talks about the former players, because you’re one of them. And then you look to the back of the room, where those guys are all there to support you.

At home, there are some people who get a hug, instead of a handshake.

Home is where you reference Nebraska towns such as Minden, Gothenburg and Columbus. And you know where those towns are, and probably someone who lives there.

Frost is home.

“Can’t tell you how special this is for a kid that grew up in Nebraska, basically grew up on this campus when my mom was a track and field coach here and I was running around, getting into trouble and getting run over on the Devaney Center track,” Frost said. “From there, to playing here, to being other places coaching for as long as I have, to get an opportunity to come back here is special to me.

"Words can’t describe how much it means to me to be back here in a place that I love, a place that I understand, a place that I want to represent.”

If there was a theme of the day it might be that Frost is ready to unify a program that has been divided, staggered by years of disappointing seasons and coaching changes.

“I think this state is hungry for unity,” Frost said. “When I was here under Coach Osborne, there was unity in purpose, and unity in belief, and unity of understanding and unity of support for this program, what it stood for, and what it was accomplishing.

"This program needs that again, this state needs that again.”

That sounds good to Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos. Now Moos isn’t worried about the Memorial Stadium sellout streak ending. He’s hoping that so many people will want to watch the Huskers that NU will need to add seats.

Moos, a seasoned veteran in running athletics departments, has previously seen how important unity can be for a program, but never like he has here.

“And a lot of that has to do with through the decades, the feeling of current players that they couldn’t let those before them down. And it was their duty to keep winning and keep the tradition going, and then pass it to the new generation and get in their face that it’s on you now,” Moos said. “See, we need to get back to that, and these guys (the former Huskers), when Scott addressed them, he goes, everyone in this room knows what it was like, and the responsibility and obligation we all had to pass on, and we've got to get back to that. And it was very special. I’ll remember that for a long time.”

About 150 former players showed up Sunday morning to welcome Frost, waiting as a group when Frost walked into the Nebraska weight room.

Moos also saw that unity between Frost and Osborne.

“To see those two together — and I got to see it in my office — that’s why you play the game, those kind of relationships and the respect that Scott has for his old coach, that’s pretty special,” Moos said.

The former players fully support Frost, ex-Husker Jay Moore said.

“It just feels right, feels like the way it should be,” he said.

It’s pretty amazing how many ex-players turned out Sunday, Osborne said, noting that many came from a considerable distance.

Frost’s experience at Nebraska as a player will serve him well, the former coach said.

“I think probably the most important thing that a coach does is establish a culture, and sometimes it’s hard to explain a culture if you haven’t lived it, and you haven’t experienced it, and Scott’s done that,” Osborne said. “He’ll bring a lot of his own ideas. This isn’t going to be a return to 1997 in terms of offense, defense, those kind of things.

"But he understands the things that need to be done here, and he knows some of those basics that helped sustain it over a 42-year period, and that’s going to be critical.”

Watching from afar for many years now, Frost thinks that there has been a lack of unity at Nebraska, even as fans have continued to fill the stadium. If he can bring that back, Frost said, it will be very rewarding.

“It’s my hope that by returning this to its roots, and maybe with me coming back, that we can get that passion all pointed in the right direction,” he said. “When that happens at Nebraska, this is the best place in the country to be, and I hope I can bring that to this place.”

It has been a busy, and emotional, few months for Frost. He and wife Ashley had their first child, as Frost led UCF to a 12-0 season.

There's been little time for sleep, to eat, to workout, even get a haircut, he joked.

And now he’s the coach at Nebraska.

“I don’t know if I’ll ever have another year as good as 2017," Frost said, "but we’re going to work really hard to make that happen."

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ACLU files lawsuit on behalf of death row inmates against Ricketts, Corrections Department

ACLU of Nebraska filed a lawsuit Monday on behalf of death row inmates that claims the ballot initiative that stopped the state Legislature’s 2015 repeal was illegal.

The complaint is an attempt to stop any executions, or even steps toward an execution, of the men on Nebraska’s death row.

Sandoval told the Journal Star last week he intends to fight the execution. At that time, he had no ongoing legal actions or appeals in federal or state courts.

“My reaction to the notice (of lethal injection drugs) was not a surprise. I've been expecting it for a year now," Sandoval said. "I intend to fight with the help of my attorneys -- Amy Miller and company.”

The ACLU confirmed Sunday that Miller, its legal director, has been in contact with Sandoval, who was notified Nov. 9 of the state’s intention to execute him with four specified lethal injection drugs. The organization is preparing to announce the scope of its representation of Sandoval early this week, it said.

The four drugs in combination that would be used in Sandoval’s execution, if it takes place, have never been used to execute a person.

The complaint charged the ballot initiative violated the Nebraska Constitution’s separation of powers. It said Gov. Pete Ricketts was the driving force behind the 2016 referendum, exploiting government staff, resources and his own elected position to raise money for the ballot initiative and to persuade voters to support it.

“In Nebraska, our state Constitution ... establishes a strong tradition with a clear separation of powers,” ACLU Executive Director Danielle Conrad said Sunday. “The governor can’t have it both ways and serve both as a member of the executive and legislative branches.”

The petition drive got underway in 2015 and the sponsoring group, Nebraskans for the Death Penalty, gathered 167,000 signatures, enough to stop the repeal from being in effect until a vote in November 2016.

The Legislature had voted to repeal Nebraska’s death penalty with a bill (LB268) that passed on a 32-15 vote. Ricketts vetoed the bill and then the Legislature voted to override the veto on a 30-19 vote that cut across party lines.

Shortly after that, Nebraskans for the Death Penalty was formed and raised just over $913,000, a third of it contributed by Ricketts and his father Joe Ricketts.

The governor’s actions pose important legal questions with grave consequences, Conrad said.

She said the end result of those actions was the restoration of a “broken” death penalty that is racially biased, risks execution of innocent people and raises constitutional concerns about the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishments.

Ricketts' office responded in a statement issued Sunday evening.

“The Governor's Office holds itself to a high standard and follows state law regarding the use of taxpayer resources," said Taylor Gage, the governor's spokesman. "This liberal advocacy group has repeatedly worked to overturn the clear voice of the Nebraska people on the issue of capital punishment and waste taxpayer dollars with frivolous litigation. The administration remains committed to protecting public safety and creating a safe environment for our Corrections officers."

The ACLU lawsuit — filed on behalf of death row inmates against Ricketts, Treasurer Don Stenberg, founders of Nebraskans for the Death Penalty, Attorney General Doug Peterson, the Department of Correctional Services and Director Scott Frakes — asked the court to immediately stop all preparations for executing Sandoval and the other 10 men on death row.

Peterson plans to ask the Nebraska Supreme Court for a death warrant after 60 days following the notification of drugs that would be used.

That ACLU complaint said that as the governor, Ricketts’ power over the repeal bill ended when the Legislature overrode his veto.

It claimed the subsequent ballot initiative should not stand, as it was the result of repeated, extensive and illegal abuses of the governor’s power. The state’s constitution reserves ballot initiatives as a legislative power for the people to use as a check on the legislature, and it further prohibits anyone in one branch of government from exercising powers over another branch, the ACLU said.

Ricketts encouraged or ordered members of the executive branch and his allies in the Legislature and local governments to work for the referendum campaign or to express public support for it, the complaint said.

For example, Stenberg was simultaneously a leader of the campaign in the first few months, serving as co-chairman with Sen. Beau McCoy, the ACLU charged. In the middle of the campaign, Ricketts rewarded Jessica Flanagain, the campaign manager and coordinator, with a publicly paid position in the government as special adviser to the governor for external affairs, with a salary of $130,000, the complaint alleges.

The lawsuit also noted that Nebraskans for the Death Penalty made an error that invalidated the referendum by failing to submit sworn statements from its sponsors, as required by law to assure the sponsors’ names aren’t fraudulent and assure transparency in the working of ballot campaigns.

Previous litigation more narrowly alleged the referendum petition was not legally sufficient because a list of sponsors filed with the petition did not include the name of Ricketts, who it claimed engaged in activities that established that he was a sponsor of the referendum. The district court dismissed the complaint. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding Ricketts’ alleged financial or other support of the referendum did not make him a person “sponsoring the petition.”


Scott Frost emerges from an elevator Sunday flanked by Husker athletic director Bill Moos (left) and Tom Osborne, his former coach at Nebraska.