For 30 minutes Wednesday, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Ronnie Green was able to steer the conversation away from football and instead focus on broader issues surrounding higher education in the U.S.

Then the second-year chancellor opened the floor at the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce's Face the Chamber event for questions.

The first two questions — about how to keep out-of-state students in Nebraska after they graduate and the status of Innovation Campus, UNL's research park — offered insight into the academic and research operations of the university, while leaving the burning question on the table.

The third and final question, from former Lincoln mayor and state senator Don Wesely, was playful, but direct: "We all know winter is coming in Nebraska. When is Frost coming to Nebraska?"

The banquet room at the Country Club of Lincoln filled with laughs and groans. "That was a pretty good one," Green interjected, as the response melted into applause.

Scott Frost, the former Husker quarterback whispered by some fans to be Nebraska's next head coach — when and if its current head coach is shown the door — leads 18th-ranked and unbeaten University of Central Florida.

Green, who often speaks candidly, offered a roundabout response, that while providing some insight into his thinking, did not answer the question.

When he was interviewing for the job in late 2015 and early 2016, Green said he would tell university stakeholders that while his knowledge of athletics was lacking, his appreciation was not.

Taking the helm at the state's flagship university, which is one of only a few institutions to have a self-sustaining athletic program, has taught him a lot in the last 18 months.

"What I've learned about athletics is it's just like any other business," he said. "It's about metrics, it's about performance, it's about management, it's about expectations, it's about accountability, it's about customers.

"The product is just different," he added. "When you realize the need for change in that business, you need to act."

Green referred to the hiring of Bill Moos as athletic director last month, saying the veteran administrator is now evaluating the product NU puts on the field.

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"We understand the expectations on the level of competitiveness that are expected from Nebraska, and we're evaluating how to get there," he said.

But, Green added, "purely in an entertaining way," Nebraskans turning their attention to Frost was an amusing twist, based on his personal history.

Green was in the stands with his wife, Jane, and their two oldest children at the 1998 Orange Bowl when Frost led the Huskers to their third national title in four years, with a 42-17 win against Peyton Manning and Tennessee.

Furthermore, Green said, Jane's freshman roommate at Nebraska was Frost's first cousin.

Nebraska's a small place, he said.

"So, yeah, I know who Scott Frost is."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7120 or cdunker@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @ChrisDunkerLJS.

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Chris Dunker covers higher education.

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