As all the twists and turns and bizarre happenings of coaching search season light up the college football world day after day, all is quiet on the Nebraska home front.
Bill Moos appears to have completed his holiday shopping early. All signs continue to point to the big prize being Central Florida head coach and former Husker quarterback Scott Frost.
One national college football writer on Thursday wrote, “The silence you hear from Nebraska is tranquility.”
Another: “(The) Huskers are sipping piña coladas with their feet up watching other coaching searches burst into flames.”
What Moos and company are likely actually doing is making sure that Frost’s eventual hiring makes it to the finish line.
Look around the country, though, and that’s about as good as NU could possibly hope for, given that Frost's No. 14 Knights are preparing for Saturday's American Athletic Conference title game against No. 20 Memphis.
“It’s basically turned out to be right guy, right time,” said Chris Vannini, who covers the Group of Five conferences and coaching searches for The Athletic. Before that, he was the managing editor at CoachingSearch.com. He’s seen a thing or two on this front.
A glance around the country sheds some light on just how true that sentiment is for Nebraska.
Tennessee has been turned down by at least three candidates — Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy, Purdue’s Jeff Brohm and North Carolina State’s Dave Doeren — and that’s only the list since the school backed out of a signed memorandum of understanding with Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano because Volunteers fans protested in large numbers.
Reports say UT offered Gundy $7 million per year and Doeren $1 million more per year than he accepted to stay with the Wolfpack, yet the search rolls on.
Arizona State fired Todd Graham and is now set to hire ESPN analyst Herm Edwards. Edwards last coached the Kansas City Chiefs from 2006-08 and has not been involved in college football at all since serving as San Jose State’s defensive backs coach from 1987-89.
“Two of the strangest searches I’ve ever seen are happening in the same time in Tennessee and Arizona State, which appears to have straight-up settled on hiring a former client of their athletic director who hasn’t coached college football in 30 years,” Vannini said. “That’s very strange. And the whole Tennessee situation and the backlash and the role of social media is also very strange.”
Florida State still has a head coach in Jimbo Fisher, but reportedly asked him on Thursday to make up his mind on whether he’s leaving for Texas A&M. If he does leave, who knows how far the ripple effect will be felt. If he stays, will the Seminoles deal with the same kind of situation next year, like they did when Fisher was LSU’s target last fall?
Arkansas, meanwhile, has searches for an athletic director and a football coach running concurrently and separate search firms working on each.
All things considered, UCLA (Chip Kelly), Florida (Dan Mullen), Mississippi State (Joe Moorhead) and even Oregon State (Jonathan Smith) made out well to secure coaches before November ended.
It appears Nebraska has, too, though the announcement will come in early December. Friday marks a week since the Huskers lost 56-14 to Iowa to end the season and Saturday marks a week since Mike Riley was fired. Even if it takes that long (eight or nine days) before NU's hiring is official, it still will have been a very smooth process.
“It always helps if you have the perfect candidate available,” Vannini said. “Nebraska’s search has reminded me a lot of Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh search (in 2014) because that hire was made in late December, which really is late in the process these days. But they had enough confidence and obviously Harbaugh wanted it and they made it work. It worked pretty simply.”
It’s easy to wonder — not for too long, if you’re a Husker fan — what might have been if not for Frost.
“In a vacuum, the Florida job is better, Tennessee is better, UCLA is better, A&M is better, if Florida State opens, that’s better,” Vannini said. “I would probably have Nebraska around the Arkansas level but higher because Arkansas has an incredibly tough division and Nebraska has a much easier division.”
Call it fortunate. Call it effective work by Chancellor Ronnie Green and NU President Hank Bounds to hire Moos in time to make all of this work. Call it effective work by Moos to — apparently — secure the prize and fend off any other suitors. Call it the exact opposite of Nebraska’s 2003-04 search that eventually concluded, after 40 days, with the hiring of Bill Callahan.
It’s shaping up to be a mix of all of that and also Frost’s willingness to come back to his alma mater.
Among schools looking for a head coach this fall, Nebraska sits in an enviable position.