ASHLAND -- For about five hours on Thursday, a group of Nebraska head coaches and athletic department staffers were on a bus as they toured the state to visit with fans in Norfolk, Fremont and Ashland.
Once off the bus, the objective was to share the athletic department with the rest of the state, with the stops this year for the Big Red Blitz chosen to give back to areas of the state directly affected by the devastating March floods.
On that bus, though, what you had were coaches and staff who are each working at Nebraska, but don’t get to spend a lot of time together.
On the trip were football coach Scott Frost, men’s basketball coach Fred Hoiberg, women’s basketball coach Amy Williams, wrestling coach Mark Manning and softball coach Rhonda Revelle. They were joined by athletic director Bill Moos and UNL Chancellor Ronnie Green.
So how did Frost spend his time on that bus, where he’s somewhat limited on what he can accomplish to improve the football team?
“We played some trivia for a while,” said Frost after the bus reached the evening stop at the SAC Museum near Ashland. “We heard some of Bill Moos’ jokes. He’s really good with jokes, so we were laughing. I did a couple of crossword puzzles, and read some. So it’s been a great trip just to have that camaraderie with the other coaches.”
Trivia? Yes, Frost is known for using an online trivia game to try and keep his mind sharp for the rapid pace at which he wants to call plays during a game.
“So there is this app -- I’ll advertise it -- called Sporcle. It’s my favorite website,” Frost said. “Anytime we travel I get a list, and everybody takes a turn where you have to name one of the things on that list, and if you get it right, you stay in the game, and if you miss, you’re out.”
Frost reports that Keith Mann, the communications director for the football program, was the best trivia player. Hoiberg apparently takes some risk at the game, just like he says his players will on their three-point shots.
“Fred did well, he just took a couple of long shots with a couple of answers and they weren’t on the list,” Frost said. “He held his own, but Keith was the A-player.”
Once Frost buried his head into a crossword, Hoiberg said he started watching some basketball film on his computer. With the roster set, he’s done watching recruit video for now, and is looking for ideas on how they’ll play.
“I’ve got a style-of-play edit that I’ve been watching,” Hoiberg said. “It’s a lot of the NBA teams, just some of the style and system. It’s about an hour-and-10-minute edit that I was watching. I’m just trying to see if there are certain concepts that we can fit in with the skill-set of our players.”
Hoiberg says watching film of other teams is a process that excites him.
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“It's one of the things I enjoy most about coaching is trying to figure out how to put your guys in a position where they can be successful,” he said. “(There are) a lot of great systems out there, and we’ve run a lot of different ones based on our personnel. That’s what we’re trying to figure out now with this group.”
As for what teams Hoiberg says he watches, it’s a couple of the teams that were successful in the NBA playoffs.
“I watch a lot of Milwaukee,” Hoiberg said. “I watch a lot of Golden State, but they’re hard because the talent they put on the floor, it’s so unique how they play. But (Steve Kerr) has done such a good job of getting those guys all to buy in and play an unselfish style of basketball. I watch everybody, I really do.”
While each of the coaches has extensive ties to the state -- Williams played at Nebraska, Hoiberg’s aunt, Jane Loewe, was a teacher in Palmer -- Frost is somewhat unique for a major college football coach for the ties he has to the state. He graduated high school from Wood River and was the quarterback for Nebraska’s 1997 national championship team. It was at a family lake cabin near Ashland where Frost learned to swim and water ski.
Frost said at some of the colleges he’s been, the coaches tour the state to try to get support for the program.
“There is no need to drum up support at Nebraska. The support is there,” Frost said. “To me this is more of an opportunity for us to say thank you to certain groups of our fan base.”
Here are a few comments from the public portion of the events:
* Frost is looking for Nebraska to be a tougher team in his second year as head coach.
“You guys all remember the Nebraska, it was nasty,” Frost said. “The people on the field with you were going to lose the next week, too, because we beat the piss out of you. I want to get a little of that nasty back.
“And to give everybody out here a compliment, I want our team to resemble the people of Nebraska, and the people with this community and the other ones we’ve been in have been through a lot this year. There is a lot of perseverance and toughness and character that exists in Nebraska people. Our football team needs to resemble that.”
* In a question from a fan, Moos was asked for his response to the Colorado athletic department hoping to keep Nebraska fans from getting tickets to the game in Boulder this fall. He had a short answer. “We’re on our way,” Moos said.