Nebraska football is serious business. The number of media members who cover it for a living (approximately 17,943) should tell you that.
But it’s OK to retain a sense of humor about it all.
Which is why I chuckled the other day when a friend, one who’s lived in several area codes, sent the following text:
“Congrats to Nebraska on its fourth consecutive offseason national championship,” he wrote with a high degree of sarcasm.
It’s true: The dynamic duo of Mike Riley and Shawn Eichorst could cultivate optimism with the best of them.
With Scott Frost and Bill Moos in charge, optimism flows much more organically, with nobody — including yours truly — having to force it down your throat.
You have to figure Nebraska fans eventually will be able to celebrate actual championships, although you should take nothing for granted. If there’s one thing Husker faithful should have learned during the past 15 years or so, it’s that you should never take winning for granted.
You should never take any win for granted.
If you’re a Nebraska fan still checking off, say, Akron and Purdue as surefire “W's,” purely out of instinct, you should check yourself.
In fact, if you’re a Nebraska fan painting Frost as a surefire savior of the program, you probably should check yourself — because casting him in that light essentially is a show of disrespect for the magnitude of his undertaking.
There are no guarantees — not even with the reigning national coach of the year in charge.
I respect the game too much — and respect Big Ten coaching too much — to think Nebraska automatically will snap back to championship form under Frost, even if the 43-year-old's unique pedigree does indeed cast him as the person best-suited to make it happen.
And what if it doesn’t happen under Frost? Then what? Then who?
We surely don’t need to go there, except to reiterate the notion of “no guarantees” while also acknowledging a certain urgency in the discussion. This Frost thing has to work, right? This situation is a journalist’s dream because everything feels incredibly important right now.
Granted, Frost may not be the only human on earth who can get Nebraska football rolling again, but go ahead and tell me, who would be better?
I hear crickets, and that sound alone indicates the daunting nature of the task at hand.
Patience will be required. In year one, Nebraska fans likely will have to grin and bear it through some difficult defeats. Asking fans to remain patient is always an interesting concept to monitor.
But it’ll be easier for fans to remain patient if they see good, hard-nosed football played with energy and enthusiasm.
It’ll be easier to remain patient if blowout losses become much less common.
It’ll be easier to remain patient if Wisconsin and Iowa don’t push around Nebraska.
It’ll be easier to remain patient if a clear program identity comes into focus in short order.
If all goes according to form, you’ll see rigid adherence to superb conditioning, a super-charged offense that's hard to prepare for, a ball-hawking defense that consistently produces turnovers, and a culture that emphasizes a mix of hard work and fun.
All the while, Frost will tell you what he thinks. He has some spice. Exhibit A: During his first five months here, he’s more than once cast Frank Solich and Bo Pelini in a positive light. Doing so perhaps indicates Frost’s frustration with those who take a certain level of winning for granted.
Consider these records:
* Frank Solich 58-19 at Nebraska (.753).
* Bill Callahan 27-22 (.551).
* Bo Pelini 67-27 (.713).
* Mike Riley 19-19 (.500).
Although many Nebraska fans tend to lump the four in discussions about the program’s decline, Frost seemingly doesn’t. Perhaps it’s because Solich and Pelini were fired following nine-win regular seasons, while Frost would be (accurately) deemed a miracle-worker if he can produce nine wins in 2018.
“People forget Frank averaged almost 10 wins a year and that wasn’t good enough for them,” Frost told SI.com. “Then they tried to go a different way with the West Coast offense and went 5-6 and seven-and-something. Then they go get Bo and he did a lot of things right. There was a seven-year span where only three schools won at least nine for all those years — Oregon, Alabama and Nebraska. But Bo could never get over the hump.”
That godforsaken hump at the moment looks like Mount Everest, which is why Nebraska fans thank heavens for Frost.
After all, the Nebraska job did a number on Solich, Callahan and Pelini. They left town bruised and battered, rocked to their core — their departures salty and uncomfortable in their own unique ways.
Riley, on the other hand, left with a smile and hugs from adoring media. Media backed Riley for much the same reason Eichorst did — Riley is as malleable as a piece of Play-Doh.
Meanwhile, Frost will rigidly stick to an easily discernible formula. Nobody will tell him how to run his program, who to hire and fire.
I’m betting it ultimately will bear fruit in the form of a Big Ten championship. But please don’t say it’s a lock. That would only diminish the magnitude of the accomplishment.