Spring Game, 4.13

Nebraska football coach Scott Frost walks off the field following the Red-White Spring Game on April 13 at Memorial Stadium.

Things I know, and things I think I know:

The numbers may make you do a double-take.

No, we're not talking about Red-White Spring Game attendance.

We're not talking about TV ratings for The Masters.

We're talking about the Nebraska football team's performance in the classroom.

According to school officials, the team's 3.001 cumulative grade-point average entering the spring semester was the highest for the program since the GPA began being tracked in 1992-93. What's more, the squad's 3.008 fall-semester GPA was the highest since it was first tracked in 1989-90.

As Nebraska scuffled to a 4-8 record last season, it maintained focus in the classroom. That suggests stability in the program. It suggests accountability has improved since the Mike Riley years.

Look, we could easily gloss over the academic success in Scott Frost's program. Some fans will scoff and say, "Just give us more Ws."

But if you're a parent or guardian of a Husker, you probably care about this topic a great deal.

“In tracking these grade-point averages for 30 years, it’s pretty remarkable when you look at it,” Dennis Leblanc, NU senior associate athletic director of academics, told Brian Rosenthal of Huskers.com. “When people talk about coach Frost and how he’s changed the culture, it’s just amazing when you look at what he’s done. I knew (the academic part) was going to improve a lot, but I didn’t know it would be that significant.”

Significant? Consider:

-- 60 percent of Frost's players had a 3.0 or better GPA during the fall semester in 2018. That represented a 14% increase from the fall 2017 semester.

-- At the completion of the fall 2018 semester, 54% of NU players had a 3.0 or higher GPA. That represents a 10% increase from the 2017 fall semester.

-- More than 23% of NU's players achieved a 3.5 or higher GPA in the fall semester and better than 20% carried a 3.5 or higher cumulative GPA following the 2018 fall semester.

I like the optic of Frost's program helping set the tone in an athletic department with a long history of academic success.

Frost sounds proud of his players' academic work.

“Kids want to get degrees and do well both on and off the field,” he said. “Parents especially want their kids to do well, not just on the field, but in the classroom and in life. Our team’s an example of that right now.”

* I liked the sound of Nebraska inside linebacker Mohamed Barry diplomatically pushing back against the notion of the Huskers being an offensive-oriented program. After all, there is that little club called the Blackshirts.

Barry, who had six tackles in the spring game, obviously takes his job very seriously.

"I have to make critical plays for my team," he said Saturday. "I have to make those plays that are going to win us big games and put us in Indianapolis in December (for the Big Ten Championship Game). That's what matters. That's the player I have to be each and every game, and that's the pressure I put on myself." 

Which is why he's likely captain material for the coming season.

* New Nebraska defensive line coach Tony Tuioti says Husker defenders' relentless effort to the ball "is non-negotiable for us."

"We talk about that in our meeting room all the time -- effort is non-negotiable," he said.

The Blackshirts looked OK in that regard Saturday. Give them a "B."

If Tuioti sees a player who's not rallying hard to the ball, well, that player soon will be on the sideline.

"He can't play for the Blackshirts," the coach said flatly. "It's as simple as that. He's going to be standing right next to me."

* New Nebraska hoops coach Fred Hoiberg's calm and understated presence is striking. It's easy to see why players would like it.

Jervay Green apparently likes it. As for Green, I was immediately struck by his size as he stood near Hoiberg before the spring game. Green is listed at 6-3 but appears to easily be 6-4. His thick frame should hold up well in the rugged Big Ten. He's obviously an excellent shooter, but also averaged 5.3 assists per game last season at Western Nebraska Community College. That level of unselfishness is another good sign.

If you don't think locking down Green is a big score for Hoiberg, think of the reaction around here if Green had gone to Kansas or Oregon. I admit I thought the Jayhawks would steal him.

* Nebraska's baseball team (20-10, 10-2 Big Ten) is atop the league standings with a team that's using three freshmen and four sophomores as regular position players as well as three freshman pitchers to help complement senior starters Matt Waldron (5-0, 1.76 ERA), Nate Fisher (4-1, 2.28) and Reece Eddins (3-2, 4.37).

All that cold and snow early in the season was a bummer. Darin Erstad's crew toughed it out.

Now things are heating up. See ya at Haymarket.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraSip.


Husker columnist

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

Load comments