You may have noticed Kansas State agreed to a new contract with Chris Klieman that will pay the football coach $23.5 million and last until 2026.
The news set off my imagination.
One of the performance-based incentives in Klieman's deal especially grabbed my attention: According to Kansas.com, he'll receive a one-year extension every time the Wildcats win eight games and play in a bowl game between now and 2023. Because K-State will only play 10 games this season, Klieman can also trigger that bonus by winning six games and reaching the postseason.
If you watched the Oklahoma-Iowa State game on TV, you noticed an excellent atmosphere in Jack Trice Stadium. Tell me it didn't make an impression on you.
Bob Devaney turned to Tom Osborne to change the Husker offense following the 1968 season. It was a good move by Bob.
How would Nebraska fans react if athletic director Bill Moos handed Scott Frost a one-year extension every time the Huskers won eight games and played in a bowl game between now and 2023? It's a legitimate question. After all, both Klieman and Frost are building programs that struggled before their arrival. But, c'mon, you know the answer. Many Husker fans would say rewarding eight-win seasons — even until 2023 — would essentially lower expectations a bit too far for a program with such a proud tradition of success.
Many long-time Nebraska fans simply wouldn't want to be placed on the same level as K-State. They would point to the Huskers' five national championships and 902 all-time wins, which rank eighth nationally. K-State, meanwhile, has 541 wins all-time.
But get this: Since 1999, the year of Nebraska's last conference championship, the Huskers are 150-98 overall (60.4) compared with the Wildcats' record of 146-98 (59.8). Yes, nearly identical. And keep in mind, K-State hammered NU for three straight years in the early 2000s by scores of 49-13, 38-9 and 45-21. Bill Snyder had the Wildcat program humming from 1997-2003, reeling off six 11-win seasons in seven years.
Which brings us to a thought-provoking question: Should expectations for Nebraska's program really be all that much higher at this moment in time than those at K-State? Should expectations for the programs be all that much different, period, considering what's occurred during the past two decades?
It's become difficult for me to say with conviction that Nebraska's expectations should be much greater than those of their old friend from the Big 12/Big Eight/Big Six. The key, of course, is how the conversation evolves leading to 2023 and beyond.
Again, some Nebraska fans will point to the program's national championships and tell you expectations always should be higher in Lincoln than they are in Manhattan, Kansas. However, some of those same fans will simultaneously suggest that Husker fans should stop living in the past.
Some Nebraska fans will point to the Huskers' sellout streak as evidence that there's much more energy behind the program than there is at K-State, which plays in a stadium that holds only 50,000 (but often is full).
Some fans may point to the fact that Frost makes $5 million annually (his contract also runs through 2026), while Klieman now will be paid base salaries of $3.1 million next season, $3.5 million in 2022, $4 million in 2023 and $4.3 million each year from 2024 to 2026. Yes, NU pumps in more money in general.
Both programs are stuck in the middle of cornfields, although Lincoln (population 287,000) is much larger than Manhattan (54,000). Many recruits are surprised upon arriving in Lincoln that it's actually something of a city. You wouldn't say that about Manhattan, at least not with conviction.
But we can all agree that Nebraska getting to eight wins in the ultra-physical Big Ten is more difficult than it would be getting to eight in the Big 12, where defense often appears optional.
So, again, we ask: How would Nebraska fans react if Moos gave Frost a one-year extension every time the Huskers won eight games and played in a bowl game between now and 2023?
Of course, there's a slight complication with that question in our neck of the woods. That is, Nebraska in this millennium has fired two nine-win coaches — Frank Solich in 2003 and Bo Pelini in 2014. In that context, it would look awfully strange if Moos rewarded Frost for winning eight. Nine? That total would be off the table if only for symbolic reasons.
Perhaps the correct answer would be rewarding Frost for 10-win seasons. In other words, reward him for being like Wisconsin's Paul Chryst, who has won at least 10 games in four of his five seasons at the school. UW is the standard-bearer in the Big Ten West. That's what NU must aspire to become, first and foremost, then it can take off from there.
All things considered, the short answer to our original question is this: Moos should probably avoid this type of incentive in Frost's contract.
Chalk it up to residual impact of firing nine-win coaches.
The rest of the discussion, though, is awfully interesting.