There’s an old college football joke that the ‘N’ on Nebraska’s helmets stands for “knowledge.” Scott Frost has fit right in. His first two teams in Lincoln have been underwhelming, but his public criticism of the Big Ten’s decision to postpone football this fall was embarrassing.
“Our university is committed to playing no matter what, no matter what that looks like and how that looks,” Frost said Tuesday during a news conference. “We want to play no matter who it is or where it is.”
There’s a lot to unpack there, but let’s cut to the chase. Nebraska is not long for the Big Ten. You don’t say something like that unless you’ve been thinking about this for a while, not unless you’re a complete idiot — and let’s give Frost the benefit of the doubt here.
In any case, Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren opened the door for the Cornhuskers on Tuesday, telling Yahoo! Sports that Nebraska, nor anyone else, would be playing football this fall.
“Not and be a member of the Big Ten Conference,” he told Pete Thamel.
According to USA Today, the Big Ten distributed $55 million checks to each the conference’s 12 full members for fiscal 2019. It’s safe to say the conference’s other 13 schools — Maryland and Rutgers are nearing full membership — would be happy to split the extra cash. The conference has been less kind to Nebraska football, which has yet to win even a division title since joining the league before the 2012 season.
Fresh off leading Central Florida to 12-0 record in 2017, Frost has struggled to field a competitive team in Lincoln, failing to crack .500 in two seasons and going a combined 6-12 in conference play. Minnesota has beaten Nebraska in two of P.J. Fleck’s three seasons and make no mistake, the Gophers are one of the team’s Frost didn’t think he had to worry about.
Frost was the quarterback of the last Nebraska team to win a piece of a national championship when the Cornhuskers beat Peyton Manning’s Tennessee Volunteers 42-17 in the 1998 Orange Bowl. After UCF went undefeated in 2017, he was the natural pick to make Nebraska football great again.
In his second season, Minnesota beat the ‘Huskers, 34-7, at TCF Bank Stadium and finished 11-2 by beating Auburn in the Outback Bowl. And Minnesota didn’t even win the West Division.
No wonder Frost wants to play anywhere but the Big Ten.
Everyone thinks about Ohio State and Michigan then gets punched in the nose by Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan State, and, now, Minnesota. As Penn State learned the hard way, the Big Ten is hard on its football teams. Since 2014, Nebraska has had two winning conference records.
Say what you will about the way Warren handled the Big Ten’s decision to cancel but, honestly, who cares? We’re in the middle of a pandemic that has killed more than 165,000 Americans since February; if you’re angry about not being in the loop, you’re missing the big picture.
Look, there’s no doubt Frost is frustrated that there won’t be football this fall; every college football fan is frustrated. But seeing an adult ostensibly responsible for, uh, mentoring more than 100 players a year stamp his feet and threaten to hold his breath over the safest decision was discomfiting, even in a milieu that puts up with Mike Leach and Mike Gundy.
That Nebraska administrators backed him up was astonishing. In a prepared statement from Frost, athletics director Bill Moos, school president Ted Carter and Chancellor Ronnie Green, the school’s brass said, “We have been and continue to be ready to play.”
The Big 12, where Nebraska was once part of the “Big 2” with Oklahoma, vows to play this fall and is noticeably two teams short of 12 since the ’Huskers, Colorado and Missouri left. The door is open.
Go for it.