Yeah, I know it’s been a minute since we’ve gotten back together, and a lot has happened in the world of Nebraska football. There was a Spring Game. Name, image, and likeness (NIL) rules are about to radically change the shape of college athletics. The Supreme Court handed down a ruling which may – or may not – fundamentally change the business model of college sports. The playoff is expanding to 12 teams. There’s a new college football videogame coming.
But right now the big news is right in Lincoln. On June 25, athletic director Bill Moos announced that he was retiring – on June 30.
“I step away completely content, knowing that our athletic program is reborn and rebuilt and that it has a solid, stable foundation,” Moos said in a statement, as reported by ESPN.
Moos was under contract until 2022, and gave up $1.25 million in deferred compensation if he would have stayed for the contract’s full term.
Now, sure, Moos is 70 and has basically checked all the boxes that brought him to Nebraska. He hired a new football coach (Scott Frost), men’s basketball coach (Fred Hoiberg) and baseball coach (Will Bolt). Frost and Hoiberg still have all the pedigree of great hires, and Bolt wildly outperformed expectations this year. And Nebraska’s new athletic complex is well underway.
Still, something doesn’t seem right when the head of the athletic program goes statewide on the Big Red Blitz and then drops a bombshell retirement with a one-week turnaround saying “apparently, this was the best time.”
Don’t take my word for it. Sean Callahan of HuskerOnline has questions too.
Typically when somebody retires on good terms in a role like this, they hold some sort of exit press conference. The fact Moos is not holding one today tells you there’s probably much more to this.
Regardless of who the new athletic director is though (as of this writing, Ed Stewart seems to be in pole position), it’s hard not to see this development as doing anything but ramping up pressure even more on Frost as he enters year four of his tenure.
Whoever the new athletic director is, it won’t be the guy that hired Frost, which means Frost’s performance isn’t a referendum on the athletic director’s leadership, at least at first. Indeed, if you really wanted to go down a dark path, Moos’ early departure would make it easier for Nebraska to let Frost go after the 2022 campaign. That depressing scenario would have Frost with six years in charge and the new athletic director a full year to evaluate the status of the football program.
Now, of course, it is highly unlikely that’s the reason Moos is leaving so quickly. We may or may not find out more details about all the different factors involved with Moos’ sudden retirement.
But it’s an unavoidable conclusion that the result of Moos’ retirement ramps up pressure on Frost even more than his 12-20 record over three seasons has done.
You know who else understands this reality? Frost.
When asked what he thought his significantly diminished crowds at this year’s Big Red Blitz signaled, Frost’s answer was both telling and true (as reported by Evan Bland of the Omaha World-Herald).
“It tells me I better start winning,” Frost said with a grin. “Starting to feel like The Charlie Daniels Band — used to be really big, now he just plays county fairs and stuff like that.”
Frost knows the clock is ticking and this year – brutal schedule and all – is pivotal for him to show proof of concept. And there’s at least some objective evidence of this to show. A smart and particularly handsome analyst said that you’d know when to be concerned about Frost’s tenure when his recruiting began to slip.
Yes, it’s early, but Nebraska’s 2022 recruiting class currently sits at no. 43 nationally and no. 11 (!) in the B1G, according to 247 Sports. And while recruiting rankings in June might not be the most reliable indicia of success (I mean, Rutgers is currently no. 7 nationally), seeing Nebraska in that territory at any point – given the current state of the program – should be just a tiny bit terrifying.
It’s probably not the hottest of hot takes to say Frost needs to start winning. And putting additional pressure on a season that already looks daunting makes for an uncomfortable wait for the autumn. But ignoring this tough situation isn’t going to make it go away, and it’s better to face it with eyes wide open, Husker Fan.