For the seventh time since Tom Osborne's retirement in 1997, Nebraska is looking for a coach. That fact is both a surprising and depressing trend. Native son Scott Frost was fired Sunday having gone 16-31 three games into his fifth season. Even when they made modest improvements in other areas, the Cornhuskers were consistently bad at a couple things: special teams and losing close games.
Frost tried everything: changing coaches, changing approaches. Nothing worked to the point Georgia Southern sealed the deal Saturday night by gaining 642 yards in hallowed Memorial Stadium where Heisman Trophy winners and national champions used to dwell.
Nebraska is not the same quality of job it used to be. In moving from the Big 12 to the Big Ten, the program lost its identity. Traditional recruiting grounds in Texas and California were either ignored or eventually shriveled up. Nebraska has no natural rival in the Big Ten, as much as some want to make Iowa that team. Instead, it's seen a far-flung outpost in a league that suddenly boasts a presence in New York, Chicago and soon Los Angeles.
Can the Huskers rebound? Absolutely. Look at the teams against which they have lost. Northwestern has played in two of the last four Big Ten Championship Games. Georgia Southern's Clay Helton was the first coach fired last season at USC. Almost a year to the day, he had a hand in beating Nebraska and ousting Frost.
Nebraska can turn its program around quickly; it just hasn't done so as of late. The next hire must hit because the hamster wheel of coaches since Osborne is worn and rusted. Meanwhile, a once-proud program suffers.
Nebraska coaching candidates
Mark Stoops, Kentucky coach: Stoops has spent a decade methodically developing the Wildcats into an above-average, competent SEC program. Twice since 2018 he has won 10 games, perhaps prompting his angry comeback recently when John Calipari suggested Kentucky is far more focused on basketball success. Coming off one of his biggest wins Saturday at Florida, there is evidence Stoops may have peaked with the Wildcats. Nothing against Stoops, but no one is beating Georgia anytime soon. He'd have much better access to the Big Ten Championship Game (as opposed to the SEC Championship Game) playing in the Big Ten West. His culture, tireless work ethic and no-nonsense approach would appeal to Nebraska. If you don't want to call him the new Bo Pelini, fine, but don't forget Pelini's legacy (67-27 in seven seasons) looks damn good right now. Stoops may be even better than that … without the baggage.