Scott Frost agrees to salary cut in 2022; four assistants fired

Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports
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Nebraska ended weeks of speculation about coach Scott Frost‘s future, announcing that he he will return for a fifth season with a restructured contract. A few hours later, Frost fired four offensive assistant coaches, effective immediately.

Athletic director Trev Alberts said he has seen enough progress in the once-proud program to merit bringing back Frost, who goes into next year with four straight losing seasons at his alma mater.

The Cornhuskers are 15-27 and have never finished higher than fifth in the Big Ten West under Frost. The Huskers are 3-7 overall and 1-6 in Big Ten games this season but haven’t lost by more than nine points with one of the toughest schedules in the country.

“We all recognize our record has not been what anyone wants it to be,” Alberts said in a statement. “I have been clear that I have been looking for incremental progress, and I have seen that in several key areas this season. Our team has continued to compete at a high level and the young men in our program have remained unified and shown great resiliency, which is an important reflection of the leadership of Coach Frost and his staff.”

Alberts said Frost has articulated to him a clear plan and vision. Part of that plan became apparent Monday with the firings of offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach Matt Lubick, offensive line coach/run game coordinator Greg Austin, running backs coach Ryan Held and quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco.

“I appreciate the work and sacrifices these men have made for the University of Nebraska and this football program and wish all of them well,” Frost said. “They are all men of outstanding character and good coaches, but as we strive for better consistency and execution, we needed fresh ideas and voices on our offensive staff.”

Frost did not announce who would take over those assistant coaching jobs for the final two games of the season.

Frost is under contract through 2026 and was scheduled to make $5 million per year. Alberts said on the Husker Sports Network that Frost agreed to have his salary reduced to $4 million in 2022, and the amount the university would have to pay Frost if it fired him next year was cut from $15 million to $7.5 million. Alberts did not disclose other terms of the restructured contract.

Frost is a native Nebraskan and was quarterback for the Huskers’ 1997 national championship team. He coached Central Florida to an undefeated season in 2017 before returning to Lincoln.

“I appreciate the confidence Trev Alberts has shown in me to continue to lead this program,” Frost said. “I love this state, this football program and am honored and humbled for the opportunity to serve as the head coach at my alma mater.”

The 46-year-old Frost came back to Nebraska to revive a program that has won or shared five national championships and is among only eight schools with 900 all-time wins. He so far has been unable to extract the Huskers from their lowest point since they had six losing seasons in a row and no bowl appearances from 1956-61. Nebraska also hasn’t won a conference championship since 1999.

Frost is 0-11 against Top 25 opponents and is still searching for a signature victory. The Huskers opened this season with an ugly loss at Illinois; their only wins are against Fordham, Buffalo and Northwestern.

But they hung with ranked opponents Oklahoma, Michigan State, Michigan and Ohio State, losing those four games by a total of 22 points. The Huskers’ 5-18 record under Frost in games decided by eight points or less is worst in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

The Huskers, whose next game is Nov. 20 at No. 20 Wisconsin, have dropped four straight after losing 26-17 at home to the Buckeyes.

Nebraska has relied on strong defensive play to stay in the close games, but special teams, especially the kicking game, have been horrid and the offense has been inconsistent and mistake-prone with fourth-year starting quarterback Adrian Martinez.

“I am excited to continue to work together with Scott,” Alberts said. “We share a love of Nebraska and this football program and want nothing more than Nebraska football to again compete for championships.”

According to Associated Press research of College Football Reference records spanning more than a century, 27 current Power Five programs have retained one or more football coaches who started with four straight losing seasons. Six of 42 coaches brought back for a fifth year eventually got their teams to a bowl, but none won a conference title in years five or beyond.

Frost will be only the second Power Five coach since 2011 to survive starting with four straight losing regular seasons. The other was current Duke coach David Cutcliffe, who went .500 in the regular season of his fifth year (2012) before losing in a bowl.

Lovie Smith was 6-6 in the regular season of his fourth year at Illinois (2019) but lost in a bowl and was fired late in his fifth season. Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason had seven straight losing records but made bowls – and lost – after 6-6 regular seasons in 2016 and 2018. He was fired late last season.

Frost is the second Nebraska coach to be retained after opening with four losing seasons. The other was Bill Jennings, who won 12 games from 1957-60 before getting fired following a 3-6-1 season in 1961.

Florida shakes up secondary after dismal game at Tennessee

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Billy Napier is shaking up his secondary after the Gators allowed 349 yards passing – including 247 of those on eight plays – in a loss at Tennessee.

Safety Trey Dean, a fifth-year senior who has started 32 games and played in 54, is out with what Florida is calling a “lower leg injury.” But no one would be surprised if Napier was quietly benching Dean after he made two mental errors against the Volunteers that resulted in 70- and 45-yard gains and set up touchdowns.

Freshman Kamari Wilson will replace Dean and make his first college start Sunday against Eastern Washington.

Cornerback Jaydon Hill will join Wilson in the starting lineup. Hill, a third-year sophomore, will make his first start since 2020. He missed the 2021 season with a torn knee ligament. He impressed Napier and his new staff in the spring but sat out preseason camp with another knee injury.

Hill will replace sophomore Avery Helm, who also struggled against the Vols.

“You talk about what he’s been through from an injury perspective,” Napier said following practice Wednesday. “Jaydon was one of the better players that we had on our team in spring practice. I was very impressed . It’s no surprise to me. He showed pretty quickly here that he’s very capable. I’m excited to watch him play.”

Georgia transfer Jalen Kimber, a former five-star recruit, is now listed as a third-team cornerback. Kimber played just 11 snaps in Knoxville a week after he returned an interception for a touchdown in a 31-28 win against South Florida.

“I like to say we try to eliminate the bad football,” Napier said. “Talking about mental errors, misalignments, poor communication, bad fundamentals and techniques, bad decision-making within the play. … We have a laundry list of things that we need to eliminate each week.

“Last week’s game, I thought we were really close, but there’s 12 or 15 plays in the game where Florida is beating Florida. We’ve got a smart group here. I think they’re very aware of what the issues are, and I think they’re working hard to address those issues.”

Pac-12 looking stronger at top after early-season losses

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
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When Oregon got throttled by top-ranked Georgia and Utah lost at Florida, it appeared as though the Pac-12 was headed toward another College Football Playoff miss.

One week into the season and two of the conference’s top teams had already failed big early tests.

Flash forward three weeks and it seems the Pac-12 might be in good shape after all.

The Ducks and Utes bounced back with big wins and the top of the conference looks strong, with four teams in the top 15 for the first time since 2016.

It’s still early, but the Pac-12 is putting itself in position to get a team through to the CFP for the first time since Washington in 2016-17.

A look at how the top of the Pac-12 is stacking up headed into the first weekend of October:

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

The No. 6 Trojans (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) seem to have quickly returned to glory in their first season under Lincoln Riley. The former Oklahoma coach brought quarterback Caleb Williams with him to Southern California and they have thrived through the first four games.

Williams has thrown for 1,054 yards and nine touchdowns, adding 100 yards and two more scores rushing. USC’s defense has been opportunistic, leading the nation with 11 interceptions while tied for the lead with 14 takeaways.

The Trojans survived a scare against scrappy Oregon State over the weekend to start 4-0 for the first time since 2012. USC has to play at Utah on Oct. 15, but avoids Washington and Oregon this season.

UTAH

The 12th-ranked Utes opened the season with a tough road loss at The Swamp in Florida, but have won three straight lopsided games.

Outside of a costly interception late against the Gators, quarterback Cam Rising has been sharp, throwing for 954 yards and 10 TDs. Utah (3-1, 1-0) has a physical defense and is third in the FBS, allowing 132.8 yards passing per game.

The Utes also have a veteran team that won the Pac-12 championship last season. The bad news: tight end Brant Kuithe, their leading receiver, is out for the season with a knee injury.

Utah plays Oregon State this weekend and has tough games against USC and Oregon still on the schedule.

OREGON

The Ducks’ playoff chances took an immediate hit with a 49-3 loss to reigning national champion Georgia in their opener.

No. 13 Oregon (3-1, 1-0) bounced back with a decisive win over a good BYU team and outlasted previously undefeated Washington State 44-41 last week.

The Ducks were no match for the Bulldogs in any aspect – few teams are – but have averaged 51.6 points the past three games. Oregon’s biggest weakness is its pass defense. The Ducks are allowing 72.5% of passes to be completed, third worst in the country.

Oregon’s biggest tests left in the season will come in back to back games against Washington and Utah.

WASHINGTON

The Huskies have made a quick turnaround in their first season under coach Kalen DeBoer.

Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has been superb now that he’s healthy, throwing for an FBS-best 1,388 yards and 12 TDs with one interception. No. 15 Washington (4-0, 1-0) picked up a solid home win against Michigan State and has 15 sacks this season, including eight against Stanford last week.

The Huskies play their first road game at undefeated UCLA on Saturday and have to face Oregon on Nov. 12.

UCLA

After winning at Colorado for the first time since 2014 last Saturday, the Bruins (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) have their longest winning streak since winning the first eight games in 2005.

UCLA had a hard time getting past South Alabama and opened its Pac-12 schedule with a win against the struggling Buffaloes.

The Bruins will find out how good they are over the next three weeks, a brutal stretch that includes home games against Washington and Utah before heading to Eugene to play the Ducks on Oct. 22.