Mickey Joseph wants Nebraska head coaching job beyond this season

Kayla Wolf-USA TODAY Sports
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LINCOLN, Neb. — Mickey Joseph said Tuesday that he wants to be Nebraska’s next head football coach and not just the interim guy for the next nine games.

Joseph met with the media for the first time since athletic director Trev Alberts asked him to lead the program the rest of the season following the firing of Scott Frost on Sunday.

“I think when you accept the job as interim head coach, that’s the opportunity you’re working for, to become the head coach,” Joseph said. “But we understand what goes along with this profession. It’s wins and losses, and that’s what it’s going to depend on.”

Joseph, 54, opens his stint as interim head coach with a home game against former conference rival and sixth-ranked Oklahoma (2-0) on Saturday. The Huskers (1-2) have lost 18 straight against Top 25 opponents.

Joseph played quarterback at Nebraska under Tom Osborne from 1988-91, has worked at all levels of college football and was receivers coach and assistant head coach at LSU before joining the Cornhuskers’ staff this year. He’s best known for his abilities to recruit and develop NFL talent.

Alberts said he told Joseph he planned to do an exhaustive coach search. The expectation is that money will be no object because of the huge increase in cash coming to Big Ten schools when the $1 billion-per-year conference television contract begins in 2023.

“We will see how the season unfolds, but I think we have an opportunity to hire an outstanding coach to lead our program,” Alberts said. “I would love to see Mickey grow into that, and we will just see where it goes. We will do a national search and if at that point, if Mickey is an obvious candidate, he will be part of that conversation as well.”

Joseph is the first Black head coach at Nebraska, interim or permanent, in any sport.

“I haven’t really thought about that because I’ve been a football coach, I’ve been a Black football coach, all my life,” he said. “I’m more concerned about the boys and getting the boys ready to play on Saturday. It’s bigger than me.”

Richard Lapchick, director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at Central Florida, told The Associated Press he expects Nebraska to take Joseph’s candidacy seriously.

“Nebraska should give him a hard look with the understanding that turning the program around that quickly is a difficult situation,” Lapchick said. “Measuring his success can’t only be measured on the wins and losses he has but the relationships with the players, how hard they play, how the team congeals under his leadership.”

Turner Gill, also a Black former Nebraska assistant and quarterback under Osborne, was a finalist for the Cornhuskers’ job that went to Bo Pelini in 2007. Gill went on to become head coach at Buffalo, Kansas and Liberty.

Lapchick said the Nebraska athletic department has done diversity and inclusion training since the 1990s. Most other schools, he said, didn’t provide such training until after the death of George Floyd in 2019.

“I know the fact (Joseph) is the first doesn’t mean they weren’t trying to do that before,” he said. “I am very personally pleased – both wanting the best for Nebraska football but also changing what’s going on around America in general in light of the racial reckoning of the past several years and just the history of sport in America.”

Lapchick, who in 1984 helped found the pioneering Center for the Study of Sport in Society at Northeastern University, publishes an annual report card on racial and gender hiring practices and is a leading voice on diversity and inclusion in athletics.

Not including Joseph, there are eight Black head football coaches this season among the 65 Power Five schools, including Notre Dame. There are three in the Big Ten.

The fact Joseph has not been a head coach or coordinator at the Football Bowl Subdivision level doesn’t work in his favor, Lapchick said.

“If that disqualifies him, that would tell me his candidacy was not genuine from the beginning,” Lapchick said, noting that Joseph will have at least nine games of experience at the end of the season.

This week’s NCAA strength-of-schedule report shows Nebraska has the 20th-toughest remaining schedule based on its opponents’ combined record of 15-4.

“We’ve got nine games left, right?” Joseph said. “As a coach, you’ve got to stand up and say we’re trying to win nine games. But we’re not worried about nine games right now. We’re worried about this game this week.”

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.

CFP expansion talks head toward October after 7-hour meeting

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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ROSEMONT, Ill. — The conference commissioners who manage the College Football Playoff met for almost seven hours Tuesday to work on expanding the postseason system from four to 12 teams as soon as the 2024 season.

There is still much work to be done.

“We will not wrap up this week,” CFP Executive Director Bill Hancock said.

The CFP management committee, comprised of 10 conference commissioners and Notre Dame’s athletic director, is scheduled to convene again at the Big Ten offices for a few hours Wednesday morning. They are set to meet again in person in Dallas on Oct. 20.

“That’ll be important,” Hancock said.

Expansion talks were revived by the university presidents and chancellors who oversee the College Football Playoff last month.

By adopting a 12-team plan that had been on the table since the spring of 2021, the presidents pushed the commissioners to try to implement a new format before the end of the CFP’s current contract with ESPN. That deal ends after the 2025 season.

Expanding from four to 12 in 2024 and ’25 will require rescheduling semifinals and championship games that already have dates and sites set, plus adding four new first-round games in mid-December to be played on campus sites.

Squeezing it all into about a month and working around the NFL for television will be challenging.

Hancock said the idea of moving up the start of the college football season to the week before Labor Day to create more room at the end for the playoff has been discussed, but more for beyond the 2025 season.

“I think most people view that as a future item. As long-term item and not an immediacy item,” Hancock said. “Remember, there’s so many details.”

Hancock said CFP officials have spoken to bowl partners and hosts cities that are set to hold semifinals and championship games after the 2024 and ’25 seasons, but they have not been presented definitive new dates.

Atlanta already has been chosen as the host city for the championship game to be played following the 2024 season, on Jan. 6, 2025. The game would have to be pushed back about two weeks if the playoff grows from four teams to 12.

“(Atlanta organizers) have some work to do because of other businesses in the community,” Hancock said. “Other meeting-type business, hotel business and Convention Center business there. They’ve been great to work with.”