That was December 2017, when a swaggering Frost had completed two sweeping successes that seemed to cast him as can’t-miss: a turn as Oregon’s offensive coordinator that included tutoring quarterback Marcus Mariota, who won the 2014 Heisman Trophy in Oregon’s season as national runner-up; and a turn as head coach at Central Florida, which went 12-0 in 2017 during Frost’s second season, caused chatter about a self-declared national championship and made the Frost-Nebraska rumblings unstoppable.
Such unmistakable momentum, plus Frost’s past as both a native of little Wood River, Neb., and as the quarterback of the most recent of Nebraska’s five national title teams (the co-champions of 1997), prompted scores of Nebraska football dignitaries to gather in an in-person welcoming of Frost as an obvious bet to lead the Cornhuskers from pretty good back to routinely great. Gov. Pete Ricketts declared Sept. 1, 2018, a commemorative “Scott Frost Day,” and the fanfare had Frost restoring the cherished program from winning percentages deemed insufficient, such as the .551 under Bill Callahan (27-22), the .713 under Bo Pelini (67-27) and the .500 under Mike Riley (19-19), back toward the .829 of Bob Devaney (101-20-2 from 1962-72) or the .836 of Tom Osborne (255-49-3 from 1973-97).
Instead, a program with a decorated past never reached any bowl game under Frost, who went 4-8, 5-7, 3-5, 3-9 and 1-2 as he developed an astonishing penchant for losing close games. Those began with opening losses in 2018 to Colorado by 33-28 and Troy by 24-19, unsuspected hints of things to come. His record in one-score games would reach an astounding 5-22, including 0-8 in Frost’s fourth season, 2021, a 3-9 downer that resulted in a pay cut. The drudgery ended with a 45-42 home loss Saturday to Georgia Southern, which drove 75 yards to score the winning touchdown with 36 seconds left, and whose new coach, Clay Helton, had met the same fate in the second weekend in September last year at Southern California.
“Earlier today I met with Coach Frost and informed him we were making a change in the leadership of our football program, effective immediately,” Athletic Director Trev Alberts, also a former Cornhuskers football standout, said in a statement. “Scott has poured his heart and soul into the Nebraska football program both as a quarterback and head coach, and I appreciate his work and dedication.
“After the disappointing start to our season” — a 1-2 record, counting a loss to Northwestern in Ireland and a win over North Dakota — “I decided the best path forward for our program was to make a change at our head coaching position. Associate head coach Mickey Joseph will serve as our interim head coach for the remainder of the 2022 season.”
Joseph, 54, himself a former Nebraska quarterback, has been a coach for 14 teams (high schools, colleges and an NFL club), including LSU from 2017 to 2021, which counted its national championship year of 2019. Joseph played quarterback for Osborne from 1988 to 1991, mostly as a backup, completing 55 of 124 passes for 909 yards and 14 touchdowns and rushing 180 times for 1,091 and 16 scores. Joseph is the first Black head coach in any sport at Nebraska.