Scott Frost is America's #1 commodity right now. With head coaching jobs open Florida and now UCLA, and another one possibly soon his alma mater, Nebraska, UCF's current head coach will have his pick of places to go and make the next step in his career.
He shouldn't take any of them. He should stay right where he is. Here's why:
1. The Tyranny of Expectations
Look, I get it. Scott Frost is Nebraska born and bred. That's a powerful thing. But sometimes coming home ain't all it's cracked up to be, especially when you have to live up to someone else's expectations.
Nebraska boosters are playing with fire. They are expecting Frost to come back to Lincoln. This is part and parcel of how this program and the people around it have operated since they fired Tom Osborne's hand-picked successor, Frank Solich, after a 9-3 season in 2003.Fast-forward 14 years and Frost is now the prodigal son.
"Shut up and take my money!" scream Nebraska boosters at new Athletic Director Bill Moos, "and use it to get Frost!"
Excuse me. It's Frost's decision. Not yours.
And did I mention you haven't fired your current coach yet? How do you think it looks to treat Mike Riley, one of the genuinely nicest guys in all of college football, the way you have been treating him the last two years? Don't you see that other coaches see that?
Our Nebraska local media is asking Mike Riley about Scott Frost and if he would fire himself. Completely unprofessional bunch of hacks. Have some respect for a man who has never been anything but class.— Timm (@TBinOmaha) November 19, 2017
The poor handling of this situation should be a major wake-up call.
Here's the thing with that: Going to Nebraska means working your ass off in a much more competitive college football landscape to get a team that is in the Big Ten to just be in a position to face Ohio State, Penn State or Michigan in the Big Ten Championship Game - Not exactly a guaranteed playoff spot. The days of 12-0 and Tommie Frazier steamrolling defenses are gone.
The sport is different than in the 1990s. So why deal with those boosters complaining about such things as why you ran to the short side on 2nd and 7 in the third quarter? Why tread the same path that's already been cemented by the guy you played for?
Keep an eye on the Michigan boosters this winter. How many more 8-4 seasons do you think they might tolerate from their favorite son, Jim Harbaugh, before the natives get restless?
Now consider that, in Lincoln, there's even less to do in your spare time.
2. Central Florida is a Recruiting Gold Mine
The name of the game is recruiting, and Scott Frost is sitting on the nation's greatest gold mine. He basically said so on Monday (37:45):
Here's the thing about that: It's a lot easier to recruit the kids you want when you're already in the state than if you're in Oregon or Nebraska or UCLA. Sure, not everyone stays home, but at least it's an easier argument to make in living rooms with Mom and Dad than, "Hey, there are some nice hotels in Lincoln."
But even more than that, as time goes by, it's going to get even easier. High school football participation rates in the state of Nebraska have been declining (almost 10% over the last seven years), while participation rates in Florida have actually gone up 13% over the same time period. As urban centers continue to grow, and rural areas see continued economic troubles, metropolitan Orlando and South Florida will continue to yield great crops of high school recruits, even as national participation in the sport deteriorates.
Frost has already executed a complete winless-to-undefeated turnaround at UCF in two recruiting classes. Give him two more here and the sky is the limit.
3. The Money (Yes. The Money.)
So let's take that 7-year, $35 million number as a starting point.
Cost of living in Nebraska is ever-so-slightly less than Florida. But the taxes are lower in Florida (Nebraska has a state income tax), and if you're making $5 million a year, that matters.
Frost is making $2 million annually right now off his most recent extension. The UCF Football Excellence Fund is hoping to nearly double that. Remember that this is not only a commitment to Frost, but also to whoever takes his office if he leaves. $3 million a year for a new head coach makes UCF an even more attractive destination for the next guy.
I did an (admittedly unscientific) experiment to get to the bottom of this: I went to SmartAsset.com to calculate what, say, $4.5 million would net you in Lincoln compared to Orlando.
Here's what I got:
That's right. $4.5 million goes about $240,000 further in Orlando than Lincoln.
Should Frost defy expectations and stay, that would immediately send a signal to UCF's boosters that what they're doing is working, and needs to keep working. $5 million a year from UCF suddenly doesn't seem so far-fetched.
Just getting to $3 million would put Scott Frost in the top 40 of national college head coaches by yearly salary according to USA Today. Only ten coaches made $5 million or more in 2017 (one of them is Kevin Sumlin, who will reportedly be fired by Texas A&M after their game with LSU). But getting Frost to $5 million in his next contract is certainly feasible, given what Danny White has done to this point.
The key time window will be in the next two weeks, after USF and the American Athletic Conference Championship Game. Remember, we have an early signing period coming up that starts on December 20th, and recruits are going to want to know if the guy that's selling them on UCF is going to be there in the fall.
Open up them checkbooks, boys.
4. He Can Do No Wrong
Any coach will tell you that the number one determinant of long-term success is buy-in from the administration. If you don't have that, or they meddle, it goes south in a hurry.
Scott Frost will never have a better situation than the one he has now. He can walk on water.
Thank George O'Leary for that. UCF spoiled George O'Leary for a decade and did everything they could to keep him happy. It also took him ten years to get UCF into position for an invite to a major bowl.
Frost has done this in less than two years, and it's because Danny White and the rest of the athletic administration has given him carte blanche to build and brand the program in his likeness from stem to stern.
With that power, and the sustainability that Florida's fertile recruiting grounds offer, the "Sleeping Giant" will no longer be asleep. He'll be roaming around the countryside pillaging and laying waste to all who dare cross him.
5. He's Already Changed the Culture
Two seasons in and UCF is on the national stage again, with an even better team than 2013. And all it took was a new coach and two recruiting seasons. What happened?
Consider: George O'Leary's culture was one where everyone was miserable keeping him happy. I was one of those people. It permeated the building.
In Scott Frost's culture, everyone is happy keeping him happy. And the reason they're happy is that they have bought into his vision.
The #UCFast offense. The #UCFierce defense. The uniforms. The attitude.
This is a program for the 21st Century.
You hear pundits say Frost "can build something at UCF." That's not true: He's already built it.
Nebraska missed its opportunity to hire Frost. Just as several Power 5 teams did. They are building something special at @UCF_Football https://t.co/9PbnE5dpHs— Tony Dungy (@TonyDungy) October 17, 2017
He may very well leave, perhaps even for Nebraska. And if he does, we should be okay with that. But he's catapulted UCF's program into the national consciousness by doing it the right way and sticking to a vision. And UCF has allowed him to see that vision through.
There's a statue of George O'Leary outside Spectrum Stadium. It's fairly nondescript. You might miss it if you walked by and didn't know to look for it.
But if he stays and perfects what he's built here, they'll be moving the Knights from IOA Plaza to make way for Frost's likeness. And he'd deserve it.
What more could a coach want? I suppose we'll find out in the coming weeks.