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Edsall season’s first firing, could Frost be next?

| Thursday, September 9, 2021

Less than two days after the first full Saturday of the college football season wrapped up, we have already witnessed the first coaching casualty of the year. UConn’s Randy Edsall closed out his memorable (not in a good way) tenure in Storrs on Monday after beginning the season 0-2, including an embarrassing loss to the FCS Holy Cross Crusaders this past Saturday.

During his second stint in Storrs (his first one was much more successful, as he brought the program to the 2011 Fiesta Bowl and won two Big East Championships during the league’s twilight), Edsall led the Huskies to a 6-32 record over three-plus seasons. But the main story of his time as UConn’s head coach for the past few years was not simply the Huskies’ futility, but how that futility compared to his ridiculous, bonus-laden contract. While the Huskies struggled to scrape wins against the bottom of college football’s barrel, Edsall cashed in bonuses based on a number of unusual criteria, including single-game statistics and who scored first in a game rather than traditional metrics like the team’s number of wins or championships. The inanity of it all was most clear when Edsall raked in $56,000 in on-field performance bonuses during the Huskies’ 1-11 2018 campaign.

UConn’s strange arrangement came to an end when Coach Edsall announced he would retire at the end of the season on Sunday, before abruptly announcing that he would instead be retiring immediately on Monday as part of a “mutual agreement” with the school.

While this whole story doesn’t seem particularly newsworthy, as the Huskies are among the FBS’s worst teams this year and UConn doesn’t have much tradition as a program anyway, the first firing of a head coach this year provides us with the opportunity to look around the country at other coaches that might be heading the way of Edsall before season’s end. Plus, there’s never a bad opportunity to point out the insane structure of Edsall’s contract that continually rewarded him for his team’s on-field performance even as the Huskies repeatedly faltered.

Looking around the country for where the next mid-season coaching drama might arise, there is perhaps no more obvious candidate than in Lincoln, Nebraska — Head Coach Scott Frost. Much like Edsall at UConn, but at a much more significant program, Frost was once revered as a hero in Nebraska due to his national championship-winning campaign as the Husker quarterback in 1997. After pulling off an incredible transformation of UCF’s program in only three years as head coach, Frost’s return to Lincoln in 2018 was met with as much fanfare as you can imagine. Certainly, even as someone who has no special interest in Nebraska football, I couldn’t help rooting for Frost to succeed at his alma mater. His enthusiasm, his connection to the school, the Huskers’ long dormancy as a nationally relevant program, the team’s resurgent talent under a touted young quarterback: everything seemed to line up for Nebraska to make an exciting return to national contention.

But the results never arrived on the field. While the Huskers’ struggles in Frost’s first couple seasons were reasonably excusable due to the sorry state of the program when he arrived, the utter lack of improvement in year four of his tenure (most exemplified by Nebraska’s week 0 30-22 loss to Big Ten bottom feeder Illinois) and the high expectations that seem to sprout up at the beginning of every season for Nebraska have made Frost’s time back in Lincoln especially painful for Husker fans. The excitement he arrived with now seems to be working against Frost’s chances of surviving in Lincoln, as the actual results have presented a brutal contrast for Nebraska fans and have crushed their renewed hopes.

These realities appear to provide ample reason for why Scott Frost could be next on the mid-season chopping block if the Huskers can’t improve throughout the year. Though, in complete opposition to Edsall’s situation, Frost’s contract could be his saving grace, as the massive buyout that’s owed to him if he’s fired before the end of the season could prove a decisive deterrent for Nebraska’s administration as they weigh their options amid the program’s painful situation. But then again, Nebraska’s fan base and administration could be willing to pay almost any price at this point in order to regain some semblance of their program’s former glory.

There’s one thing that both Edsall and Frost’s situations make clear: unlike the teams themselves, the hot seat does not even need to wait until week 2 to reach its post-season form.

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