reading between the lines Remarks from Nebraska Athletics Director Trev Alberts On Sunday, when he announced the firing of Scott Frost, the Cornhuskers’ next coaching search will fit within these parameters:
- Nebraska will have money to spend.
As a case in point, the university will pay more than $16 million dump Frost after the ugly loss to Georgia Southern rather than wait just a few weeks until Oct. 1, when his buy would be cut in half.
Coupled with ever-larger payouts handed out by the Big Ten, that dour package indicates that Nebraska will be motivated to go beyond Frost’s $5 million annual salary and approach or even exceed the $7 million mark he has become. the new benchmark for top-of-the-line head coaches in the Power Five.
- Alberts will be patient (and will have to be).
Getting out in front of the market can pay off if you’re evaluating candidates who are capable of dropping everything and taking on the job mid-season. In the last cycle, Texas Tech (Joey McGuire) and Georgia Southern (Clay Helton) hired new coaches in November, about a month before the market traditionally heats up.
Nebraska isn’t looking for that kind of option. While the program may reset the market from a financial perspective, the likely slate of contenders for this opening will still keep the Cornhuskers tied until the end of the regular season unless the university falls back on an immediately available option, such as former Florida coach Dan Mullen or former Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall.
- The Cornhuskers want an established head coach
That is, a current head coach or one who has been a head coach in the recent past. More specifically, this search will focus on current Power Five head coaches with a track record of developing talent, building chemistry, and establishing an identity that can serve as the foundation of the entire program.
Regardless of the money, Nebraska won’t be able to cast an acting head coach in a higher-value program — the athletic department must sell the opening as an opportunity to rebuild a brand that once stood proud in the image of a coach, what which will be very attractive to a certain type of candidate. But the biggest names in the coaching field aren’t giving up a better situation simply for the chance to put their stamp on the Cornhuskers.
While things can and almost certainly will change before the end of the regular season, these are five realistic names for Nebraska’s opening among the current Power Five head coaches.
Matt Campbell, Iowa State
As a candidate, Campbell is a safe and solid pick who masters three of the Cornhuskers’ main criteria.
He is a proven Power Five trainer who has achieved historic success under less than ideal circumstances in identifying prospects who fit his scheme, regardless of their ranking as recruits or the interest of their fellow Power Five. He has established a culture at Iowa State that has played a major role in the best race in the program’s history. He’s a grinder who revels in the foundation-laying part of a coaching tenure and would take on the task of lifting Nebraska out of the depths of recent embarrassment.
Basically, Campbell is a 300-yard drive down the fairway that puts you in birdie range but on the floor to save par. You know what you’re going to get: clean, solid, physical football that would possibly play well at Lincoln. As for his availability and interest, Campbell has had the opportunity to leave Iowa State, but has been waiting for the right position to open up; Nebraska may represent the sweet spot.
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Dave Doeren, State of North Carolina
Not far from coming under some scrutiny following a 4-8 finish to 2019, Doeren has the Wolfpack ranked No. 12th in the USA TODAY Sports AFCA Coaches Poll and in the mix for the most successful season in the show’s history. He has posted seven winning records in his nine full seasons and has done a very good job of developing quarterbacks and running backs, two positions Nebraska has failed most of the time for more than a decade.
A native of the Midwest and an assistant at Kansas and Wisconsin before being named the head coach at northern Illinois, he would understand the Big Ten picture but would need to reestablish a recruiting foothold in the Cornhuskers’ 500-mile bubble. Inconspicuous and reserved, Doeren’s personality would fit the spirit of Nebraska.
However, like the last name on this list, for Doeren to pick the Cornhuskers he would have to set aside a lengthy build process and relinquish ownership of a show covered from top to bottom in his fingerprints. It could be a hard sell.
Chris Klieman, Kansas State
Few active coaches at any level have been as successful as Klieman, who took home four Championship Subdivision national championships in five years at North Dakota State and won eight games in his two COVID-free seasons with the Wildcats. This year’s team just defeated Missouri and looks poised to compete with Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor and Texas for the Big 12 crown and a spot in the New Year’s Six.
While in a good spot with very strong job security, the Nebraska job ranks higher on the Power Five scale. On the other hand, Klieman has already led the Wildcats through the early transition period and it looks like this year’s team is destined for a top-25 finish. Is he willing to restart that process in a tougher situation with the Cornhuskers?
If it’s not the easiest decision for him to make, Nebraska can simply offer more: more money on a better conference with a larger pool of resources.
Lance Leipold, Kansas
Fresh off an overtime win at West Virginia that leaves Kansas 2-0 for the first time since 2011, Leipold quickly turned the Jayhawks’ slump on its head and put the program on an upward trajectory for the first time in more than one of each. As an off-field assistant in Nebraska in the early 2000s, he understands the schedule, the expectations, and most importantly, the downsides that come with the position.
Like Klieman, he has won a lot at the lower levels of competition. Leipold ran a powerful Division III program at Wisconsin-Whitewater, winning six national championships and playing for another, and then built Buffalo into one of the best teams in the MAC.
While Nebraska can almost certainly get it, it would become a much easier sell for Alberts and the athletic department if the Jayhawks can stay hot and make a run at bowl eligibility. Even if the search isn’t geared toward winning immediate public acclaim, there’s a question of what kind of goodwill the new hire brings to the job: Leipold would be in a better place early on if Kansas picks up five or even six wins during the season. regular.
Mark Stoops, Kentucky
Stoops would represent a home run signing for the Cornhuskers based on his work transforming Kentucky from an SEC joke into one of the toughest teams in the Power Five. He has the additional history of recruiting recruits outside of the Big Ten country, specifically Ohio. Schematically, Stoops and his staff have developed a model designed to level the playing field with more gifted opponents, with fantastic results.
Then there is the question: Why would he leave the SEC for a spot in a historically stronger but recently much weaker program? Like Doeren, he spent years building Kentucky into an annual Top 25 contender. Leaving means giving that away, of course. But the Cornhuskers can offer money and a chance to be the biggest show in town, something you’ll never, ever get with the Wildcats, which he’s used at Stoops as evidenced by his back-and-forth audience with basketball coach John Calipari. .