On Sunday, the University of Nebraska dismissed Head Coach Scott Frost after he went 16-31 in four plus seasons at the helm. The firing came in the immediate aftermath of a 45-42 home loss to Georgia Southern.
Statement from Vice Chancellor, Director of Athletics - Trev Alberts. pic.twitter.com/weczB1ghoB— Nebraska Huskers (@Huskers) September 11, 2022
So how could the Cornhuskers’ coaching change impact the Illini?
Well, no more Scott Frost to kick around. Which is too bad, really, because he was an easy target. Also, while there are lots of kind, passionate Nebraska fans, there are some who…well, I can’t say I wouldn’t make wine from their tears, bottle it, and give away glasses on Quad Day. And watching those particular fans transition through all of the stages of football grief has been entertaining.
The B1G West may stop being a laughingstock if Nebraska hires a really good coach. That brings the floor of the B1G west up a notch. It could be the rising tide that helps make the division less than the little brother division. Along with the future arrival of USC, it could be a significant jumping off point for a divisional renaissance led by traditional powers.
So the Illini need to step their game up even more to keep up with the future. If Nebraska finally gets it right and is restored to its former glory, it’s incumbent upon the Illini to not just tread water in recruiting. The current coaching staff seems to have several stars (more on that later), which is a good start. But it’s time to start winning more tough battles.
Decommitments like Rico Jackson and Jamarrion Harkless are more damaging to a program that has failed to close on targets Roderick Pierce and Malik Elzy. At some point, there has to be an acknowledgement that near-misses and self-aggrandizing back patting for “moral victories” and “being in it until the last, possible moment” doesn’t suffice to mollify the fanbase. Saying you’re a development program doesn’t mean that you don’t need the star power of prime athletes.
The most obvious choice for the position is Iowa State coach Matt Campbell.
Multiple outlets have reported Campbell sits at the top of the list of potential candidates, and for good reason. He has proven recruiting ties in the Midwest. He has recruited legitimate NFL prospects to Ames, and could stand to benefit greatly from the deep pockets of Nebraska and its well-heeled resource pool.
This means the Illini could be looking across the field at current Campbell assistant and former Illini stud quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase. We can all imagine Nathan noticing a defensive deficiency and redesigning a route that enables a Nebraska receiver to get open and score the winning touchdown in Champaign during some Illini Homecoming weekend. You know what? This is making me sad so I’m going to move on.
Could Bret Bielema be a candidate? According to ESPN’s Pete Thamel, Nebraska might be interested in pursuing Bielema.
On the one hand, this seems pretty far-fetched. Bielema is in year 2 at Illinois, and the rebuild hasn’t been a Mel Tucker-esque quick turnaround thus far. But Bielema has significant ties to the B1G West and its recruiting footprint. Also, we’ve established the deep pockets Nebraska could use to make Bielema the Godfather offer.
While it’s hard to imagine AD Josh Whitman allowing this to happen without a fight, seeing Bret Bielema stalking up and down sidelines in the Midwest in a red and white jacket is a familiar one. It’s one that I don’t want to ever see again. And speaking of things I don’t want to see…
Illinois defensive coordinator Ryan Walters is becoming such a star in the coaching ranks that he may be in position to accept a P5 head coaching gig faster than entrenched Wisconsin wunderkind defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard. Walters has led the Illini defense from the dregs of the power 5 to a unit that nobody wants to face.
The former Colorado safety helped turn Kerby Joseph from a rotation-at-best guy to a day two NFL draft pick. A five minute interview with Coach Walters is enough to impress the most jaded football fans among us. With his experience at Colorado and Missouri, Nebraska could do a lot worse than the current Illini DC.
Of course, Nebraska’s fanbase may not want an assistant from a similar program. They may want a big name who has won big games at big programs. Well, ladies and gentlemen…
The Urban Meyer to Nebraska rumor train has left the station and I’m here for all of it. Now his impact on the Illini would be threefold.
- It would have to be super awkward for Shahid Khan to see Urban Meyer at a rival school after the Jacksonville Jaguars debacle.
- I really hope the Campustown bars and all of the Greek houses all have Urban Meyer’s picture in the window like a “Wanted” poster so nobody lets him in. We don’t need his (alleged) creeping crossing into Illinois.
- Oh, he’s succeeded at every single college football program at which he has coached. He has filled big shoes and crushed major rebuilds. I don’t want to see his face on the sidelines. Because that would be too close to the cheerleaders.
Also, knowing Nebraska fans, they’ll probably say Meyer isn’t accomplished enough and they are entitled to somebody more like Tom Osborne or...Tom Osborne.
In the end, the Huskers are riding blindfolded into the abyss of unknowing. Or, they’re just in the process of hiring a search firm to help find the next person to coach football. Whichever version you prefer, this is a national football story. And it shines the spotlight on the B1G West.
Whether the hire is maddeningly good or humiliatingly hilarious, I hope all of Illini nation has already got their popcorn ready for the chatter, rumors, entitlement, and message board chatter to come.