To understand how great is the potential of Scott Frost, UCF’s new head football coach, consider first the people who have recruited him, coached him and mentored him during his football career.
A Nebraska native and standout high school quarterback he was lured to the West Coast by legendary coach Bill Walsh early in his second stint at Stanford. When Walsh retired after Frost’s second year with the team, he decided he was better off finishing his college career elsewhere. That’s when Nebraska’s Tom Osborne – considered by many one of the greatest college coach’s ever – convinced him to return home to finish his college career.
Frost went 24-2 as a starter for the Cornhuskers and helped Osborne win his third and final national championship. From there, he spent six years in the NFL, playing under the likes of Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick and Jon Gruden.
After stints at Nebraska, Kansas State and Northern Iowa, he was recruited by offensive mastermind Chip Kelly to join his staff at Oregon. When Kelly left for the Philadelphia Eagles before the 2013 season, new head coach Mark Helfrich promoted Frost to offensive coordinator – the position he held when UCF recruited him.
Now consider the results of his efforts. His senior season at Nebraska was Osborne’s last as a head coach, and it was clear from the season’s outset that the ‘Huskers, who had won national titles two of the previous three years, could make a run at one last title. The team spent most of October at No. 1. On Nov. 8, 1997, though, it looked as if Frost and Nebraska’s dreams were dying as they trailed Missouri by a touchdown with only 7 seconds left when Frost made this play:
What became known as the “flea kicker” tied the game, 38-38, and Frost scored on Nebraska’s first overtime possession to seal the comeback victory, a perfect season and a shared (with Michigan ) national championship.
At Oregon, Frost was part of two teams that played in the national championship game; as the Ducks’ offensive coordinator, he guided Marcus Mariota to a Heisman Trophy last season.
Frost has never been a head coach before, but his consistent success at all levels of football and the explosive offense he oversaw at Oregon made him one of the more sought after assistant coaches in the country. Not bad for someone who will turn 41 next month.
So how did UCF get the drop on other colleges? By moving quickly and by proving with the checkbook that the school is committed to returning the Knights to perennial contention for an American Athletic Conference tile. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Frost’s base salary will be $1.7 million per year during his five-year contract. That’s only slightly less than George O’Leary was making at the end of his UCF tenure.
Why would the school invest that much money in someone who will not teach a single course at the university? Because the money represents an investment that could deliver a large return.
A successful football team anchors an athletic department and generates revenue that subsidizes many other men’s and women’s sports. As noted previously in this space, successful teams also have a beneficial effect on student recruitment and alumni giving. (Formal studies are split on this latter point, but common sense indicates a connection.) It’s a cycle that has the potential to enhance the university, create a diverse, well-educated work force and enhance the economy of the surrounding community.
Hiring a coach with Frost’s pedigree is a vital ingredient. For a variety of reasons, the school collapsed swiftly in two years. After a 12-1 season, Fiesta Bowl victory and Top 10 finish in 2013, the Knights were winless this football season. By bringing Oregon’s wide-open style of football to Orlando, he has the potential to keep fan interest high during the coming rebuilding period.
So how does Frost feel about the task?
“I knew this place was special, looking at it from afar,” he said at the news conference after he was hired. “I can’t imagine a better place to become a first-time head coach than this university.”
During the news conference he spoke with conviction and passion about UCF. These news conferences reflect the glow of the new-hire honeymoon, but the synergy between Frost, UCF President John C. Hitt and new Athletic Director Danny White seems genuine.
It looks like the beginning of a great relationship.
Richt to Miami
UCF wasn’t the only Florida team to land a new coach. The University of Miami snapped up Mark Richt, just days after he was dismissed by the University of Georgia. Richt played for the Hurricanes from 1979-82, backing up future NFL Hall of Famer Jim Kelly. He saw significant action when Kelly was injured during the 1982 season.
After assistant coaching positions at East Carolina and Florida State, Georgia hired him to revive the Bulldogs’ football fortunes, and he posted an outstanding 145-51 record (9-5 in bowl games) during his 15 seasons as head coach. He won six SEC Eastern Division titles and two SEC Championships.
Though Richt’s teams invariably posted winning seasons, the fan base grew impatient there, especially with the Bulldogs’ struggles against archrival Florida. His firing at Georgia has been cited by many as an example of the out-of-control expectations in today’s college sports.
His deep roots in Florida give Miami fans hope that he can do for the Hurricanes what he did all those years ago for the Bulldogs: orchestrate a return to glory.
(Editor’s Note: This was written on Dec. 4, two days before bowl selections were announced.)
By Sunday night (Dec. 6), all of the bowl pairings will be announced. For Florida schools and Florida cities, it is one of the most lucrative times of the year.
Bowl games pay big money to their participants. Schools that have teams in bowl games generate significant revenue for themselves and their conferences. Cities that host bowl games see economic development in the form of an influx of cash, as alumni and fans of the participating teams pour into town to cheer their teams on.
Florida hosts a staggering nine bowl games now, from the venerable Capital One Orange Bowl (one of the College Football Playoff semifinals this year) in Miami to the newest game, the AutoNation Cure Bowl at the Orlando Citrus Bowl. Estimated payouts per team at the Florida Bowls range from $400,000 at the Boca Raton Bowl to more than $6 million for the Orange Bowl.
Orlando’s three bowl games each have significant payouts. The Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus bowl will pay an estimated $4.25 million per team (most of any bowl not involved in the College Football Playoff), the Russell Athletic Bowl is expected to pay $2.275 million and the inaugural AutoNation Cure Bowl will pay a very respectable $1.35 million.
Other Florida bowls with seven-figure payouts include the TaxSlayer (formerly Gator) Bowl in Jacksonville at $2.75 million per team and the Miami Beach Bowl, played at Marlins Park, at $1 million.For the “New Year’s Six” bowl games (Rose, Sugar, Cotton, Orange, Fiesta and Peach), the formula becomes more complicated and is calculated primarily by what conferences receive, beginning with a guaranteed base plus additional payments for each team placed in a game, plus travel allowances for the four teams that make the playoff. For teams in the so-called Power Five Conferences (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 12 and SEC), the base was $50 million. The SEC received an estimated $87.5 million for the College Football Playoff last year.
Teams in the “Group of Five” conferences (American Athletic, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West and Sun Belt) also receive a share. The base last year was $12.5 million per conference.
Each conference divides its payouts differently, but the model typically involves the team that participated in the game retaining some of the payout to cover expenses, and the rest of the proceeds are divided evenly among all conference teams, with one share going to the conference office.
At this point, Florida State appears to be the only school in the state with a shot at playing in one of the New Year’s Six Bowls, but it is equally obvious that all the schools will benefit financially from the new system.
Photo Credit: Top image courtesy of UCF Athletics Communications.