GERING, Neb. — Even before joining the Nebraska football team as a player back in the 1990s, Scott Frost remembers feeling like he was part of Husker Nation growing up in Wood River.
Now as the Huskers’ coach, he wants everyone around the state to feel that again.
“I want our program to be inclusive,” Frost said during Monday’s Husker Nation Tour stop at the Gering Civic Center. “I want every person in the state of Nebraska to feel like they are a part of it. When I was growing up, I think the people of the state felt like they were part of the program. The more we can get out and see people, the more we can have open doors down in Lincoln and have people see us.”
Frost, along with Nebraska Athletic Director Bill Moos and Associate Athletic Director of football Matt Davison, traveled to Alliance following their initial stop in Gering. The three are part of a two-day, 26-town barnstorming tour of the state.
Upon his arrival in Nebraska after being named coach in December, Frost has been blown away by the excitement level of Husker fans. That also was evident during his trip to the Panhandle.
“The enthusiasm for Husker football was even more than I expected,” he said. “The excitement level from the fans that I’ve ran into has been off the charts. Our coaching staff as a whole has been really thrilled with the type of reception that we’ve gotten and the enthusiasm from the fans and the support we are going to get. We are excited to see where we can take the program and we know we have Husker Nation behind us.”
Frost sported crutches after undergoing a recent ankle surgery for an old college injury. Among the many topics he touched on was keeping Nebraska kids in the state. The Huskers already have a number of commitments from top in-state recruits, including Scottsbluff’s Garrett Nelson.
“We want Nebraska kids in our program,” Frost said. “The best players in the state need to be down in Lincoln playing for us. I think it’s hit or miss which town they come from in which year. Some years it might be Burwell and Ainsworth, and others it might be Pawnee City and Tecumseh. Wherever the good players are, we are going to find them.”
As a Nebraska kid himself, Frost said it meant everything to him being able to play for the Huskers. He believes in-state kids playing at NU are a special breed.
“Nebraska kids are going to play really hard for the uniform and the colors and the university,” he said. “Anytime you are from the state and you get to play in your state at your home university, I think it means even that much more.”
Fans in western Nebraska are “starved” for more attention from Nebraska coaches and the athletic director, Moos said. He wants to get out and about more often with fans all over the state, including in the Panhandle. He has even structured the athletic department to run efficiently so he can leave the office to do more goodwill work with fans.
“What I love about Nebraska is, once you cross the border, it’s all red, and we’re the show,” Moos said. “Our fans are just as great in Scottsbluff, Grand Island, Valentine or North Platte as they are in Lincoln and Omaha.”
Moos joked that Frost knows most of the towns in Nebraska. Frost very well may. On Monday, he rattled off McCook, Arthur — where he used to hunt mule deer and listen to NU games on the radio — Pawnee City, Burwell, Ainsworth and Tecumseh, among other towns, as places that may produce Husker players.
Moos is bullish on Nebraska athletics consistently being among the best in the Big Ten. He said he wants every sport competing for the top half of the Big Ten standings, citing the Huskers’ facilities, academic support and other factors.
“Certainly, that’s our intent,” Moos said at the Gering press conference.
Three sports – women’s bowling, women’s rifle and men’s gymnastics – either don’t compete primarily against Big Ten teams or face a much-truncated field of conference foes. Of the other sports, volleyball, men’s and women’s basketball, wrestling, women’s tennis, women’s gymnastics, indoor and outdoor men’s track and field, and outdoor women’s track and field, all finished in the top half of the Big Ten. Eleven programs — football, women’s soccer, baseball and softball, men’s tennis, indoor women’s track and field, women’s swimming and diving, men’s and women’s cross country and men’s and women’s golf, did not.
Moos fired men’s golf coach Bill Spangler and men’s tennis coach Kerry McDermott this spring. NU has not yet announced a replacement for either job.
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Frost knows his spread, no-huddle, up-tempo offense can sometimes put a defense in a tough bind.
The opposing defense — and his own defense.
“When we play the type of offense we play, the defense is going to be on the field more, and there’s some different statistics we look at to make sure we’re performing well on defense — yards per play and those type of things — that mean more when the defense is on the field more than with a ball-control offense,” Frost said.