The new kid on the Big Ten block smiled as the media scrum engulfed him.
“I guess here we go, huh?” Nebraska athletic director Trev Alberts said Thursday, his fourth day on the job.
Yes, sir, here we go. I’m tempted to say Alberts stole the show during Big Ten Media Days in Indianapolis. In Nebraska’s realm, he did steal the show, for what it’s worth, which to most Husker fans may not mean much. They’ve seen plenty of ADs and coaches spin magic in media settings. Fans around here want results on the field, ASAP.
Perhaps Alberts will help matters, and maybe it won’t take long.
Don’t roll your eyes.
Alberts’ calm and measured approach — with defined and well-communicated messages — could have an immediate impact on Nebraska football coach Scott Frost. They share plenty in common, including a hard edge. Alberts will support Frost at a high level, but Alberts knows good football when he sees it, and he’s going to want to see it this season. That’s fair. It’s Frost’s fourth year in charge. Enough said.
The 50-year-old Alberts is indeed an extremely effective communicator, so Frost will know exactly what’s expected of himself and his program, at all times.
As of Thursday, Alberts and Frost already had met four times. That feels like a good sign. Get on the same page, immediately.
Alberts says he wants to see attention to detail from all his coaches. As for Frost’s program, Alberts said, he wants to see "incremental progress." Unlike his predecessor, Bill Moos, he isn’t going to attach certain records to what he regards as progress. But, yes, this is a bottom-line business. Records matter.
Incremental progress? That’s a sensible thing for Alberts to say. Frost was 4-8 in his first year at Nebraska and 5-7 in his second. Then came a 3-5 pandemic season. So, this season "incremental progress" recordwise would be 6-6 and a bowl game. In many fans’ eyes, that represents a minimum expectation.
Frost likes his team but makes it clear it could really use some early-season momentum. Nebraska often needs to simply get out of its own way. Based on what Alberts said last week, he’ll look for a team that doesn’t continually hold itself back with turnovers, sloppy penalties and poor special-teams play.
Alberts, in fact, highlighted the importance of special teams. Duly noted. By Frost? Hope so.
So, new boss, new sense of urgency. Yeah, that could be immediately beneficial to Frost, as in this season.
Alberts clearly brings a new energy to the scene. One could feel it in Indy. Plus, one aspect of Alberts I sort of overlooked: Man, he's smooth. Thinks on his feet. Sharp. Prepared. Understands key issues. His previous life as a high-profile ESPN college football analyst serves him well as an AD. It’s difficult to catch him off-guard.
And I think Nebraska fans should like what he’s had to say so far.
For instance, when asked what Nebraska needs to do to return to football glory, Alberts said, “Well, we’re not going to get back there by talking about what we used to do, because nobody cares. We’re not going to get back there by talking about winning championships. We’re going to get back there by executing the fundamentals administratively and coaching that get you there. Those are very simple things, frankly. It’s just hard work. It’s encouraging the coaches to narrow their focus — to focus in on those very small details that ultimately win you games. It’s hidden yardage here and there.”
So, the new boss has been watching the past few years.
“Coach (Tom) Osborne would talk to us about special teams and the importance of field position,” the all-time Husker great said.
By the way, Alberts is acutely aware of what Nebraska’s up against in the Big Ten in terms of opposing coaches.
“This is a conference that has elite coaching,” he said. “This is a conference that has elite offensive and defensive coordinators with elite amounts of resources. The margin for error in the conference is very, very small. We need to fully understand that."
I’m guessing he’s verbalized all that to Frost, although Alberts appropriately stiff-armed sharing exactly what they’ve discussed.
“To me, that’s part of trust,” Alberts said. “I can assure you Scott Frost wants the very same thing I want. We care deeply about this institution. We care deeply about the football program.
“What he and I will do is, Scott Frost is going to hold me accountable, and I’m going to hold him accountable, and we’re going to have the kind of trust that we can have the difficult discussions with one another, and know it’s out of love, because we both love this place. A lot of it early on is establishing that type of trust and understanding and being accessible and making sure he knows he has somebody who’s fighting for him.”
Frost has thick skin. He’s impressive in that regard. Of course, Nebraska fans would prefer he didn’t need such thick skin.
As for Alberts, it’s important to remember Osborne, the Hall-of-Famer, is one of his foremost mentors. Frost also claims Osborne as one of his main mentors. As a result, Osborne’s prominence on the scene just escalated a notch or two. It’s possible his influence just escalated as well.
Osborne is nothing if not fair-minded, especially when it comes to patience with coaches. Any good AD does what he or she can to give coaches what they need to be successful, and sometimes that involves giving them sufficient time to build. Frost may need more time — a couple of seasons, perhaps — to get the program rolling the way he really wants. Yeah, the top 10 feels a world away. But that can change in a hurry.
If the program’s built the right way, it can sustain at a high level, which is Frost’s ultimate objective.
NU begins preseason camp later this week.
That’s right, Mr. AD, here we go.