Tag Archives: Big Red

In Frost We Trust

September 4, 2018 by
Photography by contributed

When the University of Nebraska football program again failed to produce a winning season last fall, new athletic director Bill Moos fired head coach Mike Riley and promptly hired former Husker Scott Frost. After years of losing, Nebraska is hopeful that they have found a winner with Frost. The Wood River, Nebraska, native quarterbacked NU to its last national championship in 1997, under the direction of legendary Husker head coach Tom Osborne.

Bringing Frost back into the fold for the much-scrutinized role of head football coach in Lincoln was an easy decision because he fits NU culture to a T.

“Nobody else would have generated that type of enthusiasm,” Osborne says. “He’s here now and we’re glad to see it. Where Scott really brings a lot to the table is he understands Nebraska and what you have to do in a sparsely populated state where there’s cold weather and not a lot of geographical advantages like beaches or mountains.” 

Osborne continues, “I don’t think there’s anybody more prepared than Scott to do the job. He’s intelligent, he has energy, he’s played and coached offense and defense at a high level.”

In Nebraska, Frost has only coached the 2018 exhibition spring game, but he is viewed as the deliverer who will lead the program out of the wilderness of mediocrity and irrelevancy it has fallen into. 

Fans are voicing their approval via social media and sports talk shows. They are also purchasing extensive amounts of Husker merchandise and tickets, making donations, and turning out for events at increased rates. 

Call it the Scott Frost Effect.

NU is taking advantage of this return-of-the-conquering-hero narrative by ramping-up development efforts wherever large bases of Husker fans reside.

“We’re really reaching outside the borders,” says NU Executive Associate Athletic Director Marc Boehm, who oversees external operations.

He says fundraising junkets to Chicago, Dallas, Denver, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York City, and Palm Springs and Naples, Florida, are tapping into “enthusiasm over the hire and for the direction the program is heading.”

Nebraska Alumni Association Executive Director Shelley Zaborowski notes a ripple effect.

“We have certainly seen increased interest from alumni,” she says. “Our trip to Chicago for the upcoming Northwestern football game sold out in record time, our allocation of football tickets sold quickly, and we have received a high volume of calls about the Nebraska Champions Club.”

The association’s previous trips for the Northwestern game sold out between July 1 and the start of football season. This year tickets were nearly gone by the spring game in April; however, this is also the first year the alumni association has used an online ticketing system.

The waiting list for tailgate spots at the Nebraska Champions Club has grown by nearly 50 percent this spring. Zabroski wrote in an email that the membership numbers for May were the third best since 2014.

“It’s a little soon for us to attribute a spike in membership to ‘the Frost Effect,’ but we have high hopes the collective enthusiasm will pay off in that way, too. Anecdotally, there are a lot of people excited—[with] our local alumni and our chapters across the country. His return home is a point of pride and enthusiasm for Nebraska alumni and friends.”

University of Nebraska Foundation President & CEO Brian Hastings echoes the sentiment.

“Our fundraisers travel around Nebraska and the country, and they certainly are hearing a lot of excitement and enthusiasm from our alumni and supporters. Athletics—especially football—is a front door to the university, so we are excited to have a lot of eyes on the University of Nebraska this fall.”

Wherever Frost has appeared, he has been well received. A record 86,000-plus fans attended the April 21 spring game at Memorial Stadium. 

The June 11-12 Husker Nation Tour saw the new head coach, his assistants, and Moos and other administrators criss-cross the state to pump the Big Red well in anticipation of the 2018 season. High-energy crowds turned out at all 26 town stops. 

All good signs the Frost Effect is paying dividends.

“There are barometers in which to confirm that,” Moos says. “We sold out our spring game, which is basically a scrimmage, in less than 36 hours. [It was the first time the game has sold out] It was incredible. Our season ticket renewal rate was 96 percent. That’s about 1.5 percent higher than in 2017, but you’ve got to realize there aren’t a lot of seats available year-to-year.

“Our novelty stores and online site Fanatics were up about 10 percent in December [over the previous December] after Scott’s hire from people jumping on the wagon to celebrate the coming home of one of our stars. We’ve seen a great surge in sales—over 15 percent—in Husker items from all of our licensees.”

Husker Hounds owner Scott Strunc says, “Coach Frost has generated a ton of excitement again with Husker Nation. Our sales are up 40 percent from last year through May. I anticipate the excitement building as the first game gets closer. The ‘Frost Effect’ has been the best thing to happen to our business in 20 years.”

Positive media spin generates free publicity.

“The media has been all over our campus following this new era,” Moos says. “We’ve had USA Today, Sports Illustrated, espn.com, The Athletic, Bleacher Report, cbsports.com, and the Big Ten Network. It’s a big story and big excitement.”

Boehm has “seen a lot of ups and downs” with Husker football’s following since 2001.”This past year it was getting concerning, where you saw a little apathy setting in, which is never good,” he says. “Then once that hire hit, it was game on. The biggest thing is that the state is now unified. When that happens, it can be a pretty big force.”

Boehm says the economic engine of Husker football will be most felt in-season, when fans spend thousands of dollars at the stadium and at bars, restaurants, hotels, and shops in Lincoln.  Fans watching the games at Omaha venues will do
the same.

“Nebraskans are very proud, and right now that pride is back,” he says, “and it’s much more than the investment—it’s the time and energy donors and prospects put into coming to the games. Forget about the financial end, it’s actually showing up and being emotionally invested again.”

Nebraska proudly touts the NCAA record for consecutive home football sellouts and Osborne says that streak “certainly was in dire jeopardy if we hadn’t got somebody like Scott to come back,” adding, “I think it’s important that people have hope and I think there’s a renewed sense of hope.”

Moos observes how “the feverish pitch of the fan base” is in stark contrast to the mood he found upon arriving in November.

“I’ve always felt that what intercollegiate athletics could do for an institution is be a source of leadership, morale, and positive feeling,” Moos says. “All those things are in place and it’s just a real good time to be involved with the University of Nebraska. It’s been my experience that when football is firing on all cylinders, then all boats rise. The attention a school’s football program brings to it is something you can’t really put a price tag on. Applications for admission grow. Already have. Donations across campus improve. When people have a good feeling about their university, are happy with the results, and anticipate a good future, they’re more apt to loosen the purse strings and get involved, and that’s where I feel we are right now.”

Moos says the savvy Frost knows that as football goes, so goes the athletic department, and that, despite NU’s recent on-the-field struggles, the school boasts the tradition, facilities, financial resources, and fan support to be competitive.

“He’s aware. Scott’s been around the game a lot at every level and has been involved in some big-time college programs, so he knows what we have in comparison to others and is very appreciative.”

Few wish to broach what will happen if things don’t pan out with Frost. Osborne suggests this may be NU’s last, best chance to regain top status. “I think people more or less realize if this doesn’t work we’re going to be really hard-pressed to find somebody who can do better, because Scott has pretty much all the pieces you’re looking for.”

Moos echoes Osborne in expressing guarded optimism that all the right moving parts are in place—Frost being the key chess piece on the board.

“Scott definitely has the coaching know-how and not many times do you get to implement that at a place you love and that loves you. It’s a dream come true.”

Moos also knows fans’ fickle nature can turn this honeymoon into hell if NU doesn’t win big
under Frost. 

He quips, “But, hey, we’re still undefeated.”


Visit huskers.com for more information about Nebraska football.

This article was printed in the August/September 2018 edition of B2B.

Obviously Omaha

November 5, 2015 by
Photography by Ben Solomon, Rutgers University Athletics

So, you’re traveling to The Garden State for the Huskers’ Nov. 14 game against the Rutgers Scarlett Knights? Here’s the inside dope on how to plan your game day.

Birthplace

It all started right here at Rutgers, the Birthplace of College Football. The first intercollegiate football game was played on Nov. 6, 1869, on the banks of the Raritan River when the visiting Tigers of the College of New Jersey took on—and lost 6-4 to—the Queensmen of Rutgers College.

Tradition

No Tunnel Walk this weekend, but watch as the team enters the stadium 90 minutes before kickoff in a tradition that has each player touching the “The First Game” statue for good luck as the marching band cranks out the fight song. Before every home game Rutgers fans line the hedges along the brick path just outside the stadium on what is called the Scarlet Walk, which features the iconic statue of a Rutgers player in a classic, Heisman-esque stiff-arm pose to commemorate the Birthplace of College Football.

Boom!

Plug your ears when the Blackshirts allow the Scarlet Knights into the end zone. After every Rutgers score, a cannon in the corner of the north end zone rocks the stadium with a resounding volley. This tradition stems from the fabled Rutgers-Princeton rivalry where, starting in 1875, pranksters from each school would steal the cannon from the opposing campus.

Eats

If you’re looking for a place to grab some grub, cross the river over into New Brunswick. You’ll find a wide array of choices along Easton Avenue and George Street. Right off George at 101 Paterson Street is Destination Dogs, where the toppings lean toward the exotic. My personal favorite is the El Barracho, a Mexican corndog. Other top-notch food options nearby include Old Man Rafferty’s and Stage Left. You really can’t miss on any of these if you’re in “The Bruns.”

Drinks

A college town wouldn’t be complete without its bar scene. If you are brave enough to go into a Rutgers bar directly off campus sure to be filled with Scarlet Knight fans, take a shot (heck, have a few shots) at any of these taverns: Old Queens Tavern, Scarlet Pub, Knight Club, and Kelly’s Korner. There’s also a World of Beer franchise on nearby George Street.

History

When Rutgers was founded as Queens College in 1766, it occupied a single city block. Now the New Brunswick campus alone splits into five separate campuses spread across two neighboring towns. To take a look at what began one of the oldest universities in the nation, Big Red fans can stroll over to the historic part of campus, which is located right across the street from the New Brunswick train station on College Avenue between Hamilton and Somerset streets.

George

On his way up to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to take control of the Continental Army, the nation’s first president-to-be came through New Brunswick on June 24, 1775. Look for the American Revolutionary War monument located at the corner of Albany and Neilson streets. Washington returned on Dec. 9, 1783, and was celebrated with a few drinks at Indian Queen Tavern, which still stands at 1050 River Road in Piscataway.

ObviouslyOmaha

Gridiron Hero Becomes Mentor and Coach

August 27, 2013 by
Photography by Eric Francis Photography and Ted Kirk

What former Nebraska Cornhusker Steven Warren remembers most from his days playing football is not a particular game or plays, but rather the camaraderie among his teammates—along with key tenants such as persistence, integrity, and trustworthiness. These were experiences and traits that would serve Warren well later in life.

Recruited out of Springfield, Mo., he recalls Nebraska Head Coach Tom Osborne paying Warren and his family a visit in their living room the same week Big Red won the 1995 national championship. Warren accepted a UNL football scholarship and packed his bags for Lincoln.

Warren (96) delivers a bone-crushing hit back in his playing days for Big Red.

Warren (96) delivers a bone-crushing hit back in his playing days for Big Red.

“Nebraska football was No. 1; it was everywhere,” Warren recalls. “And being a part of it was like being a part of The Beatles.”

Freshman year was both a culture shock and an athletic shock for Warren: rigorous practices alongside the fame of being a Cornhusker. “There was so much temptation because of what you were part of. But you also had to learn time management,” he adds.

While playing for Nebraska, Warren found himself developing close friendships with other players and families in and around Lincoln. Oftentimes, parents would seek Warren out to speak with their children about setting goals, planning for the future, and living one’s dream.

Warren left Nebraska as a 3rd round pick of the Green Bay Packers in the 2000 NFL Draft. Thirteen weeks into his rookie year, Warren was sidelined with an injury and told he would miss the remainder of the season. He stayed in Green Bay, undergoing rigorous rehabilitation and training. He returned to the Packers for one more season before moving to the AFL, first playing for the San Jose Sabercats and, later, the Arizona Rattlers. At each of his AFL stints, Warren suffered separate injuries. “That’s when I realized my body was trying to tell me something,” he recalls.

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Warren returned to University of Nebraska-Lincoln and finished his sociology degree in 2004. After graduation, he had a decision to make. His wife, Heidi, is from Columbus, so staying in Nebraska certainly seemed like an option. And being a Nebraska alumni opened many doors for Warren. Former Huskers often pursued successful careers after leaving the field.

But a sales job or related opportunities just didn’t feel right.

“I always liked helping others, and I worked with mentors while at Nebraska,” Warren shares. At his Lincoln home near 30th and Y streets, some of Warren’s fondest memories were sitting on his porch and talking with children and teens who lived in the neighborhood.

That feeling never left him, which is why today he is president and founder of D.R.E.A.M. (Developing Relationships through Education, Athletics, Mentoring). It’s an Omaha-based nonprofit mentoring organization that reaches out to young men enrolled in middle school.

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“Seven years ago, everything for D.R.E.A.M. just fell into place: the pieces, the people. It was meant to be,” Warren says.

D.R.E.A.M. began in 2006 as an after-school program at Walnut Hill Elementary School at 43rd and Charles streets. Five volunteers met regularly with 20 at-risk students. Today, the program has expanded to several Omaha schools and added a chapter in Springfield, Mo., Warren’s hometown. In all, the program serves about 300 boys.

D.R.E.A.M. finds its success from 40 volunteers who spend three to five hours each week at an assigned school throughout the academic year. The theme is simple: becoming a man.

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“Our volunteers work with seventh- and eighth-grade students each school year teaching them the positive attributes of being a man: respect, responsibility, relationship building, establishing rapport,” Warren says. “All of these lessons I learned from football at Nebraska and our peer counseling.”

D.R.E.A.M. teaches young men that it’s okay (even encouraged) to be successful in school. College-age mentors serve as living, breathing examples of the success that comes with hard work, dedication, and diligence.

Teena Foster, an Omaha Public Schools site director at McMillan Magnet Center Middle School, has worked alongside Warren and his college-age volunteers since last fall. Foster says she continues to see growth in the seventh- and eighth-grade students who participate in D.R.E.A.M. each week. And she knows Warren is the driving force.

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“Steve is dedicated to mentoring these young students,” Foster explains. “He’s always smiling, is always pleasant. So are his volunteers. They build great relationships with our students. Mentors are extremely important in these young lives.”

Warren’s belief in mentorship yielded a second program that also occupies much of his time. From his experiences as a student athlete, Warren launched Warren Academy in 2010. It’s designed to provide students (from elementary and middle school to high school and college) with leadership skills and character-building through athletics.

Warren Academy, however, isn’t just for students. Coaches and other leaders also participate to improve and refine a variety of leadership skills, both on and off of the field. Warren Academy programs include training sessions, camps, coaching clinics, nutritional counseling, education assistance, and mentoring. The athletic training component features speed, strength, and agility training programs. Warren says that once the organization has its own facility, Warren Academy’s offerings will expand to include fitness for adults and children of all ages.

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“Our goal is to become the primary training resource for field sports,” Warren adds. “That includes baseball, football, track, soccer, and lacrosse.”

Seems Warren’s best playing position is that of teacher. And he’s loving every minute of it.