ORLANDO, Fla. -- Two years ago today, Scott Frost left his job as Oregon offensive coordinator to become a first-time head coach, choosing UCF because he felt he had everything in place to win right away.
But this season has exceeded even his grandest expectations. UCF just completed the first undefeated regular season in school history, with more on the line this weekend. A win over Memphis in the American Athletic Conference championship game Saturday puts UCF into a New Year’s Six game, an improbable comeback story for a program that had just finished an 0-12 campaign when Frost arrived in December 2015.
While Frost's accomplishments have been celebrated, success like this often means the head coach becomes a hot name on the coaching carousel. Naturally, that has happened with Frost, who has drawn interest from a variety of schools. But with Nebraska added to the mix, the discussion point about Frost and his future has become inescapable, especially this week.
As much as Frost has tried to keep the focus on the game and his players, the question is as unavoidable now as it was a month ago, when it became clear that UCF was on the ride of a lifetime and Nebraska was going to part ways with Mike Riley.
New athletic director Bill Moos said last week he would consider Frost, as expected. Frost admitted earlier this week he would be hurt if Nebraska did not show interest in him. Indeed, he was hurt three years ago when Nebraska never reached out and instead opted to hire Riley. It is only natural that Frost, a native son who led the program to a national title in 1997, feels that way.
Whether Frost already has made up his mind is another matter entirely. Frost has remained tight-lipped this week about his future, and so have UCF and Nebraska administrators. There is a game to be played, after all, a game that UCF fully intends to win. There is a goal Frost wants to reach, a tangible goal he set when he arrived in Orlando.
“I feel great about the fact that we were able to get this thing turned around,” Frost said this week. “That was our goal when we got here is, to get UCF back to a place where it was competing for conference championships. That's where it belongs. This place is different and special, and I don't see any reason that we can't compete for conference championships every year going forward. I'm pretty sure I didn't think it was possible that it could get turned around this fast, but a lot of people did a lot of good things to get it here.”
Frost had something to do with that, too. His players explained how Frost was able to bring a fractured team back together. Tight end Jordan Akins said Frost brought in the perfect offense to complement the players on the roster and take advantage of their speed.
Akins topped the career year he had a season ago under Frost, with new highs for receptions (26), yards (393) and touchdowns (3).
“He did a great job of putting people in the right places,” Akins said. “Having that offense, it works great for us. It was the missing piece of the puzzle. Everyone just bought into the process. … I used to watch Oregon, with all the speed and everything. Of course, you’re like, ‘I wonder how it would be if I played in this type of offense.’ I’m a more agile tight end, can be moved wide out, create mismatches as well as block. He just changed all of us around, and we’re better athletes, we have a better IQ for the game of football.”
But the growth went beyond the X's and O's.
“We went bowling, we went to the movies, we went out to eat with each other,” UCF linebacker Shaquem Griffin said. “We’ve got older guys taking the younger guys under their wings and being able to just watch film and teach them the ins and outs on how things go and make sure they help each other in any situation. We can go into Coach Frost’s office to talk about anything besides football. When you have coaches like that and can go in their office to talk about anything, it makes you feel more at home, it makes you feel secure, it makes you feel safe. When you have that, when it comes to a game, the only thing you want to do is fight for your coaches and teammates."
There’s no doubt UCF will do just that on Saturday. Once the game ends, the Frost watch will begin again.