After a bit of false start, it turns out that Oregon Ducks Offensive Coordinator Scott Frost is in at UCF.
It was widely reported a few days ago that Bowling Green Head Coach Dino Babers was expected to take the job in Orlando (including by the SB Nation Mothership. Uh. Our crytstal ball was murky). Babers denied the reports, leading some to speculate that it was a matter of timing (Babers' buy-out dropped by $100k on December 1, and Bowling Green is playing in the MAC Championship game).
All of this ended up being wrong, of course.
Tuesday morning, the news broke that Frost was hired to steer the Knights out of the colossal wreck that the George O'Leary era had ended in. The hire comes as a surprise: Frost was not among the names reportedly interviewed this past weekend, nor the topic of much speculation (though he was linked to other head coaching gigs, including at Syracuse and Iowa State).
Frost's resume is pretty solid, though brief. He was the starting quarterback on Nebraska's 1997 national title team, spent six years in the NFL, and transitioned into coaching in 2002. He spent time as a graduate assistant at his alma mater and then at Kansas State. In 2007, Frost became the linebackers coach at Northern Iowa and then added "co-defensive coordinator" duties the next year. Both years, Northern Iowa made it deep into the playoffs.
The last six years for Frost were spent coaching at Oregon - three of them as the wide receivers coach during the Chip Kelly era. With Mark Helfrich at the helm, Frost served as the offensive coordinator since 2013.
It's a hire about which Knights fans can be cautiously optimistic. UCF just finished slogging through a winless season, hampered by a defense that was statistically the worst of any FBS program. With Frost, the Ducks ranked sixth this year. In forty games with Frost as the offensive coordinator, Oregon averaged 553 yards per game and 44.8 points per game. One hopes that the track record of excellence on offense will continue at UCF.
Hiring Frost is also a recognition of UCF's desire to restore interest in a program that turned off many fans this year with play that was not merely disastrous but also dreadfully boring. A few days before the announcement, UCF President John Hitt told the Orlando Sentinel:
If you have to lose, would you rather lose 45-44 or 10-9 - and the answer is that people want to see some points scored. Why do you think so many people are running the Baylor-type spread that scores a lot of points? [. . .] ESPN stands for Entertainment and Sports Programming Network. The first word is ‘entertainment' and we're competing for the entertainment dollar with a lot of young people and young families.
For what it's worth, the fun factor is an aspect of this hire that UCF is trying hard to embrace. UCF's social media has been filled with images of Frost looking young (as he is, at 40) and excited. It's a stark contrast to George O'Leary's first year on campus when the UCF sports marketing material emphasized that he was tough, cantankerous, and, for lack of a better word, "shouty."
In many ways, the Frost hire represents an about face from the philosophy that supported the O'Leary hire over a decade ago. O'Leary was a veteran head coach who found his way to UCF after a bit of a disgrace - he was cut loose by Notre Dame after only days on the job for having made false statements on his resume.
Frost is no fall from grace story, but a coach whose star is ascendant now on his first head coaching stop. Unlike O'Leary, who became wedded to UCF, Frost is a coach who might be reasonably expected to move on to a more prominent job if he finds success at UCF. And while O'Leary was known for tough defenses and old school ethos, Frost is progressive in his philosophy on offense.
Plus he's got that whole we're-Oregon-and-we're-exciting-on-offense halo around him (the football-coach equivalent of "new car smell").
There are reasons for Knights fans to temper their optimism, however. Frost's play-calling at times prompted head-scratching at Oregon (though, arguably, this was just the result of a young coordinator still finding his groove). The lack of an obvious connection to the state of Florida is also not happy news for a program eager to start winning some meaningful, in-state recruiting battles. And Frost has no track record as a head coach, not at any level. So while it's not the obvious home run hire (the way that fellow AAC member Houston's pick-up of Tom Herman was last year), there's tremendous possible upside here.
And at least Knights fans can begin to move on after a nightmare season and look again towards the future.