UCF, rather quietly I must say, made a splash in hiring Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost as its new head coach and the tenth in program history.
Frost has been a hot name in coaching circles for what feels like a while now, but the fact he wasn’t linked to the UCF job before the news of his hire broke is quite an anomaly in today’s world and media landscape.
Nonetheless, the Knights got their guy, and he’s exactly what they need right now.
Frost is young (40), an excellent offensive mind, a former player with national championship pedigree, and perhaps most importantly: a clear departure from George O’Leary and anyone of his coaching tree. In my opinion, the university had become so attached to O’Leary that it hamstrung the program as he weighed retirement and dabbled with becoming the school’s athletic director along the way to a 0-12 season.
With that said, all is not lost in Orlando.
This won’t be a major rebuild or total overhaul, a la the jobs Justin Fuente and Matt Rhule faced at Memphis and Temple. UCF has talent on the roster, it was simply too young and riddled with turnover from last season to have success now, especially with a distracted head coach. Combine the players Frost has with the recruiting base he is entering and the offense he is bringing with him from Oregon, and this can be an immediate turnaround with Tom Herman-esque success.
— Brandon Helwig (@UCFSports) December 1, 2015
To clarify, yes, I think UCF can contend for the American title as soon as next year with Frost at the helm, just as Houston did this year with Herman leading the way.
I’m not saying he is Greg Ward Jr., but Justin Holman could have similar success under Frost’s tutelage and in his system. Holman isn’t quite as quick as Ward, but he still possesses athleticism and dual-threat abilities that were totally lost under O’Leary’s regime. I fully expect Frost and his quarterback-friendly system to get Holman closer to his 2014 self, a version of the signal caller that led the Knights to a co-conference championship despite his inexperience.
Throw in a few more quality athletes with a year of experience around Holman (like freshman wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith), an up-tempo system that puts points on the board in bunches, and general enthusiasm and excitement the team lacked this season and UCF can win right now.
Oregon offense ranks since 2013 (Frost’s first year as off coord): 2nd in PPG (44.8), 2nd in expected pts added/PG https://t.co/1JVOjELQnW
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 1, 2015
Need some more positive vibes from this hire? Well, as Brandon Helwig of UCFSports.com pointed out, Frost has been associated with some coaches of the highest stature. He played for legends Bill Walsh and Tom Osborne in college (Stanford and Nebraska) and NFL Hall-of-Famer Bill Parcells (New York Jets) in the pros. Throw in his time working under Chip Kelly at Oregon and I wouldn’t be too concerned with the sources of his coaching inspirations and theories.
So with positive momentum and immediate success expected, what are the potential future consequences? You don’t need to look anywhere but to Houston to find out.
Tom Herman has the Cougars on the verge of an American Athletic Conference championship and an appearance in a New Year’s Six bowl game, but it hasn’t come without a price to the university. It cost Houston the highest annual salary it has given to a coach in school history ($1.35 million over five years) just to get Herman there, and now the university needed board approval to negotiate a new deal that could pay him up to $3 million annually to stay. According to ESPN.com, if Herman’s new deal reaches $3 million per year he will become the highest paid coach at a Group of 5 program.
With Frost’s name already on the radar nationally prior to taking the job at UCF, could he turn the program around and be a hot commodity in next year’s Power 5 coaching market just like Herman this year? It wouldn’t shock me.
Herman is an important case study in the economics of college football and the importance of having a winning football program to a university.
Maybe Group of 5 conferences like the AAC, or at least programs like Houston, will slowly begin to open up their pocketbooks to retain coaches like Herman, rather than serve as their stepping stones. Perhaps places like Memphis, Cincinnati and Temple can one day become coaching destinations where careers are spent rather than launched.
Scott Frost and UCF can be the next Tom Herman and Houston, and how that affects the coaching landscape of college football remains to be seen.