LINCOLN, Neb. — New Nebraska coach Scott Frost was given a rousing welcome home at his introductory news conference Sunday from boosters, current players and his old teammates, and he promised to make them proud with the product he will put on the field.
Frost takes over a program that has lost its stature among college football's elite in the 20 years since he quarterbacked the Cornhuskers to a share of the 1997 national championship.
"There was a formula that worked here for a long time," Frost said. "Times have changed a little but some of those same things are going to make this work again. And that's a lot of good people who care about this place working really hard. It's toughness, it's dedication, it's work ethic. That's what Nebraska is, that's what the people in Nebraska are, and that's what this place is going to stand for while I'm here."
The 42-year-old Frost agreed to a seven-year, $35 million contract. This year he became the hottest coach on the market for leading the dramatic turnaround at Central Florida. He inherited a team that went 0-12 in 2015, and this year he coached the Knights to a 12-0 record. He was introduced less than 24 hours after UCF defeated Memphis 62-55 in two overtimes in the American Athletic Conference championship game.
Athletic director Bill Moos said he's certain Frost was the first choice for several of the other top coaching vacancies in the Power Five.
"I got the pick of the litter," Moos said, drawing applause from some 400 people who crowded into a lounge area at Memorial Stadium.
Frost will coach UCF in the Peach Bowl against Auburn on Jan. 1, then step into a situation that would have seemed unimaginable during his playing days. The Huskers were 4-8 this season and allowed more than 50 points for four times. It was the Huskers' most losses since 1957 and their fewest wins since 1961.
Tom Osborne, who won his third national title in four years with Frost as his quarterback, has been conspicuously absent around the program since he retired as athletic director in 2012. Sunday, he was in the front row at the news conference.
"I think this is a good day," Osborne said. "Probably the most important thing a coach does is establish a culture. Sometimes it's hard to explain a culture if you haven't lived it or experienced it. Scott's done that. Now he'll bring a lot of his own ideas — this isn't going to be a return to 1997 in terms of offense, defense, those kinds of things — but he understands the things that need to be done here and he knows some of the basics that sustained it over a 42-year period."
Frost built an impressive resume as an assistant coach at Oregon and was seen by fans as a viable candidate after Nebraska fired Bo Pelini following the 2014 season. But then-athletic director Shawn Eichorst made a surprise hire, bringing in Riley from Oregon State. The Huskers went 19-19 over his three seasons.
University President Hank Bounds and chancellor Ronnie Green fired Eichorst and then brought in Moos.
"I wasn't considered for this job the last time it came open, and I 'm glad I wasn't," Frost said. "I didn't get a phone call, and I'm glad I didn't. The pieces are in place now. I believe a lot in Bill. I believe in Hank and Ronnie. This state is ready to see this place return to what it was."
The Huskers won five national titles between 1970 and '97 and rank fifth all-time with 893 victories. They also have won an NCAA-record 46 conference championships, but none since 1999.
Frost's father, Larry, played wingback for Devaney from 1967-69. His mother, Carol, was the first Nebraska female athlete to compete for the U.S. Olympic team, competing in the discus in 1968, and she later was the Huskers' coach in women's track.
Scott grew up about 100 miles west of Lincoln in Wood River, where his dad was head football coach and his mom was receivers coach. He started his career at Stanford under Bill Walsh. Things didn't work out, and he returned to Nebraska and quarterbacked the Huskers in 1996 and '97.
Eric Crouch, the Huskers' Heisman Trophy winner in 2001, said Frost is the right man at the right time for Nebraska.
"It's just nice to have someone here who understands what it takes to win and be in that position," Crouch said. "He's a special person, and I think it's just a perfect fit."
Frost didn't disclose which members of his UCF staff would join him at Nebraska, but he does promise to bring his dynamic "UCF-Fast" offense that averages a nation-best 49.4 points.
Asked how he would modify his system for the Big Ten, he drew roars and applause when he said, "I'm hoping the Big Ten has to modify their system for us."
Osborne said for all the "overwhelming euphoria" that comes with Frost's returns, the fans will need to be patient.
"There are going to be tough days," he said. "You aren't going to win every game, and it's going to take some time to build the culture the way it has to be built. I think the administration has made a long-term commitment to Scott, and Scott has made commitment here. And I just hope the fans will back it up."