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Steven M. Sipple: In pondering Frost's plight, your interest level in story may indicate plenty

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Nebraska fans reach out their hands for high-fives as Nebraska's Austin Allen walks onto the field before their game against Minnesota on Oct. 16 in Minneapolis.

Nebraska tight end Austin Allen unwittingly summed up an ongoing conundrum quite succinctly.

He did so as he reflected on four Husker offensive assistants recently losing their jobs.

"We haven't succeeded as players in getting the details right, and really the coaches had to pay for it," the junior from Aurora told reporters earlier this week.

Which brings to mind an ongoing debate in the Nebraska fan base: Does the inability of the current Husker program to get over the proverbial hump reflect a defect in Scott Frost's overall coaching acumen? Isn't it ultimately Frost and his staff's job to ensure the players "get the details right" on a consistent enough basis to be a regular factor in the Big Ten West Division?

The other side of the aisle in this debate suggests that Nebraska's string of close losses to highly ranked opponents shows that Frost's program is close to turning the corner.

The debate will continue throughout the offseason. One game certainly won't settle it. No matter the outcome of Nebraska's 12:30 p.m. regular-season finale Friday against 16th-ranked Iowa, Husker fans will enthusiastically discuss the matter well after Frost ends his fourth season in charge.

Don't know about you, but I remain extremely interested to see whether Frost can pull off this Big Red reclamation project. In 2018, he set about the task of rebuilding the program into something that closely resembles past glory. It would be unfair at this point to say he's failed. It also would be unfair if we didn't point out his record of 15-28 at the school, including 10-24 in the Big Ten.

This is where I should express a bit of thanks. I've been covering Nebraska football on a full-time basis since 1995, and I can tell you I'm as interested in the proceedings as I've ever been, and perhaps even more so. My high level of interest can be traced in part to a scary aspect of the ongoing story — that is, the possibility that Nebraska, which hasn't won a conference championship since 1999, continues to fade into oblivion.

I'm sure many Minnesota Gophers fans thought the good times would last forever after the program won its last national championship in 1960.

Because of Nebraska's consistent excellence from the late 1960s through the early 2000s, many Husker fans came to regard nine-win seasons as a birthright. That line of thinking always made me feel uncomfortable because, in a sense, it diminished the accomplishment of all those successful teams. Plus, it's just flat-out arrogant to think that way.

A couple of years ago, I heard a local radio personality say, "A coach should be able to roll out of bed and win nine games at Nebraska," and I nearly lost my mind.

Roll out of bed and win nine games? Really? Such a line of thinking is incredibly disrespectful to the sport, not to mention disrespectful to the very nature of competition. The essence of competition lies in the understanding that there are no guarantees of victory. Who even wants a guarantee of victory?

Nebraska fans surely understand at this point that nine-win seasons don't just happen with a snap of the fingers.

Roll out of bed and win nine games? I almost threw up in my mouth.

Verbalizing such a notion disrespects the work of Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne, giants in the coaching world who through incredibly hard work, well-developed coaching acumen and remarkable guile somehow made Nebraska into a consistent power, the sort of program we now see at Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State.

Frankly, verbalizing such a flawed notion also disrespects the work of Frank Solich (58-19 at Nebraska) and Bo Pelini (67-27).

Nebraska, currently 3-8 overall and 1-7 in the Big Ten, is now chasing the giants of the college game. In that regard, I often ponder Frost's plight, in part because it's my job and in part because I'm wildly fascinated by the entire story. I try to listen to both sides of the ongoing debate. I also try to listen to myself.

The fact I'm so interested and invested in the ongoing story essentially tells me that I still give Frost a chance to pull the plane out of the tailspin, all the while considering the possibility that he might ultimately fail. And then what? That's a daunting question for another day.

For now, we focus on this week's game against Iowa (9-2, 6-2). It's another chance to gauge progress in Frost's program in a meaningful way.

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