How Coach Frost Cured all that ailed UCF Football…
If you haven’t heard by now, the UCF Fightin’ Fast Knights of Orlando are bowl bound, just one season removed from a golden goose egg of a season that brought about the end of the George O’Leary’s coaching tenure. While the grumpy one will live on as a statue outside of the UCF stadium, forever featuring the words “Coach” George O’Leary, almost as if it’s being sarcastic with the quotation marks, this program is now, and presumably for at least two more years, run by the young and exciting Scott Frost.
And with his first season in the books, we can give Frosty the Go, Man! (his nickname is a work in progress) his first official letter grade: A+. Let’s be clear here, though: One win would have been an A. So, six wins and a bowl bid? That’s a damn A+++ as far as I’m concerned. As for the bowl game, well, it’s great that Frost’s young and talented squad is being rewarded with a trip to beautiful… Orlando? Come on! What about the Bahamas or South Beach?
Whatever, at least it’s not Birmingham or St. Pete again.
Anyway, the bowl game is mostly irrelevant at this point. (The game, not the cause and reason behind the name the “Cure Bowl,” because breast cancer awareness and especially the Breast Cancer Research Foundation should be taken very seriously, so buy tickets and donate your money or time, okay?) The future of the UCF football program is what should matter for fans, because Frost has proven that he was worth the hype when UCF locked down the most sought after candidate on an otherwise lackluster market. He has begun to cure UCF of its ailments (again, not making light of the real purpose of the Cure Bowl here, and please educate yourselves on breast cancer and urge those close to you to get screened and be proactive in battling this terrible disease) and we should pay tribute to this man’s great efforts, starting with…
1. Well, he won some games
The great thing about going winless – something that UCF did twice under O’Leary, so we’re pretty much an authority on the feat – is that just one win feels so sweet. The Fiesta Bowl win with Blake and Storm is something I’ll watch at least once a year for the rest of my life, sure, but it still isn’t as great as that old Marshall win that broke the losing streak. So, if Frost had led this team to a 1-11 record, we still would have had the great feeling of one game, but instead he made contenders of the Knights and gave fans (what little of them showed up to games, of course) something to be really excited about for next season. As our scoreboard-fluffing rivals in Tampa know too well, it’s always about next season, and we can be excited now, thanks to Scotty 2 Hotty (still spit-balling).
2. He believes in his players, and that produced greater results
Would Shaquem Griffin have been named AAC Defender of the Year if O’Leary was still his coach? Would he have been moved from safety to linebacker to better utilize his talents, and therefore lead the conference in sacks, under the old regime? We may never know, but the fact is that Win at All Frost (pretty good, right?) and defensive coordinator Erik “Chandler Bing’s Name on the TV Guide was” Chinander saw something in this incredible student-athlete – who has been praised nationwide for playing at an elite level despite only having one hand – and gave him a chance to shine. He repaid the coaches for their faith, and that’s the kind of thing that makes recruits want to come to UCF.
3. As football goes, so go the other sports
This one is a bit of a stretch, but I’m a recovering pessimist so I’m trying to see the best in everything. The Danny White era was off to a good start with the hiring of Frost, then it got better as the team won, and now it’s great because of the Cure Bowl bid. Making it even better is that the men’s basketball team is off to a 6-1 start under new coach Johnny Dawkins, as super-tall center Tacko Fall, like Griffin, has earned some face time from Scott Van Pelt on SportsCenter.
Does success breed success? In this case, does the excitement caused by Frost in Translation (booooooo) infect Dawkins and the hoops team, and hopefully the school’s other programs that people wrongly ignore? For the sake of what I’m trying to prove here, yes. Yes, it does. Great job, everyone!
4. McKenzie Milton has a chance to be very special
Look, I too still long for the days of Blake Bortles marching the Knights down the field, and while I’d give anything to get him far away from that terrible offensive line in Jacksonville, we simply cannot turn back the clocks. We must march on and find the next Bort-daddy to win us another Party Bowl, and there’s a good chance that McKenzie “The Red Stapler” Milton ends his UCF career with his name mentioned in the same sentence as Bortles and Daunte Culpepper.
The hype for this kid is already pretty high, as people compare him to Marcus Mariota, but let’s chill with that. Just because the Frosting on Top (stop, dude) coached at Oregon doesn’t mean we need to keep talking about Oregon. Especially when it comes to Nike. But when it comes to Milton, let’s let the kid learn to be himself on the field – something that Frost did well this season, despite plenty of mistakes – and hopefully the next star QB recruit at Oregon will be called the next McKenzie Milton.
5. He’s doing the whole “I’m not leaving” dance so well
My biggest pet peeve concerning Great Scott’s hiring was that the moment he showed up in his first UCF polo, fans had him leaving for Nebraska in two years. There was always a glaring lack of connection between O’Leary and fans over the years, and that certainly still plays a role in the embarrassing number of empty seats in the stands at home games. Fans need to squash that now and put this “Whatever, he’s just gonna leave us” bullshit aside and show Frostimus Prime (okay, I’ll stop) an undying love, because that’s the kind of thing that will make it hard for him to leave, if and when a Power 5 program comes knocking.
Frost was probably never considered for the Oregon vacancy, so when he said he isn’t leaving and did the whole “we have a goal to accomplish” song and dance, it was easy to believe him. If he wins more game next season and the season after, it will undoubtedly be harder to believe him, but that’s the price we pay for wanting to be better. Frost has already cured this program of its worst ailments, but it’s now up to fans to stop cornball newspaper columnists and their cheap gimmick “empty seats” rants, and prove to this coach that he should build a big ass home in Lake Nona and get comfortable here for a long, long time.