How many wins will Mickey Joseph need for Huskers to remove interim tag?
Being an interim coach is never easy.
Most of the time an assistant is promoted to be the head coach towards the end of the year, or for a bowl game. That’s because the previous head coach was fired or left the program for another job.
However, there are some rare situations when it all transpires early in the season. And that means an individual was ousted for something flagrant. So when an assistant is nabbed the interim coach by the acting Athletic Director under those circumstances, it’s somewhat bittersweet.
It’s a humbling experience just to be put in that position. It’s also a level of respect that the Athletic Director put confidence in the coach to clean up another man’s mess. So there’s no denying it’s a delicate situation. And the pressure is there off the bat for the interim. Not to mention very few get to keep the job and have the interim tag removed.
Nebraska Athletic Director Trev Alberts raised several eyebrows when he fired Scott Frost Sunday. It was somewhat expected, but the timing was off. Big Red Nation thought Alberts would wait until October 1. That’s because Frost’s buyout clause would have decreased significantly.
Instead Alberts made the toughest decision in his short time as the Huskers’ Athletic Director. Parting ways with Frost after the embarrassing home loss to Georgia Southern was a no-brainer. Regardless of the matter, Alberts took Nebraska fans by surprise and made history when he named Wide Receiver Coach Mickey Joseph the program’s interim for the remainder of the season.
Like Frost, Joseph is a former Husker quarterback, but now he’s the school’s first African American head coach in any sport. And that’s saying a lot in this day and age. Nebraska’s conservatism and resistance to change throughout the years, may have played a big part in the program being stuck in neutral for the past 20 seasons.
Joseph is an individual who can win over the locker room and the fans though. The 54-year old has only been back at his alma mater since last December. And during that time, Joseph has proved he’s a great recruiter. Not only does he understand Nebraska tradition, but Joseph is respected and has a connection with the current players.
Those are all ingredients that can potentially change the narrative on Nebraska’s disappointing 2022 campaign thus far. After Alberts kept that window of opportunity to be the permanent head coach open for Joseph, fans are excited to see how the remaining nine games play out. Still, history shows the odds are against Joseph.
Clemson fired Tommy Bowden in 2008 after six games. Dabo Swinney became the interim, finished 4-3 down the stretch and the Tigers removed the interim tag. USC fired Lane Kiffin in 2013 after five games. Ed Orgeron became the interim and went 6-2 over the next eight games, but was passed up for Clay Helton.
Last season the Trojans fired Helton after two games and made Donte Williams the interim. Williams finished with a 3-7 record though, so he never received any strong consideration for the USC job, and the program landed a home run hire in Lincoln Riley.
It remains to be seen how many victories do Joseph have to post to be retained by the Huskers. The remaining schedule is daunting though. As of now Nebraska will face two top-10 teams, including rival Oklahoma invading Memorial Stadium this Saturday. Joseph has an opportunity to make an immediate splash by upsetting the No. 6 team in the country.
Any team is dangerous when they have nothing to lose. Nebraska’s defense is a liability, but the offense can put points on the scoreboard. That means the remaining contests will likely be shootouts, and those can go either way, depending on which offense has the ball last.
If Joseph can somehow win five, six, or seven games, the Huskers will be bowling for the first time since 2016. And that’ll make it hard for Alberts not to remove the interim tag on Joseph. In the meantime, Alberts will continue his coaching search, but will keep an eye on Joseph’s progress.
It’s crystal clear the Huskers have hit the reset button on their season. A breath of fresh air, with new leadership should give the players confidence and momentum. No doubt all eyes will be on the Sea of Red this Saturday, and there’ll be plenty of storylines to choose from.
So if Joseph can take advantage of the spotlight in his debut, it’ll spark a flame that’ll likely turn into a wildfire once Nebraska reaches the meat grinder of its’ Big Ten schedule.