ATLANTA — As white and gold confetti floated in the air, Scott Frost couldn’t help but smile. After all, his No. 12 Central Florida Knights had just defeated No. 7 Auburn to win the Peach Bowl and cap off a perfect season.
UCF fans in attendance at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Monday chanted ‘U-C-F’ and screamed with glee. Frost removed his hat and pumped his right fist multiple times into the air.
Frost had already said goodbye to UCF once. It was the evening of Saturday, Dec. 2, and the Knights had just defeated Memphis 62-55 in the AAC Championship Game. Frost then told his players the news: He was leaving to become the head coach at Nebraska.
It was never a firm goodbye, though. Frost was adamant that he wanted to coach UCF in its bowl game, wherever that would be. He was willing to make it work if everyone else involved was willing, too.
Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos was on board. UCF athletic director Danny White was, too. There were still details to figure out, but Frost was OK to return and help in any way he could.
“I wanted to do it for them,” Frost said of his players. “I didn’t know if we had a chance or not, but I thought us coaches being here would give us the best chance. I can’t believe they did this. They pulled this off under these circumstances. It’s a credit to these players.”
It’s a credit to Frost, too. Both quarterback McKenzie Milton and linebacker Shaquem Griffin sang his praises at the post-Peach Bowl news conference. For Griffin especially, Frost is the reason football became fun again. It’s also the reason he’ll leave UCF with friends who are more like brothers.
“It’s been a long time since I had somebody or a team that brought me in as one of them,” Griffin said. “I fought so hard to get where I’m at today, and it’s kind of good where I can actually showcase my talents with guys like McKenzie and guys like Coach Frost. Any guy can’t ask for that much. It’s hard to have a family environment like how we do.
“When I leave, that’s what I’m going to miss the most. Not just winning, but being around guys like that and having that family vibe all the time and being able to not talk about just football but just life itself.”
Frost plans to stay in touch with the UCF players. It’s hard not to believe him, too. Despite moving forward to Nebraska, he made one final pitch that recruits shouldn’t overlook UCF. And you really can’t fault Frost for the pitch, either, because he has his reasons for making it.
“Listen, I’ll get heat for saying this, but if I’m a recruit out there, I want to come play at UCF,” Frost said. “It’s an incredible campus, it’s an incredible opportunity. They are going to come in and play with some unbelievable human beings and football players and if I’m a recruit out there, I want to come to Nebraska and play for this group of men that made this happen.
“I’m going to be a fan of both, do everything I can for the guys at UCF and do everything I can at Nebraska, and I can’t wait to watch what both programs can accomplish.”
The decision to leave UCF wasn’t easy. It was in Frost’s eyes on Dec. 2 after winning the AAC championship. He was tired, exhausted, and emotionally drained. Leaving UCF was never going to be easy for him, but he was ready for a new opportunity with his alma mater.
It was a long few weeks for Frost and his staff. There were countless flights between Lincoln and Orlando, as the staff balanced recruiting for Nebraska with Peach Bowl preparation. The inaugural early signing period came and went, which Frost tackled in the same day as a Knights’ practice.
It was tiring. It was a little crazy. It was the way it was supposed to be.
And there was something very fitting about how it all ended, too. UCF is 13-0. It’s an incredible feat, one that Frost plans to savor for the rest of his life.
He absolutely should.
“I hold my head high because through this whole process and decisions everything and, I tried to do everything the right way the best that I knew how,” Frost said. “It was the right thing to do to come coach these guys. I’m not happy for me. I’m so happy for these guys. I told them in the locker room, this was an 0-12 group when I got there, and they looked like they weren’t having any fun and didn’t care about each other.
“We had a long way to go, and to think that they are sitting here Peach Bowl champions and 13-0 in two years, I couldn’t be happier for them.”