To some Nebraska soccer followers, the ‘curse’ of Frank Solich is as actual as cutworms on a cornstalk

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LINCOLN, Neb. — They got here with paper, wooden and 20 years of angst. Perhaps the 200 or so individuals who confirmed up had watched an excessive amount of “Ted Lasso” and thought the whole lot that plagued Nebraska football might be fastened with a symbolic burning of issues they held pricey. The Lincoln fireplace division put the kibosh on any burning of jerseys, footballs or just about something artificial, in order that they wrote down all their dangerous reminiscences on slips of paper and blocks of wooden and tossed them right into a burning barrel.

It was Aug. 25, two days earlier than the beginning of Nebraska’s soccer season, and a bunch of diehards who could not afford a visit to Eire to observe their group tackle Northwestern assembled within the concourse of Nebraska’s baseball stadium for a “Break the Curse” occasion.

Evidently, issues bought a little bit bizarre. They doused previous soccer jerseys with a cleaning water made with some salt discovered on a wiccan web site. A radio intern cracked an egg on his head, and a band performed as nightfall fell over downtown Lincoln.

Jack Mitchell, one of many creators of the occasion, stood and watched and knew in his intestine it wasn’t sufficient. He had didn’t ship crucial participant: Frank Solich.

The Curse of Frank Solich is as actual as cutworm on a cornstalk in some components of Nebraska, and for those who consider in such issues, it will not go away till amends are made, or at the very least till a considerable period of time has been spent in purgatory.

It has been 18 years, 9 months and 16 days since Nebraska famously fired Solich after a 9-3 common season. And Nebraska, as soon as a powerhouse that gained 5 nationwide championships and went 414-82-5 in a four-decade span from the early ’60s to 2003, has languished by eight shedding seasons since then. 4 coaches have been employed and fired at Nebraska since Solich, and the Cornhuskers have failed to complete higher than the 10-3 mark achieved by his final group, which went on to win its bowl recreation in his absence.

Mitchell, co-host of KLIN’s Morning Drive in Lincoln, knew it was a longshot that Solich would come. However he hoped to get him to talk on the video board, decked out in Husker gear, and say that every one is forgiven.

By an middleman, Solich naturally declined, albeit politely. Solich had spent greater than half of his life in Nebraska, as a participant, a highschool coach, a longtime NU assistant after which six years as head coach. Nevertheless it’s believed that he hasn’t stepped foot close to Memorial Stadium in Lincoln since his 2003 dismissal.

On Saturday, lower than every week after Nebraska fired native son Scott Frost, the Cornhuskers will face No. 6 Oklahoma in Lincoln. The college that was as soon as the mannequin of teaching continuity, with simply three teaching adjustments in 4 many years from the Nineteen Sixties by the early 2000s, will relaxation its hopes within the palms of interim coach Mickey Joseph.

Only a few years in the past, Frost gave the impression to be probably the most surefire rent since, nicely, Solich. Frost was a former NU quarterback who led this system to its final nationwide championship, in 1997, and was one of many hottest names within the 2017 teaching carousel. He completed 16-31 at Nebraska, coached the primary group within the historical past of main faculty soccer to lose seven straight video games by a single-digit margin, and within the 2022 season opener determined to gamble on an onside kick together with his Cornhuskers carrying an 11-point second-half lead and all of the momentum.

It didn’t go nicely.

“The abject cruelty of all of it does make it really feel like there’s something, some metaphysical debt that must be paid,” Mitchell says. “I can not determine it out, however I really feel like this fan base has been in collections for 20 years and you do not know the right way to get out of it and the rate of interest is 50%.

“I virtually really feel that I failed. If I had delivered Frank, we might be 3-0 heading into Oklahoma.”

In Nebraska, there are causes to consider within the curse.

There was the embarrassing 41-day teaching search to search out Solich’s substitute when a number of candidates turned the job down.

There was the additional second added to the sport clock within the 2009 Large 12 championship recreation towards Texas, denying the Cornhuskers what may have been their first and solely convention title post-Solich.

There was the Bo Pelini hat swipe, the seven-game shedding skid (and counting) to Iowa, and Frost’s teaching debut in 2018 towards Akron. The groups ran out onto the sector, and the Zips booted the opening kickoff. Then lightning flashed, the sky opened and after a two-hour and 40-minute delay, the sport was canceled.

Mike Lippman, an affiliate professor at Nebraska who teaches a category referred to as Historical Greek Athletics, is sitting outdoors in a espresso store/beer backyard close to campus Tuesday evening after I ask him if he believes in curses.

“I consider in luck,” Lippman says. “And I believe you may have dangerous luck due to dangerous actions.”

Within the spring of 2017, just a few months earlier than the Cornhuskers embarked upon one other shedding season, a younger lady, supposedly a descendant of Solich, spoke to about 90 individuals in one in all Lippman’s lessons. She mentioned her mom had put a curse on Nebraska soccer. One of many college students in that class, Matt Reynoldson, finally tweeted about it.

Reynoldson is a sports activities anchor for WFRV in Inexperienced Bay, Wisconsin, now, and does not keep in mind all the small print. However he remembers that the lady mentioned her mom “went and put a curse on Memorial Stadium in 2003, and that till Nebraska makes issues proper with Frank that they are going to by no means win on the stage they noticed in earlier years.”

Lippman doesn’t wish to disclose the younger lady’s identify as a result of she’d instructed him that years in the past, when Solich was teaching at Nebraska and the Huskers weren’t profitable sufficient video games, the household had been the recipient of threats, and he or she did not wish to expertise any of that.

He requested her to talk to his class as a result of he was making an attempt to get college students to consider the significance of athletics in society. Lippman, initially from New Jersey, does not actually comply with the soccer group, refers back to the former soccer coach as Jack Frost and does not appear to place a lot inventory within the curse.

“The way in which I heard the story is that [Solich] was fairly good,” he says, “and he did his job nicely, however he was no Tom Osborne. In order that’s form of like saying you are not Superman however you are still a firefighter.

“I believe [football] is a faith right here, at the very least from an historical Greek standpoint.”

Think about succeeding Tom Osborne. Think about being 53 years previous whenever you’re lastly handed the keys to your dream job then making an attempt to reside as much as a person who gained 255 video games, had an .836 profitable share and by no means misplaced greater than three video games in a season in 25 years. All these years later, at any time when one thing large occurs in this system, and even the state, he is nonetheless the man whom reporters name to gauge his response.

Solich was by no means going to be that individual. He got here alongside when the panorama in faculty soccer was altering. Nebraska now not may boast about being one of many choose groups with TV publicity or having the fanciest weight room or follow area. Solich’s supporters needed the college to decide to amenities upgrades so Nebraska may compete within the Large 12 arms race. He by no means made it that far.

The final recreation of the 2003 common season was on the Friday after Thanksgiving at Colorado, the place Nebraska was humiliated two years earlier in a 62-36 loss so iconic the rating was stamped on vainness license plates in Colorado. If the Huskers may win in Boulder that ’03 season, there was a basic sense that Solich’s job could be protected.

The postgame scene was emotional after Nebraska beat the Buffaloes 31-22, seemingly exorcising the demons of Boulder from ’01.

“We 100% went to mattress that evening considering coach Solich was protected,” says Lornell McPherson, a cornerback on the ’03 group. “We thought we have been going to avoid wasting Coach’s job once we beat Colorado.”

However that Saturday, Solich was gone. Steve Pederson, Nebraska’s athletic director on the time, vowed throughout a information convention that he wouldn’t permit Nebraska’s program to be mediocre. Nearly 20 years later, Husker followers would kill for the “mediocrity” of going 9-3.

McPherson is a part of a bunch textual content amongst about 30 former gamers, and he acknowledges a few of the feedback exchanged in the course of the Northwestern recreation weren’t appropriate for household audiences. He wonders the place this system could be now if Solich wasn’t fired in 2003.

“I believe Solich was achieved flawed, and I believe Pelini was achieved flawed,” McPherson says. “When was 9-3 dangerous? Now take a look at us.”

Invoice Moos, Nebraska’s AD from 2017 to 2021, says when he was making an attempt to rent Frost in late ’17, the native son was apprehensive to come back again partly due to the Solich firing.

“He did not assume Nebraska was Nebraska and had gone away from the custom and legacy of what made it what it was,” Moos says. “To be truthful, he was pointing to that interval of [Pederson] and [former chancellor Harvey Perlman].

“I satisfied him we may get again to that, and that I had a monitor file of being a coaches’ AD and I used to be going to have his again.”

Moos bought a way of the expectations at Nebraska in the course of the 2019 Large Ten media day, when he instructed reporters he hoped that the Huskers may win six video games. He mentioned the information media “ripped my ass” for aiming for such low targets. However Moos instructed them that six wins would get them to a bowl recreation, and that the additional practices would lay the inspiration for future success. Nebraska by no means went to a bowl recreation beneath Frost, however Moos is not positive that it was due to any curse.

“Effectively, I am a little bit bit superstitious,” Moos says. “However I do not know if the curse is as large a chunk of it as possibly dangerous selections alongside the best way. And possibly the curse led to dangerous selections. There was a collection of these. Definitely, I hope I do not go down as one in all them. We did some superb issues to arrange that curse going away. The trade’s totally different than the Nineteen Nineties, and there is a lot parity.”

When he got here to Nebraska, Moos had hoped that the college may make amends to Solich. In 2019, Solich traveled to Omaha to obtain the Tom Osborne Award on the Outland Trophy banquet. It was believed to be the primary time he’d made a public look within the state since 2003.

Solich smiled and posed for images with Moos and Frost, and Moos felt as if any onerous emotions had gone away.

Solich thrived after he left Nebraska. He went to Ohio College, circled a moribund program and have become the Mid-American Convention’s all-time winningest coach. He gained 115 video games, misplaced 82, and thrilled the Bobcats’ fan base. Subsequent month, Ohio will identify its soccer area after Solich, who wasn’t instantly accessible for this story.

Jimmy Burrow, a Nebraska alum who coached alongside Solich at Ohio, says Solich was uncomfortable with the field-naming at first. He is by no means been one to crave consideration. However finally he was satisfied that it wasn’t simply honoring him; it was honoring the entire gamers he’d coached.

Burrow, whose son Joe is quarterback for the Bengals, was Solich’s graduate assistant within the early 2000s they usually grew to become shut mates in Ohio. He is grateful for Solich’s kindness, and the way he allowed him to get in his automotive on Friday nights and drive to his son’s highschool video games. “These are issues as a dad you may’t put worth on,” Burrow says.

Ultimately, the whole lot labored out for Frank Solich. He is beloved by a fan base, and, in some methods, yearned for by one other. Shortly after Trev Alberts grew to become Nebraska’s athletic director final 12 months, Burrow and Alberts texted one another about the potential of a Solich homecoming in Lincoln. Burrow says it is nonetheless “a piece in progress.”

“It nonetheless all goes again to the best way it ended at Nebraska,” Burrow says. “I imply, he is had alternatives to return. He is had alternatives to be the face of various spring clinics and people sort of issues. He is simply chosen to not do it. I am positive Trev in some unspecified time in the future will actually push for that to occur.”

The Break the Curse occasion in Lincoln clearly didn’t work, and over the previous 4 weeks, staff at KLIN, and most probably the co-sponsor, Omaha’s 1620 the Zone, have acquired their share of snarky feedback.

Jack Mitchell was a highschool pupil in Lincoln throughout these rollicking years within the ’90s, and he is been so mystified by the Cornhuskers’ struggles that he is immersed himself in various curse theories. What else, he thought, occurred within the early 2000s that might have messed with Nebraska?

He did a number of analysis on Oren “Buck” Beltzer, a two-sport star who captained Nebraska’s soccer and baseball groups in 1909. The college would later identify its baseball area after Beltzer, however in 2002, the baseball group moved to its new digs at Haymarket Park, and Buck Beltzer Subject finally was transformed to out of doors follow fields for the soccer group.

Mitchell developed this idea that possibly Buck Beltzer was mad that his area bought torn down, and that he was controlling Nebraska athletics from the grave. He famous the 12 months Beltzer died, 1959, was the identical 12 months by which an unranked Nebraska group upset No. 19 Oklahoma 25-21 on Halloween, ending OU’s 16-game profitable streak towards the Cornhuskers.

Mitchell gave his Beltzer spiel to the gang on the Break the Curse occasion, however nobody appeared very eager about it. Many of the viewers was centered on the Solich curse, and 19 autumns of distress.

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