ATLANTA — Scott Frost's moonlighting will end Monday around 4 p.m. when the scoreboard clock strikes 0:00 in the Peach Bowl. For the past month, Frost's day job has been coach of the No. 12 University of Central Florida football team, scheming to beat No. 7 Auburn. By night, he has been the coach of Nebraska, recruiting and planning how to get the once lordly Cornhuskers back on the rails.
Frost has decamped in seven states and four time zones and changed between two sets of attire — black and gold for the UCF Knights and red and white for the Cornhuskers.
Frost's trek — an amicable, seamless partnership between the two schools — has turned upside down, for a month at least, the view of today's multibillion-dollar college football industry in which give-me-more coaches, agents, administrators, television executives and concessionaires all seem determined to get a fan's last dollar.
"I'm very surprised, I'm not going to lie to you, because it's hard to manage two teams and keep your heart in two teams," UCF junior defensive back Tre Neal said when first asked whether he thought Frost could pull off splitting his time and attention.
"The bond he had with us is special."
Two hours after Frost and UCF won the American Athletic Conference championship game Dec. 2 to go 12-0, it was announced he would be the coach at his alma mater, Nebraska, which he quarterbacked to a share of the national championship in 1997. Frost, 42, recruited many of the players on the UCF roster, but he was their coach for just two seasons before a seven-year, $35 million deal lured him away.
Soon, Frost was running back to get the Knights prepared for the Peach Bowl against Auburn (10-3). It is the most important game in the history of the UCF program. Frost and his assistant coaches, all of whom are moving with him to Nebraska, did not miss a UCF bowl practice.
"It's been pretty amazing what he's been able to do," linebacker Pat Jasinski said. "Other coaches get up and leave, but to have these guys there for bowl prep every step of the way was pretty amazing. We knew they were flying back after recruiting and going to sleep at 3 [a.m.] and then be at the practice early in the morning.
"Some of them looked a little rough, but there was no letdown at practice. It was the same energy. It was hard to tell they were coming off a couple of hours of sleep. They were still getting after it."
Gerrod Lambrecht, Frost's director of football operations who has known the coach since they were teenagers in Wood River, Neb., lost track of the up-and-downs Frost had in airplanes. This was the first year high school players could sign with colleges in December instead of February, and there was no time to lose if the Cornhuskers were going to salvage a recruiting class.
There was one particularly grueling 24 hours spanning Dec. 12-13. Frost worked out his team in Orlando; attended a bowl news conference; flew to Nebraska for a recruiting visit; then flew to Fresno, Calif., for another recruiting visit; and flew back across the country to Orlando, arriving in the wee hours of the morning so he could be back for UCF practice that day.
Frost walked out onto the practice field that morning and vomited. Somewhere in the 5,280 miles he covered, the coach had come down with a stomach bug.
When practice was over, the staff met, then Frost got back on the plane and flew to Lincoln for a recruiting event. He was back in Orlando the next morning and at practice.
"There's not a staff in the country, if they are getting ready for a bowl, would have their entire staff there," Frost told reporters in Orlando. "I guarantee Tennessee's new coach hasn't been at Alabama's practices, Josh Heupel hasn't been at Missouri's practices, Willie Taggart wasn't at Oregon's."
Frost's comments are especially illuminating because Heupel is replacing Frost at UCF. The offensive coordinator at Missouri, Heupel was criticized by defensive end Marcell Frazier for leaving a month before its bowl game, which the Tigers lost to Texas, 33-16.
"I don't think this team will hold that against him," senior defensive lineman Jamiyus Pittman said. "This is a family. Nothing is going to change about that."
Frost walked into a Peach Bowl news conference Sunday morning, his right hand gripping a cup of coffee, a standard appendage the past month. The bags under his eyes were visible 25 feet away.
"It will be bittersweet tomorrow," Frost said of his farewell game. "This certainly isn't an ideal situation for the players or for me or for my staff, but we all care about each other, and I don't know what the alternative would have been.
"We tried to make every decision in a way that we were doing the right thing — not the selfish thing, not the thing that was easiest for us but what the right thing was."
Maybe this melodrama would not have happened if UCF was 11-1 and headed to a lesser bowl instead of trying to remain the only undefeated team in FBS. Frost might have left the game to his assistants and jumped full time into Nebraska. But his players find that hard to believe.
"His love for us hasn't wavered," Neal said.
There were some legal details to be worked out before Frost could stay with UCF. Frost and his staff would have 51 percent of their salaries paid by UCF and 49 percent paid by Nebraska for the month. And if Frost were accidentally to get plowed into the turf on the sideline and suffer an injury, he would be on UCF's medical plan.
No one mentioned whether the cast would be Nebraska red and white or UCF black and gold, but considering the bipartisanship of the month, it would be fitting if Frost's cast were a mix of all four colors.