Scott Frost was hired to bring the glory days back to Nebraska. And while a 60-3 record with three national championships over a 5-season span probably isn’t realistic, the glory days are already on their way back in one important way: walk-ons.
In addition to the option offense, the Blackshirts and the sellout streak, the halcyon days of Nebraska always meant an army of walk-ons. Outside of providing easy fodder for every TV broadcast, the walk-on program served an important purpose for the Cornhuskers. Nebraska is a state that wants its flagship school to compete at an elite level but does not produce many elite-level players itself, so the walk-on program is a way to get some of its native sons on the roster.
And it sounds like Frost is already at working bringing that back.
“Nebraska has been known for having a lot of players on the team…a lot of walk-ons,” Frost said earlier this month. “I’d like to get back to that. The best thing Coach (Tom) Osborne did was have everybody practice…and part of that is what led to the development of players and helped walk-ons and young players get better faster and get on the field and help the team. I think that’s an asset that Nebraska can have if we’re willing to expand the roster.”
Huskers Illustrated reported that Nebraska’s roster sat at 130 players in Mike Riley’s final season, five below Michigan for the most in the Big Ten.
Though walk-ons, by definition, do not receive scholarships, it still costs the school money to carry them on the roster. For starters, each walk-on receives four tickets to each game, which means that’s 80 less tickets per game the athletics department can sell. On top of that, walk-ons receive ancillary benefits like meals, laptops, access to funds that reimburse players for education expenses and the like. The school puts the quote-unquote cost of each walk on at north of $23,000 in equipment and benefits. Multiply that by 20 and you get $460,000 that the athletics department has to come up with one way or another.
And this doesn’t touch any of the Title IX issues that may arise out of adding another 20 male athletes. Or a logistical issue: Where do you put those 20 extra players in the locker room?
“You always have to be on top of the budget numbers,” he said. “You either have to create more revenue or cut some expenses.”
Huskers Illustrated took a long, detailed look at the effort it takes for a school to add non-scholarship players, which I’d encourage you to check out here.