Editorial Roundup: Nebraska

Lincoln Journal Star. September 13, 2022.

Editorial: Frost’s tenure ends with crash and cash

When Bill Moos, athletic director at the time, introduced Scott Frost as the Huskers’ new head football coach on Dec. 3, 2017, a bright future was all but assured.

Native son. National championship quarterback. Offensive genius. Fresh off an undefeated season at Central Florida. Frost was the hottest head coach prospect in the country, and he was coming home.

It would have been almost impossible to find a Nebraskan -- or a college football pundit -- who didn’t think Frost was the answer to everything that ailed the Big Red.

It all looked so good on paper. And the Husker faithful had been through the wringer. After the legendary Tom Osborne, Frank Solich brought the pedigree. Bill Callahan brought the innovation. Bo Pelini brought the fire. Mike Riley brought the maturity. And Scott Frost was going to bring the wins.

Perhaps, in retrospect, it was fitting that his long-awaited first game -- against Akron -- was canceled by a thunderstorm. The next week, his first game became his first defeat, at the hands of Colorado, 33-28, a one-score loss, what became his signature move.

After it was only on his seventh try that Frost notched his first win as a Husker coach, a home win versus Minnesota.

There were flashes of competence amid the fumbles and frustration, but not enough to save his job. Frost is gone -- Nebraska’s first midseason firing -- three games into his fifth year. He ends his Husker tenure at 16-31 with no bowl trips.

He walks away, though, with a $15 million buyout that would’ve been cut in half by waiting until Oct. 1. To be clear, it’s not taxpayer or university money that’s paying Frost $7.5 million not to coach against Oklahoma Saturday (the Huskers would be idle until Oct. 1, when they host Indiana).

Athletic Director Trev Alberts never publicly detailed the metrics he said he’d use to decide whether Frost would keep his job, but it’s a safe bet losing to Georgia Southern didn’t help.

A patient fanbase -- and some creativity and generosity -- kept the sellout streak alive. But Alberts sensed, rightly, that patience was wearing thin.

Frost leaves with a nice payday. There will be an exhaustive national search, but for now the program is in the deserving, capable and interim hands of Mickey Joseph, the first Black head coach of any sport at Nebraska. Alberts said he’d love to see Joseph grow into what the program needs for the long run.

Whoever gets hired by Alberts, it’s certain the new coach won’t seem like the slam dunk that Frost appeared to be. But, as the Husker faithful has learned, there are no sure things.

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Omaha World-Herald. September 18, 2022.

Editorial: Nebraskans have a track record of coming together for the common good

Last month’s story about Nebraska’s scrap metal drive in World War II is a reminder of how our state’s residents can work together to accomplish something good.

It happened 80 years ago. That makes it old news to some Nebraskans who lived through it, and forgotten history to many others. The fascinating story told by World-Herald staff writer Steve Liewer surely opened the eyes of some readers.

In the summer of 1942, seven months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, some aspects of the American home front war effort were struggling. A drive to gather scrap rubber to make tires and tank treads had fizzled, and steel factories were in danger of having to shut down production because of a shortage of scrap metal.

Omaha World-Herald president Henry Doorly decided to take action, launching a statewide scrap metal drive designed to, as Liewer wrote, “harness the competitive spirit of men, women and children in every corner of Nebraska.”

It sure did. In just three weeks, Nebraskans had gathered 67,000 tons of scrap metal from attics, basements, farm fields and businesses. It worked out to 104 pounds of scrap metal for every person in the state.

Manufacturing companies brought in surplus equipment. Farmers gave up tractors. Children scoured alleys for tin cans and even tossed their toys onto the scrap piles.

Families whose sons were going off to war were particularly motivated. One Omaha woman, a widow, donated an iron stove, cooking pans and some iron pipes and bars. She told a reporter that her son was leaving for the Army in three days.

“I saw the housewives of Omaha go to war,” wrote World-Herald reporter Bill Billotte, “just as surely as if they were embarking for the front lines with a tommygun under each arm.”

But it wasn’t just Omahans. The genius of Doorly’s scrap metal drive was that it set up a competition in which Nebraska’s 93 counties tried to collect the most material, in pounds per capita.

The statewide winner was Grant County in the Sandhills, which collected 638 pounds for each of its 1,327 residents. Douglas County had the most scrap metal, amassing a 12,500-ton mountain of the stuff, but finished in the middle of the pack on a per capita basis.

Through it all, the Omaha World-Herald and Nebraska’s other newspapers drummed up support for the drive with extensive coverage. It’s a reminder of how local journalism can play an important role in not only informing readers but also helping our communities come together to take action on the important issues of the day.

In fact, the World-Herald won the 1943 Pulitzer Prize for public service for spearheading the drive.

The Nebraska effort became the model for a nationwide drive later that year. In that fall campaign, a competition among states, Nebraska added another 80,000 tons of scrap metal, or 123 pounds per person. That was good enough for sixth best in the nation — although Nebraskans were proud to point out that their combined 227 pounds per person in the two drives was far more than any other state.

There’s no question that Nebraskans made a difference in the war effort. In the Nebraska campaign alone, the statewide haul was enough to build 1 million anti-aircraft shells, 130 Navy PT boats or 200 57-ton tanks. Beyond that, Henry Doorly’s idea energized the home front’s commitment to victory, both here and across the nation.

In today’s polarized world, it might be hard to imagine Nebraskans rallying behind a single goal like the 1942 scrap metal drive. But that’s an overly pessimistic view, filtered through the divisions we saw recently over how to respond to the pandemic.

When the chips are down, Nebraskans have a long track record of working hard, getting the job done, and doing things that strengthen their families, communities and even the nation. It’s useful for all of us to remember that as we face today’s challenges.

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Norfolk Daily News. September 12, 2022.

Editorial: Once worried about in economic development circles, automation now is Nebraska’s best hope

In some economic development circles, hesitancy — perhaps even a bit of fear — was expressed when the topic of discussion was how automation might impact rural Nebraska’s economy: Would the introduction of automation — in manufacturing, in agriculture and other fields — eliminate the jobs of hard-working Nebraskans?

It’s time to revisit that issue, especially in light of the $25 million federal grant recently awarded to what’s known as the Heartland Robotics Cluster — a coalition of Nebraska entities, including Northeast Community College in Norfolk. The grant will largely focus on helping Nebraska become a national leader in automation and robotics.

Northeast’s portion of the grant includes the development and operation of a well-equipped fabrication lab geared to the workforce needs of local and area manufacturers, many of which generate products and serve clients that support the agriculture industry. The other focus area will be development of a robotics curriculum that ultimately will be shared with all of Nebraska’s community colleges.

If the old way of thinking about automation was still present, those focus areas at Northeast might be a cause of trepidation. Fortunately, a new — and better — way of thinking has replaced the old.

The reality is that Nebraska is grappling with serious economic challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic marked a seismic shift in the state’s workforce supply, creating the nation’s lowest seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in December 2021 of 1.7 percent — and Northeast Nebraska counties recorded an even lower rate.

If workers continue to be a scarce commodity, then automation, robotics, and manufacturing creativity are the only solutions. Manufacturers must do more with less. As a Nebraska State Chamber of Commerce official recently said, “We have no shot for growth without automation.”

That is what Northeast’s fab lab will accomplish — work with schools to build interest and foundational skills in manufacturing, and work with the approximately 75 area manufacturing firms and their 5,000-plus employees to introduce and enhance automation with the use of robotics.

That doesn’t mean the elimination of existing jobs, but it may mean changes in those jobs — new skills to learn, new areas of expertise to develop. One can argue that the workforce at a manufacturer will be in a far better position in terms of their employability once automation and robotics have been implemented and embraced.

That’s the exciting future that Northeast Nebraska and other rural areas can look forward to. Automation need no longer be worried about. It’s where the state’s economy is headed, and those hard-working Nebraskans can be an important and essential part of it.

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