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Steven Sipple: During long morning walk, Barry Alvarez ponders all that Frank Solich meant to Nebraska

4 min read
Steven Sipple: During long morning walk, Barry Alvarez ponders all that Frank Solich meant to Nebraska

As Barry Alvarez enjoyed a long walk Wednesday morning near his home in Naples, Florida, he pondered Frank Solich’s playing and coaching career.

For instance, Alvarez, 76, recalled the period leading to the 1990 college football season, his first season as Wisconsin’s head coach.

“I originally hired Frank as my first offensive coordinator,” Alvarez said.

That’s news to me.

Of course, Solich was Nebraska’s running backs coach at the time. Long story short, then-Husker head coach Tom Osborne talked Frank into staying at NU.

Turned out to be a wise move. 

Honoring a Husker legend.

Frank Solich. Memorial Stadium. April 22nd.#GBR

— Nebraska Football (@HuskerFBNation) March 29, 2023

Frank Solich’s marvelous career to be honored

Oh, Solich’s time in Nebraska’s program had rocky moments. Those are well-documented. This weekend, however, is about honoring Solich’s marvelous career.  It’s about honoring the man. He’s a good man.

And he’s a great friend of Alvarez’s.

“I coached against Frank way back when he was at Lincoln Southeast, and he was a hell of a coach,” said Alvarez, a Lincoln Northeast assistant coach from 1971 to 1973. “He knew football. He could motivate. We’d do these high school camps in the summer, and I always really respected his knowledge of the game, and how intense he was.”

RELATED – The 3-2-1: Nebraska’s spring game recruiting weekend gets bigger by the day

What’s more, “His players always liked and respected him.” 

That was the case when Solich was Nebraska’s head coach from 1998 to 2003. His record of 58-19 (.753) speaks volumes in that regard.

I’ll always remember the reverence with which Solich treated Nebraska’s program as its leader. The Husker program should be treated that way. He recognized the program’s exalted status and conducted business accordingly.

Before taking over as Nebraska’s head coach, he was regarded as one of the nation’s premier running backs coaches. His recruiting was exemplary.  

“Frank went to the toughest recruiting area we had, the East Coast, and broke into New Jersey and places that can be hard to break into,” former Nebraska head coach Tom Osborne once told me.

“He recruited Irving Fryar and Mike Rozier and a number of other really good players.”

Solich meant a lot to NU for many, many years

Bottom line, the 78-year-old Solich meant a lot to the program for many, many years, starting in the 1960s as a player.

Alvarez, during that Wednesday morning walk, mulled Solich’s big-picture importance to NU.  

“When I think of Frank, I think of somebody who was in Bob Devaney’s first recruiting class,” Alvarez said of the Husker Hall-of-Fame head coach (1962 to 1972). “I think of someone who was there when Devaney built the foundation for the program.

“Frank understands the Nebraska program in a unique way. He and Tom are the two guys who were there from the beginning that understand the foundation of that program and what it was built on, and the culture that was established by Devaney.

“Those things are very important — at least they’re important to me.”

Alvarez admires that Solich worked his way up in the profession to guide one of the most prestigious programs in the nation.

“That program means something to Frank,” Alvarez said. “It was never just a job.” 

I’ve dealt with a lot of coaches over the years, and the “it’s just a job” vibe is more common than one might think. Yes, even in Nebraska’s program.

Solich, though, poured his soul into his work here.

Solich’s playing career tends to get overlooked

That said, Solich’s sterling career as a player tends to get overlooked.

Solich was a team co-captain for Nebraska in 1965 while Alvarez was a sophomore linebacker.

“You have to understand that Frank was a fullback at 152 pounds,” Alvarez recalled. “But that was exaggerating his weight.”

In other words, the 5-foot-7 Solich weighed less than 152. Legend has it that Solich had weights in his pockets as he stepped on the scale to be weighed officially by his coaches.

“Frank was one of the first guys who lifted weights, so he was really strong and very quick,” Alvarez said. “He had great burst.”

In Nebraska’s 27–17 win against Air Force in 1965, Solich — nicknamed “Fearless Frankie” — ran for 204 yards on 17 carries, becoming the first Husker to run for 200 yards in a game, and subsequently the first Husker to be featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

An All-Big Eight pick in 1965, Solich’s playing career earned him induction into the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame in 1992.

“We were a really good team in 1965,” Alvarez said. “We were talented on both sides of the ball. Physical. Fred Duda and Bob Churchich could both throw it around. You had great (receivers) in Tony Jeter and Freeman White. Good offensive line. We were big and strong on offense. Really good defensively.”

Third-ranked Nebraska was 10-0 before losing 39-28 to No. 4 Alabama in the Orange Bowl. The Huskers were No. 5 in the final Associated Press poll.

Just stop and thik about how much success Solich experienced for Nebraska, as both a coach and player. Alvarez thought about it a lot this week, especially during that long walk in Naples.

“Welcome home Coach Solich” signs already gracing Lincoln bars Frank Solich will be honored during @HuskerFBNation spring game on Saturday!

— Lauren Michelson (@LaurenMichelson) April 20, 2023

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The post Steven Sipple: During long morning walk, Barry Alvarez ponders all that Frank Solich meant to Nebraska appeared first on On3.

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