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Frost agrees to salary cut in '22; four assistants fired
Scott Frost will remain coach at Nebraska after this season but with a restructured contract
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Nebraska ended weeks of speculation about coach Scott Frost’s future, announcing Monday that he he will return for a fifth season with a restructured contract. A few hours later, Frost fired four offensive assistant coaches, effective immediately.

Athletic director Trev Alberts said he has seen enough progress in the once-proud program to merit bringing back Frost, who goes into next year with four straight losing seasons at his alma mater.

The Cornhuskers are 15-27 and have never finished higher than fifth in the Big Ten West under Frost. The Huskers are 3-7 overall and 1-6 in Big Ten games this season but haven’t lost by more than nine points with one of the toughest schedules in the country.

“We all recognize our record has not been what anyone wants it to be,” Alberts said in a statement. “I have been clear that I have been looking for incremental progress, and I have seen that in several key areas this season. Our team has continued to compete at a high level and the young men in our program have remained unified and shown great resiliency, which is an important reflection of the leadership of Coach Frost and his staff.”

Alberts said Frost has articulated to him a clear plan and vision. Part of that plan became apparent Monday with the firings of offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach Matt Lubick, offensive line coach/run game coordinator Greg Austin, running backs coach Ryan Held and quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco.

“I appreciate the work and sacrifices these men have made for the University of Nebraska and this football program and wish all of them well,” Frost said. “They are all men of outstanding character and good coaches, but as we strive for better consistency and execution, we needed fresh ideas and voices on our offensive staff.”

Frost did not announce who would take over those assistant coaching jobs for the final two games of the season.

Frost is under contract through 2026 and was scheduled to make $5 million per year. Alberts said on the Husker Sports Network that Frost agreed to have his salary reduced to $4 million in 2022, and the amount the university would have to pay Frost if it fired him next year was cut from $15 million to $7.5 million. Alberts did not disclose other terms of the restructured contract.

Frost is a native Nebraskan and was quarterback for the Huskers’ 1997 national championship team. He coached Central Florida to an undefeated season in 2017 before returning to Lincoln.

“I appreciate the confidence Trev Alberts has shown in me to continue to lead this program,” Frost said. “I love this state, this football program and am honored and humbled for the opportunity to serve as the head coach at my alma mater.”

The 46-year-old Frost came back to Nebraska to revive a program that has won or shared five national championships and is among only eight schools with 900 all-time wins. He so far has been unable to extract the Huskers from their lowest point since they had six losing seasons in a row and no bowl appearances from 1956-61. Nebraska also hasn’t won a conference championship since 1999.

Frost is 0-11 against Top 25 opponents and is still searching for a signature victory. The Huskers opened this season with an ugly loss at Illinois; their only wins are against Fordham, Buffalo and Northwestern.

But they hung with ranked opponents Oklahoma, Michigan State, Michigan and Ohio State, losing those four games by a total of 22 points. The Huskers’ 5-18 record under Frost in games decided by eight points or less is worst in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

The Huskers, whose next game is Nov. 20 at No. 20 Wisconsin, have dropped four straight after losing 26-17 at home to the Buckeyes.

Nebraska has relied on strong defensive play to stay in the close games, but special teams, especially the kicking game, have been horrid and the offense has been inconsistent and mistake-prone with fourth-year starting quarterback Adrian Martinez.

“I am excited to continue to work together with Scott,” Alberts said. “We share a love of Nebraska and this football program and want nothing more than Nebraska football to again compete for championships.”

According to Associated Press research of College Football Reference records spanning more than a century, 27 current Power Five programs have retained one or more football coaches who started with four straight losing seasons. Six of 42 coaches brought back for a fifth year eventually got their teams to a bowl, but none won a conference title in years five or beyond.

Frost will be only the second Power Five coach since 2011 to survive starting with four straight losing regular seasons. The other was current Duke coach David Cutcliffe, who went .500 in the regular season of his fifth year (2012) before losing in a bowl.

Lovie Smith was 6-6 in the regular season of his fourth year at Illinois (2019) but lost in a bowl and was fired late in his fifth season. Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason had seven straight losing records but made bowls — and lost — after 6-6 regular seasons in 2016 and 2018. He was fired late last season.

Frost is the second Nebraska coach to be retained after opening with four losing seasons. The other was Bill Jennings, who won 12 games from 1957-60 before getting fired following a 3-6-1 season in 1961.

US reopens to international travel, allows happy reunions
Parents held children born while they were stuck abroad
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SAN DIEGO — Parents held children born while they were stuck abroad. Long-separated couples kissed, and grandparents embraced grandchildren who had doubled in age.

The U.S. fully reopened to many vaccinated international travelers Monday, allowing families and friends to reunite for the first time since the coronavirus emerged and offering a boost to the travel industry decimated by the pandemic. The restrictions closed the U.S. to millions of people for 20 months.

Octavio Alvarez and his 14-year-old daughter zipped through a pedestrian crossing in San Diego in less than 15 minutes on their way to visit his mother-in-law in California.

“It’s a big feeling,” said Alvarez, 43, who lives in Ensenada, Mexico, a two-hour drive from San Diego. Prior to the pandemic, his family would visit California twice a month. The emotional cost of the border restrictions were “very high,” he added.

American citizens and permanent residents were always allowed to enter the U.S., but the travel bans grounded tourists, thwarted business travelers and often keep families far apart. Travelers must have proof of vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test.

“I think a lot of people have been waiting for this day,” said Eileen Bigelow, area port director for Vermont for Customs and Border Protection. “They look at it as a light at the end of the tunnel for some return of normalcy.”

There were lots of prolonged hugs at airports from coast to coast. At Newark International Airport in New Jersey, Nirmit Shelat repeatedly embraced his girlfriend, Jolly Dave, after she arrived from India, ending their nine-month separation. She was on the first flight out of the country to the United States.

“I can’t even explain in my words how happy I am,” Dave said.

Gaye Camara, who lives in France, last saw her husband in New York in January 2020, not knowing it would be 21 months before they could hold each other again.

“I’m going to jump into his arms, kiss him, touch him,” said Camara, 40, as she wheeled her luggage through Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport, where the humming crowds resembled those before the pandemic, except for the face masks.

On the U.S. borders with Mexico and Canada, where traveling back and forth was a way of life before the pandemic, the reopening brought relief. Malls, restaurants and shops in U.S. border towns were devastated by the lack of visitors from Mexico.

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, flanked by U.S. and Mexican officials at a celebratory news conference at the San Ysidro crossing, said the economic losses were hefty and the cutting of family ties “immeasurable.”

Retail sales in San Ysidro fell about 75% from pre-COVID levels, forcing nearly 300 businesses to close.

Edith Aguirre of Tijuana took off work to go shopping in San Diego. Bubbling with laughter, she accepted a gift bag from a duty-free store at the San Diego border crossing. She was a regular at SeaWorld in San Diego and last came to the U.S. to celebrate her 50th birthday at Disneyland in February 2020.

“It was very draining,” she said of the interruption to her cross-border life.

Sales dropped in half at David’s Western Wear shop in Nogales, Arizona, which manufactures boots popular among Mexicans.

Owner David Moore hopes his specialty products lure back customers, but he said it won’t happen overnight. Many Mexicans are still trying to get expired visas renewed amid a backlog. Those who do come may be disappointed to find shelves empty because of supply chain problems.

“I really don’t think Mexican shoppers are going to come across in hordes because they have now gotten used to buying a lot of products they need in Mexico,” he said.

David Jerome, president and CEO of the El Paso Chamber of Commerce on Mexico’s border in Texas, said: “It won’t come back as quickly as it was shut off.”

Still, “we feel like we’re getting our neighbors back and we’re glad to get people going back to work,” Jerome said.

Along Canada’s boundary, cross-border hockey rivalries were upended by the travel restrictions. Churches that had members on both sides of the border were suddenly cut off from each other.

But on Monday, border traffic quickly returned.

At Vermont’s busiest international crossing with Canada, U.S. border agents said they began to notice the uptick in border crossing shortly after midnight. By mid-morning, traffic appeared steady.

Travelers at the Peace Bridge in Buffalo, New York, one of the northern border’s busiest crossings, found a 2½-hour wait at 2 a.m., officials said, though within a few hours traffic was flowing more freely. The bridge typically handles about 2 million passenger vehicles from Fort Erie, Ontario, yearly, many of them bound for the region’s shopping malls, ski slopes and sporting events. Volume dropped by more than 90% during the pandemic.

River Robinson’s American partner wasn’t able to be in Canada for the birth of their baby boy 17 months ago. She was thrilled to hear about the U.S. reopening and planned to take the child to the U.S. for Thanksgiving.

It’s “crazy to think he has a whole other side of the family he hasn’t even met yet,” said Robinson, who lives in St. Thomas, Ontario.

Airlines are preparing for a surge in activity — especially from Europe — after the pandemic and resulting restrictions caused international travel to plunge.

The 28 European countries that were barred made up 37% of overseas visitors in 2019, according to the U.S. Travel Association. As the reopening takes effect, carriers are increasing flights between the United Kingdom and the U.S. by 21% this month over last month, according to data from travel and analytics firm Cirium.

In a sign of the huge importance of trans-Atlantic travel for airlines, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic celebrated the reopening by synchronizing the departures of their early morning flights to New York on parallel runways at London’s Heathrow Airport.

Maria Giribet, 74, who lives on the Mediterranean isle of Majorca was headed to San Francisco where she planned to “suffocate” her twin grandchildren with hugs after missing half their lives. Gabriel and David are now 3½.

The U.S. will accept travelers who have been fully vaccinated with any of the shots approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization, not just those in use in the U.S. That’s a relief for many in Canada, where the AstraZeneca vaccine is widely used.

But millions of people around the world who were vaccinated with Russia’s Sputnik V, China’s CanSino or other shots not approved by the WHO will not be able to travel to the U.S.

Testing and quarantine requirements remained obstacles for others. A mobile testing truck was parked near the Peace Bridge in New York, promising results in 30 minutes for $225 and next-day results for $160.

Marcela Picone, 39, of the Buffalo suburb of Williamsville, has been waiting for the day her fiancé and father of her 2- and 3-year-old children can visit from Stoney Creek, Ontario. But his 15-year-old son would have to miss school to quarantine upon their return if they traveled.

“He’s a dad to two American kids,” she said. “He should have had the right to come into this country the entire 19 months.”

Thompson reported from Buffalo, New York. Associated Press writers John Leicester in Paris, Travis Loller in Nashville, Tennessee, Wilson Ring in Highgate Springs, Vermont, Anita Snow in Phoenix, Rob Gillies in Toronto and Ted Shaffrey in Newark, New Jersey, contributed to this report.

Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic.

Council to take bids for demolishing viaduct
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Hastings Citizens with a Voice continued speaking out against the demolition of the 16th Street viaduct as the Hastings City Council voted to put the project out for bid Nov. 8 at its regular meeting.

Three citizens with the group addressed the issue during the public comment portion of the meeting.

Alton Jackson, one of the founders of Hastings Citizens with a Voice, said a lot of people want to see the viaduct saved.

“We truly feel we represent the majority,” he said.

Jackson said group members have looked online to find costs associated with working with Union Pacific Railroad on projects and they believe the costs will be more than the city anticipates. He presented that information to the city.

Roger Coffman of Hastings asked the council to share its reasons for demolishing the viaduct instead of fixing it.

“Maybe comment as to why you’re voting the way you do,” he said.

Peg Wallace of Hastings asked four questions of the city, to which Mayor Corey Stutte responded.

Wallace asked who looked at the below-ground pilings.

Stutte said Engineering Specialists Inc. of Omaha noted the pilings had exceeded their lifespan and likely would need to be replaced. ESI’s report indicated that a repair wasn’t economically feasible due to the condition of the viaduct.

“It would be nice to really know if they were shot underground,” Wallace said.

She asked why another study was completed and questioned the competency of ESI.

Stutte said ESI is a reputable firm.

Wallace asked why some on the council claim the decision is based on a vote of the people when the option to repair wasn’t on the ballot. She said the council is assuming people want it demolished because they didn’t want to rebuild it.

A 2020 ballot item asked voters to authorize the rebuilding of the 16th Street viaduct by issuing bonds in an amount not to exceed $12.5 million. The ballot item narrowly failed.

Stutte said it was a single-item ballot item, which didn’t allow for different options.

“It was not approved, so we are moving forward with demolition,” he said.

Wallace asked the city’s reason for not doing maintenance on the overpass for the last 10-15 years.

Stutte said there has been maintenance, but the viaduct has surpassed its lifespan. He said the state of Nebraska had concluded the viaduct had served its use in 1984 or 1985 when it prepared to demolish the bridge before the city agreed to take it over.

Matt Rief, team leader with Olsson Associates, addressed the railroad cost during his presentation later in the agenda.

He said the contract would include 20 railroad flagging days, which is the city’s responsibility to finance. Anything beyond that would be the responsibility of the contractor and included in the bid.

“If it takes longer than 20 days … that cost will be passed to the contractor,” he said. “We’re protecting the city and controlling the costs with this.”

In addition to the removal of the viaduct, Rief said the project would include street work to connect streets in the area. There are also additional insurance requirements for the contractor to cover unforeseen complications.

He said the bid would include a pre-construction survey and access to a nearby church would need to be maintained throughout the project.

He estimated the work would take about three months and would be expected to be complete by October 2022.

Councilman Ted Schroeder said that the city has been making all the decisions about the viaduct in open meetings, including an estimated $108,000 contract with the Union Pacific Railroad for the removal.

“We just recently received a signed contract on this,” he said. “Nothing has been withheld from the public. We just didn’t have anything until recently.”

Councilman Chuck Rosenberg said the council has looked at the issue carefully. He said he will miss the viaduct, but believes its demolition is in the best interests of the city.

“We on the council have to be good stewards of the city’s money,” he said. “It’s the best decision we can make at this time.”

The board voted 8-0 to approve the plans and specifications and authorization to advertise for bids to demolish the viaduct.

In other business, the council:

  • Unanimously approved Resolution No. 2021-53 to approve the request of Engel Construction Inc. for a development plan to amend a planned district for property generally located west and southwest of Walmart, south of 42nd Street and northeast of Fisherman Lane.
  • Unanimously approved Ordinance No. 4684 to amend the city’s comprehensive plan future land use map for the southern portion of the block between South Lincoln Avenue, South Hastings Avenue and I Street.
  • Approved 7-1 Ordina
  • nce No. 4674 to add language for a temporary use permit for mobile homes and recreation vehicles used as temporary housing for construction workers, changes in mobile vendor requirements, and a process for temporary structures.
  • Unanimously approved a purchase agreement for a landfill wheel loader with a grapple fork for use at the city landfill.
  • Unanimously approved an agreement for paving Parkview Cemetery.
  • Unanimously approved a new logo to be used for the city during 2022 to honor the 150th anniversary of the city.
  • Unanimously approved a six-month extension for the Community Development Block Grant Project 18-ED-003.
  • Unanimously approved an agreement for a sprinkler system and remodel at Hastings Fire Station 1.
  • Unanimously approved a business usage cellphone policy for the city.
  • Unanimously approved a collective bargaining agreement with Hastings Firefighters Association Local Union No. 675, IAFF, AFL-CIO for 2021-2024.
  • Unanimously approved a collective bargaining agreement with Hastings Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 9 for 2021-2024.
  • Unanimously approved the purchase of a GeoTab Go-9 Automatic Vehicle Locator system for non-emergency city vehicles.

Departing HPS teachers could cash in for providing early notice
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Teachers in the Hastings Public Schools would get a cash incentive for providing early notice of their intention to leave their jobs under a proposal that received first-round approval Monday from the Hastings Board of Education.

Board members voted 8-0 to approve proposed policy No. 408.07 on first reading during their regular November meeting at Hastings Middle School. Board member Tracey Katzberg was absent and excused.

Under the policy, certificated staff members in non-administrative positions could receive a $500 stipend for submitting Early Notification of Intent to Resign or Retire at the end of the current school year.

To be eligible for the cash payment, the staff member would need to submit notice by the third Friday in December.

The money would be paid on or before the employee’s final payroll.

David Essink, HPS director of human resources and operations, said the incentive could help district officials learn early of impending vacancies and begin the hiring process in a timely manner to find the best candidates.

Employees eligible for the stipend would need to be at least half-time (0.5 FTE) and complete the entire school year before leaving their jobs. The resignation or retirement would need to be approved by the school board before the stipend could be paid.

Employees would not be eligible if they currently were receiving long-term disability benefits, if they were on administrative leave, or if their employment were to be terminated by the district.

The proposed policy will be up for consideration again at the December board meeting. Essink said the administration hopes the policy can be approved on final reading next month so both the district and the employees can begin to benefit from it.

“We would like it to take effect immediately this year so we can take advantage of that,” he said.

In other business Monday, the board:

  • Voted 8-0 to approve the purchase of three new Ford Transit vans and three new Chevrolet Suburbans for a total price of $267,623.70.
  • Voted 8-0 to approve replacement of the vertical platform wheelchair lift in the Hastings High School Auditorium for a price of $36,348. The vendor is Access Elevator & Lifts Inc. of Omaha.

The new lift would have a capacity of 750 pounds and would be placed in a location different from that of the current lift, which is 25-30 years old and is broken, said Trent Kelly, director of technology and operations.

School employees will be removing some steps to make a place for the new lift, he said.

  • Voted 8-0 to approve a request from Olivia Loetterle, a kindergarten teacher at Longfellow Elementary, for a sabbatical during the 2022-23 academic year.
  • Heard a Spotlight on Learning report from Tom Szlanda, Hastings High principal, on the Learning Center for high school students in need of an alternative education program.

The Learning Center has capacity for 40 students and currently is serving 29, Szlanda said. The center employs two teachers and a paraprofessional and uses an online curriculum students can work through at their own pace.

Szlanda also shared statistics on the high school’s 2021 summer school program, which allowed 31 students to receive credit toward graduation.