When Nebraska head coach Scott Frost fired four offensive assistants, including the offensive coordinator, in early November, Pitt offensive coordinator Mark Whipple was likely already on the Cornhuskers’ radar as a potential replacement, Nebraska reporter Parker Gabriel of the Lincoln Journal-Star told Pittsburgh Sports Now.
“I think it kicked into high gear over the weekend, but I do think that Mark Whipple was one of Nebraska’s targets from either right when Scott Frost fired the four offensive staffers here, which happened Nov. 8, or shortly thereafter,” Gabriel said. “Obviously, at that point, you wouldn’t have known how long anybody’s season was gonna last or anything like that.”
Whipple resigned from Pitt Tuesday afternoon, exiting the program after three years as the offensive coordinator, and it sent a ripple through the team. With Dec. 30’s Peach Bowl on the horizon, and Early Signing Day next week, Pitt has some key decisions to make coming off the biggest win in decades.
After Pitt’s ACC championship win in Charlotte, North Carolina Saturday night, Whipple jetted across the country to meet with Frost the next day. Gabriel said that Frost wasn’t just meeting with Whipple but USC offensive coordinator Graham Harrell regarding the open position.
“It kicked into high gear over the weekend though,” Gabriel said. “Whipple interviewed with Frost on Sunday in Arizona, and then I think probably they were negotiating by Tuesday morning when he resigned from Pitt. I don’t think that was the first time they had talked or there had been some contact between sides, but it definitely hit high gear this weekend.”
While there was some talk regarding Whipple’s final hours as a Pitt coach, meeting with Pitt target Chubba Purdy at the latter’s home in Chandler, Arizona on Monday night without Pitt gear on, Gabriel doesn’t feel like that development is anything to write home about. He felt like Frost met with both candidates, spent Monday in decision-making mode and made the offer to Whipple Tuesday morning.
Frost was scheduled to be out in Arizona at least a few days before the eventual trip, Gabriel said, and that lines up with Whipple’s Pitt visit out to Arizona.
Whipple accepted Nebraska’s offer and was named as the new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Wednesday morning. Gabriel said Whipple’s experience was a big part in the pursuit and eventual hire as Frost enters next season on the hot seat. With Frost wanting to serve as more of the “CEO of Nebraska football”, Gabriel said Frost wanted some new, fresh ideas offensively and someone to hand the offense over to.
“It’s a big change,” Gabriel said. “I don’t think you’re going to see Frost totally get out of the way and entirely turn the offense over, but I do think having a veteran who’s been around the block a lot of times and seen a lot probably helps free Scott Frost up to focus on other things.”
There isn’t much of an existing relationship between Frost and Whipple, and the one name that Gabriel pointed out as a potential link is Nebraska senior analyst Ron Brown, who went to Brown University in the 1970s. Whipple isn’t scheduled to speak to the Nebraska media in the coming days, and while signing day is a possibility for his first appearance, it might not be until spring ball that Whipple makes any media appearances.
In the meantime, Pitt will need to determine who is calling plays for the Peach Bowl against No. 12 Michigan State and whether or not Kenny Pickett will play his last game for Pitt.