He achieved at an exceptionally high level as a head coach at two major colleges.
Not a bad career. Not bad at all.
Frank Solich, who spent more than 20 years as an assistant and head coach at Nebraska, is retiring after 16 seasons at Ohio University to focus on his health, the school announced Wednesday morning.
He cited "a cardiovascular situation" as being a catalyst in his decision.
Associate head coach and offensive coordinator Tim Albin — formerly an assistant coach at Nebraska under Solich — will become the new head coach and has agreed to a four-year contract.
“At first there was a little bit of denial about it, then I thought, ‘Well, hey, you’re feeling pretty good, despite what they're saying, and you can keep going,'” Solich said on a Zoom call with reporters. “I came to my right senses pretty quickly on that end of it, and knew that our players deserved more than I was going to be able to give to them coming down the stretch here.”
The 76-year-old Solich retires with a 173-101 career coaching record. His 173 wins ranked as the fourth most among active NCAA FBS head coaches.
Since joining the Bobcats in 2005, Solich led the program to 12 winning seasons and 11 of their 13 bowl appearances.
Solich was head coach at Nebraska from 1998 to 2003, amassing a 58-19 record and five bowl appearances.
An All-Big Eight fullback and co-captain of Nebraska's 10-1 team in 1965, he was the first Husker to rush for 200 yards in a game. His career as a Husker assistant coach began in 1979. He took over as the program's head coach in 1998 as Tom Osborne's hand-picked successor and ended his tenure with not only the 58-19 record (.753) but also with a Big 12 championship and 12-1 record in 1999 and a national runner-up finish in 2001.
"Frank had talked to me recently about some health issues that he had been having over the last year or year and a half," Osborne said Wednesday. "So I wasn't real surprised. I just got off the phone with him. He's still feeling good. This is nothing critical or immediate. But it's something that made it harder for him to coach.
"He did a great job there at Ohio, and he did a great job here at Nebraska, and did a great job at Lincoln Southeast and Omaha Holy name as a high school coach. He's had a great career with a great record, and certainly can be proud of all he's accomplished."
When Solich was fired in 2003, it divided the state. The topic to this day elicits heated conversation. But Solich, a native of Pennsylvania who grew up in Cleveland, never wanted to dwell in the past. He told the Journal Star in 2019 that he felt great about what he'd accomplished at Ohio. He led a program that never won a bowl game before his arrival in 2005 to five bowl triumphs, including the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in 2019. The Bobcats four times captured the East Division of the Mid-American Conference under Solich.
At Nebraska, Solich faced a difficult task replacing Osborne, a bona fide coaching legend who guided Nebraska to national championships in 1994, 1995 and 1997. Solich retained Osborne's staff of assistants, but some of those coaches were in the late stages of their careers. Meanwhile, Husker fans expected the level of success in the program achieved by Osborne to continue.
In short, the situation was in many ways untenable, although Solich never made excuses and never lashed out at media or fans after being fired in late 2003.
"It's hard to please everybody, as you know," Osborne said. "But he handled it really well."
“I had no chip on my shoulder,” Solich said. "When I left Nebraska I knew I was a good football coach so I had nothing to gripe about on that end of it. They went a direction they felt they needed to go. It’s turned out well for me.
“I think I'm ahead of the game. I've only been fired once in this game. That's not bad for 55 years."