This week, long time Oregon State head coach Mike Riley left the farms of Corvallis for — wait for it — the farms of Lincoln, Nebraska, in a somewhat surprising decision earlier this week. It seems that Nebraska wanted former head coach Bo Pelini out of Lincoln ASAP, nullifying his $3 million a year contract, and to bring in Riley, the lowest paid Pac-12 coach at $1.5 million annually. While Riley will see a pay raise at roughly $2.7 million a year, Riley didn’t dress to impress in his final season at OSU, narrowly missing a post-season appearance with a dismal 5-7 record.
But it’s not all that surprising that Nebraska wanted Riley. Despite the former San Diego Charger coach’s winning percentage at OSU resting just above .500, the decision is a step up for both Riley and the Cornhuskers from an attitude stand-point. Riley brings class and kindness to Nebraska, something Pelini lacked. In today’s college football world, appearances are everything. A coach’s behavorial tics are no longer confined to a sideline or a locker room. The whole country is watching. And former football powerhouse Nebraska needs to rebrand and create a new image that players, coaches and fans can support.
Pelini’s overall record at Nebraska is pretty good, garnering three bowl game appearances and three 10-win seasons. This year wasn’t that bad for the Cornhuskers either, ending conference play with a 9-3 record and a postseason appearance. Most schools would love to have a coach with that kind of a winning record.
Nebraska’s athletic director Shawn Eichorst explained his decision to ESPN.com:
“There was one coach who fit all the characteristics that I was seeking to lead our tradition-rich football program. Mike Riley has a proven record of success, a sound approach to football and teaching, an understanding of the educational mission of our university and the integrity and values that we cherish at Nebraska,” Eichorst told ESPN.com’s Mitch Sherman.Sounds like a match made in a cornfield. Besides, Riley has been pushing Big 10 style offenses on the Pac-12 since he returned in 2003, albeit with relatively little success in the Pac-12.
So, will Oregon miss Riley? As a perennial punching bag, undoubtedly yes. Oregon has enjoyed a lot of success with Riley at the helm of OSU. This year, the Civil War wasn’t even close as the Ducks clubbed the Beavers in Corvallis, 47-19. Perhaps, for OSU it is time for a change but their hand is now forced to make a coaching change.
If the goal is to bring wins to Corvallis, Athletic Director Bob De Carolis should look at the Eastern Washington and Sacramento State football programs for potential coaches, as each of those teams have won at Reser Stadium. All joking aside, this could be just what Oregon State needed. This is an opportunity for Oregon’s little cousin to start fresh.
Should the Ducks be worried? Not really, although Duck fans are always a little worried about Oregon State until Oregon plays them. For Duck fans, it will be fun to see who will represent their long time rival at Autzen next year. For now, all Oregon eyes are focused on what happens tonight at Levi’s Stadium in the Pac-12 Championship game
Top photo by Kevin Cline