In replacing Bo Pelini, Nebraska was hoping to make a “wow” hire. I don’t know if this qualifies, but I sure said “wow” when the release came out. And “WTH?!?” for good measure too.
In what can only be described as a stunning turn of events, Nebraska announced Thursday that it has hired Mike Riley as its new head football coach. Riley had spent the past 12 seasons as the head coach at Oregon State, his second stint with the Beavers (1997-97).
The 61-year-old Riley — he’ll be 62 before the start of the 2015 season — will be formally introduced at a 10 a.m. ET press conference Friday.
“There was one coach who fit all the characteristics that I was seeking to lead our tradition rich football program,” NU athletic director Shawn Eichorst said in a statement. “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. I have no doubt that Mike will assemble a tremendous staff and lead our student-athletes to win Big Ten titles and compete for national championships in the years ahead.”
In 14 total seasons at OSU, Mike Riley went 93-80 overall (.538) and 58-63 (.479) in Pac-12 play, and won nine or more games four times. For comparisons sake, the man Riley will replace went 67-27 (.713) overall and 39-17 .696 in the conference, winning nine-plus all seven years.
Riley, who had previously turned down overtures from USC (twice) and his alma mater Alabama, never won a conference or division championship with the Beavers, while Pelini won or shared four divisional titles in his seven seasons with the Cornhuskers.
One more: OSU qualified for eight bowl games during Riley’s 14 seasons, including just two the last five seasons. NU went to/qualified for a bowl game every season under Pelini.
“It is truly an honor to join the University of Nebraska family,” Riley said. “Though we love Corvallis and Oregon State, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to coach at one of the nation’s most storied football programs and I can’t wait to get started. My sincere thanks to Chancellor Perlman and Shawn Eichorst for their confidence in me and I look forward to becoming a part of the Nebraska family and building upon the great history and tradition.”
Entering the 2014 season, there had been talk that Riley could very well end up on the hot seat in Corvallis. After a 5-7 season, there was additionally chatter that there could be a parting of ways between the coach and the program, with particular media attention paid to the structure of his contract.
As it turns out, that was very much the case, although not in the manner that anyone saw coming.
Riley turned hot-seat talk into a job at Nebraska? That’s about as stunning as it gets; just ask the former coach’s alter Twitter ego.