Mike Riley: ‘(It Was) Right Place, Right Time’

Well, that didn’t take long.

Nebraska fired Bo Pelini on Nov. 30 and unveiled his replacement, Mike Riley, just five days later.

“Really, this was a pretty quick, easy process,” Riley said on The Doug Gottlieb Show. “I got contacted Monday, met with (the) chancellor (Harvey Perlman) and athletic director (Shawn Eichorst) Tuesday, basically solidified the deal by Thursday and it was done then with the press conference today (Friday).”

Riley, 61, spent 14 seasons at Oregon State (1997-98, 2003-14), where he went 93-80. When Nebraska reached out to Riley, he did what any man in his situation would do: he called his wife.

“I did talk to my wife right away, and she happened to be traveling in Alabama, so we had to do it long distance,” Riley said. “I really thought I was going to finish my career at Oregon State, (especially) at this stage of my life, and this thing all of a sudden pops up. It’s like, okay, let’s study this because this would be an exciting, unique opportunity. At this stage of my career, there’s not going to be many other options (that) come along in the future. So either take advantage of it (or let it pass).

“I’m a college football junkie,” Riley continued, “so Nebraska of course meant a lot to me. (It was) right place, right time – even though it was real hard for me to leave that team at Oregon State.”

Given that Pelini’s record at Nebraska (67-27) was better than Riley’s record at Oregon State, some people might say Riley was a bad hire. But you have to keep it in perspective. Oregon State has had just 11 winning seasons since 1971; Riley had eight of them (Dennis Erickson had the other three).

“It’s all relative,” Riley said. “It’s kind of in the eye of the beholder. All I’ll say is, I feel real, real good about the progress that we made in the program at Oregon State. If that progress at that place at this time is not as high a level as the progress that’s been made at programs that (are) historically good like Nebraska, like Alabama, then I don’t think it’s the same playing field yet. That was our goal at Oregon State. Well, Nebraska is already at that point with the history. There really is no history like that with the Beavers.”

No, there isn’t. Oregon State endured 28 straight losing seasons until 1999.

“Different atmosphere, really,” Riley said.

Riley, who reportedly made $1.5 million at Oregon State this year – making him the lowest-paid coach in the Pac-12 – signed a five-year contract with Nebraska that will pay him $2.7 million annually.

Riley fully intends to coach through the contract – and maybe even longer than that.

“I don’t have an end game right now,” he said. “I’m not pointing to four, three, five years down the road. It doesn’t really matter to me, and so it’s not a topic. I’m sure my wife will say that’s enough eventually, but in general, I’m just excited about the opportunity.”

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