Go and search “Mike Riley” on Twitter. Scroll down past all the various regional outlets, sports websites and Husker fans talking about him. Once you clear that mass of space, find the tweet most recently sent before we all knew he was the new head football coach at Nebraska. Here it is:
Before that, it was this:
Never was he mentioned as a candidate, or even a rumor, for this job. It was all Scott Frost (my personal belief), Jim Tressel, Greg Schiano, etc, etc.
Bigger point: the media sometimes know nothing. They’re throwing shit at the wall, just like fans are. Check this one out:
Who was he talking to? (I know Dari a little bit and he’s a good guy, but still.)
Now check this out:
Remember: rumors and names are just that, unless you happen to be the AD — or sleeping with the AD or something like that. No one saw this coming.
OK, so we’ve semi-established that the media has no idea what’s going on. How about Nebraska?
Here are Bo Pelini’s win totals since 2008, in the Big 12 and Big Ten: 9, 10, 10, 9, 10, 9, 9.
Here are Mike Riley’s: 9, 8, 5, 3, 9, 7, 5.
In both cases, no conference championships.
Just last week, notable Oregon State blogs were basically writing that Riley as the Beavers head coach was a “Catch-22” that was screwing up the football program. He is the winningest coach in Oregon State history, yes. He does have NFL and CFL experience, yes. But since 2008, Pelini won 10 games three times. Riley won 10 games zero times. You can compare the Big 12 and Big Ten to the Pac-12 all you want, but both conferences have bottom-feeders. This year, Riley and the Beavers lost to Washington State, a team that finished with three wins.
Riley hasn’t beaten Oregon — his biggest rival, i.e. the team that college coaches are essentially paid millions to beat — since 2007.
I understand the broader narrative here is that Pelini was kind of an asshole and yelled at his kids, and Riley is a super-nice guy and 61 years old and that’s how a career is supposed to work — you do the right things, pay the right dues, and get the big, flashier job or promotion towards the back 1/3 of your career. That makes sense.
But I fail to see how this is a good hire for Nebraska — it’s hard to get players to Corvallis, yes, and it should be easier to get guys to Lincoln (although no one is confusing Lincoln with Los Angeles or Florida either). He’ll have more talent, and the 2015 schedule isn’t that bad — between Opening Weekend and November 7th, the only potential loss might be Wisconsin, depending on how the team jells.
In short, he’ll probably do well — but it kind of seems like Pelini would have ended 2015 with the same record, honestly. This doesn’t feel like an upgrade, especially not for a program that seemed to want Pelini out because he wasn’t getting them to the top echelon of college football.