Mike Riley has been named the new head football coach at Nebraska.
Riley spent 14 seasons at Oregon State, first from 1997-98 and then again from 2003-14. He was also the head coach of the NFL’s San Diego Chargers from 1999-2001.
“It is truly an honor to join the University of Nebraska family,” said Riley in a statement Thursday. “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 (Harvey) Perlman and (athletic director) 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.”
Riley will start in his new position immediately, but won’t coach the Cornhuskers in their upcoming bowl game. Barney Cotton, who took over on an interim basis after Bo Pelini’s firing on Sunday, will guide the team through the bowl game.
“We have high expectations of the men and women who teach and coach our students and Mike Riley is an outstanding addition to our family,” said Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman.
Riley compiled a record of 93-80 with eight bowl appearances during his tenure at Oregon State. Only once did the Beavers reach double-digit wins, producing a mark of 10-4 with a Sun Bowl triumph in 2006.
Oregon State was just 5-7 this year, marking the third losing season for the Beavers in the last five years.
Of course, he had to compete for recruits in his own state with high-powered Oregon.
Pelini was fired after seven successful seasons. Nebraska won at least nine games each year under Pelini, who posted a record of 66-27 with the Huskers but was never truly embraced by most Nebraska fans and some members of the university’s hierarchy.
“There was one coach who fit all the characteristics that I was seeking to lead our tradition rich football program,” said Eichorst on Thursday. “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.”
The Cornhuskers haven’t won a national championship since 1997, the last of three in a four-year span under the legendary Tom Osborne. They last played for a national championship in 2001 under Frank Solich and haven’t won a conference title since claiming the Big 12 crown in 1999.
Riley, who was under contract at OSU through 2021, first took over a moribund program in 1997 and guided the Beavers from three wins in his first year to five in his second. The 5-6 mark in 1998 marked Oregon State’s best record in 27 years.
After three years and a 14-34 record as head coach of the Chargers and one season as an assistant with the New Orleans Saints, Riley returned to Corvallis. The Beavers won at least seven games in six of the first seven seasons of his second go-round.
Riley is Oregon State’s winningest coach and was the 2008 Pac-10 Coach of the year.
In addition, Riley also served as head coach of the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers, winning a pair of Grey Cup championships, and also was an assistant on the collegiate level at California, USC, Linfield College, Whitworth and Northern Colorado.