Football season is here.
And a new coach gets set to take the field at Memorial Stadium for the first time.
Mike Riley prepares for his first game as head coach of the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
“It’s that beautiful time of the year to kick off the college football season and we will be very, very proud to enter the stadium with the Nebraska Cornhuskers for the first time,” Riley tells reporters during the week leading up to the opening game against Brigham Young University.
Riley is taking a chance late in his career, leaving the comfort of Oregon State for an opportunity at a nationally known program. The decision by Riley shocked Oregon State fans. He had spent 14 years at the school during two separate tenures, interrupted by a brief stint in the NFL with the San Diego Chargers.
Riley takes the reins of a program that has many more resources, including the money provided the coach. Riley made $1.5 million a year at Oregon State, ranking dead last among coaches in the Pac 12. He entered into a five-year contract with Nebraska, paying him $2.7 million annually. Riley, who is 61, will receive automatic $100,000 raises in each of the five years of the contract that runs through February of 2020.
Riley compiled a 93-80 record at Oregon State. He was six of eight in bowl games. The Beavers, though, finished last year at 5-7.
Riley says he understands the pressure to win at Nebraska, that the expectations here are much higher than in Corvallis. And, the coach says he understands the difficulty of the situation, replacing the fired Bo Pelini, who inspired both devotion and criticism from the Husker fan base. The controversy surrounding the Pelini firing by Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst affected the team, as well.
It has been a steep learning curve for Riley, introduced to Husker fans in early December. He has traveled much of the state and talked to numerous Nebraska residents.
“I always say that the one thing I have noted about Nebraska in general is that people care,” according to Riley. “They care in a lot of different ways, but one of the ways is obviously the interest in the program.”
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]