Mike Riley became the head football coach at Nebraska last December, but he still hasn’t quite gotten used to his new title. That’s because he was the head coach at Oregon State for the previous 12 seasons – an eternity by college football standards.
Still a little weird to be introduced as head coach of the Cornhuskers, Mike?
“Yes, it is,” Riley said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “It is absolutely. It still feels new that way. It feels good, but I am overall thankful for all those years at Oregon State and excited about this new opportunity.”
While Oregon State doesn’t have Nebraska’s pedigree, Riley’s decision to leave Corvallis for Lincoln wasn’t easy.
“It was really hard,” Riley said. “As a matter of fact, there were two or three sleepless nights in a row. It’s not because this was a hard decision. It was just hard to leave. I always tell people, that’s the way you want it. You want to leave a place that you feel good about, feel good (about) what you tried to do and you love it. Then there’s a new opportunity, so you have to make a decision. But like I said, I’m very thankful for all that time, all those guys I got to coach at Oregon State. I really have enjoyed this entry into Nebraska.”
When Riley learned that coaching at Nebraska was a legitimate possibility, he knew he had a difficult choice to make.
“My wife said, ‘We should talk about this,’ which kind of surprised me actually,” the 62-year-old Riley said. “We’ve had a great life in football and probably have time in my career for this one more job. We decided we had time for one more adventure and one more opportunity, so we did it. I don’t like to over-dramatize it. Frankly, it’s a new guy taking a new job somewhere, but my ties were deep at Oregon State and we’ll always be connected there, as my friend Mack Brown told me. But this will be fun and exciting, and it is – so here we are.”
Riley, however, knows that the honeymoon period won’t last long. Nebraska fans expect national championships. Heck, Bo Pelini went 9-4 or 10-4 in all seven of his seasons with the Cornhuskers and was fired for his efforts.
Will the program flourish under those expectations, or do they needed to be tempered just a bit?
“That’s interesting,” Riley said. “As we got better throughout the years at Oregon State, the expectations grew, and that was a good thing. You want people that care and want to win all around you – fans and administration and everybody. You absolutely want that because the opposite is not good. I understand the expectations here, but I’ve always said that nobody puts higher expectations on themselves than coaching staffs do. We work real hard at our jobs. We try to coach as best we can to prepare our kids. So the time involved and the effort put in always raises those expectations to the highest level. That’s where we’re really driven – just to do a really good job with this team, play one game at a time and try to win every game.”