Don’t let it be your initial reaction over Nebraska’s newest hire.
It’s so easy in today’s world of Wikipedia to quickly scan a coaches’ resume and look at an overall record, bowl appearances, and post-season honors.
There is always more to the story to those Googling out there.
I have been covering college football and recruiting full-time since 2008. Riley’s name has always been one that’s been respected in the game among high school coaches, his peers, and recruits. He’s usually labeled as underrated. That said, I’m not an expert on the guy.
Scout.com’s network is pretty big – pretty well respected – especially on the west coast. So I made some calls. About two hours worth.
The overall theme from multiple analysts that I talked to, analysts that have covered and interacted with Riley and his staff…
“There isn’t a guy who’s done more with less in the country.”
People think recruiting to Lincoln is hard, try getting kids to Corvallis, Oregon – especially when you don’t have many shiny things to sell them on.
“Besides for Washington State, I would say that Oregon State has the least amount to sell in the Pac-12 conference to recruits,” said Brandon Huffman, a Scout.com national recruiting analyst who has spent his entire career on the West Coast.“Throw in the fact that he’s always in the shadow of Oregon…Riley can recruit.”
You know what I also heard on Thursday afternoon?
“He wins a press conference.”
“He’s great with the media.”
“He embraces social media.”
“He’s really solid with boosters. They will love him.”
Sounds like somebody else currently employed in Lincoln right now....
“He’s relentless and doesn’t get outworked by his peers.”
“His staffs are loyal to him, they won’t take just any other job.”
“He’s just a nice guy. Opposite of Pelini.”
There it was…
The national perception, right or wrong, was Bo Pelini was gruff. He was labeled a bully to the media. Somebody who had a hard time rallying a fan base - especially after a certain tape leaked last year. Somebody who won a lot of games, maybe shouldn’t have been fired, but ultimately was somewhat tarnishing the Nebraska brand with his demeanor on the sidelines and in press conferences.
Mike Riley isn’t that. He’s the exact opposite of that.
“He’s got a Tom Osborne, ‘gee golly,’ persona to him. He’s almost labeled too nice at times,” said one analyst”
It’s clear the perception of his coach was important to athletic director Shawn Eichorst.
“I would say is we didn’t meet expectations both on and off the field,” Eichorst said Sunday. “I think there was great effort by everyone in this program to do the right thing and well-intended. In my opinion, we didn’t get to where we needed to be. We’re going to go a different direction.”
He sure did. He turned it around and went the opposite direction.
The Nebraska fan base is full of divisions right now. Some people are upset that Pelini got fired. Others wanted him gone, but don’t embrace Riley’s hiring. Some think Eichorst is just a mad genius and they love all his moves.
The Nebraska fan base is split right now and not just split on two sides. Maybe, just maybe, Mike Riley is the guy that brings them all back together.
I know one thing, I think he can do it. Winning trumps all and I think he can win at Nebraska.
I guess that makes me a Rileliever.
Riley meets his players: