The news was surprising, to say the least, as Riley has a buyout clause in his contract to the tune of one million dollars if the deal is terminated prior to Jan. 31, 2007. Plus, his team finished strong winning their last seven of eight games with just six senior starters. With the majority of the team back next year, the future is very bright in Corvallis.
Riley has been a large part of constructing that bright future as he and his staff have recruited well the last few years. There is a strong pipeline from Hawaii, solid interest from the top instate talent and several sturdy connections to junior college programs in California. The players are buying into the program and as a result the two-deeps are solid across the board.
Consistency at the head coaching spot has hurt OSU in the past with players transferring due to the coaching change and players leaving due to differences with the staff. In his fourth year of the his second stint at Oregon State Riley seems to be on the cusp of putting together a program that will compete year in and year out in the Pac-10.
Putting together a competitive Pac-10 program takes lots of time and patience. If Riley moved to Tempe he would have to forge new relationships, move his family for the fourth time in 10 years and meet and greet new boosters among a myriad of other tasks. And while Riley is not old at 53, he is getting to the point. both professionally and personally, where is just makes sense to stay put.
On the other hand, things got rough in September with many fans, including super booster Al Reser, voicing their displeasure with the program's rocky 2-3 start. Three websites popped up calling for the firing of Riley while the student section verbally assaulted the hometown bench. But he is not one to hold a grudge. Riley understands that college football is a business and his team must win to keep the ticket sales humming and the critics quite.
But, truth be told, the real reasoning between Riley and the connection to the Arizona State job is an old friend. Before Riley could or wanted to say anything to the contrary ASU athletic director Lisa Love had Riley on her short list. Love and Riley worked at Southern California together in the early nineties when Riley was the Trojans offensive coordinator. Out of respect for his colleague Riley agreed to talk with Love, but politely said he was not interested.
Coincidentally, Oregon State and Riley are in the middle of contract negotiations and it is never a bad idea to play the field during negotiation time. It would make bad business sense not to try and maximize one's worth.
Right now, (most) of Beaver Nation can give a collective sigh of relief as Riley is staying in the town he grew up in...for now.