The Candidates: Mike Riley

We continue our look at coaching candidates with former Beaver head coach and current assistant head coach of the New Orleans Saints, Mike Riley. Riley was one of the first coaches to contact the university when Dennis Erickson vacated the head coaching position and is said to be in Corvallis this weekend interviewing for the position. Oregon State athletic director, Bob De Carolis, said Riley left a voice mail on his machine Tuesday afternoon.

"I have received a voice mail from Coach Riley." De Carolis said. "He called me and said 'Please return the call.' I've talked to Mike over the last couple years, so maybe he's interested, maybe he's not. I don't know."

"We're interested in anybody and everybody. Obviously, Mike was here for two years, he's a Corvallis native, and there are a lot of things Mike brings to the table. But we're not opening or shutting the door on anybody. We're looking at everybody in an equal light right now."

Riley is credited for laying the foundation for the Beaver football program to become successful.

The 49 year-old Corvallis native played high school football at Corvallis high in the late sixties, early seventies.

Riley was recruited by the University of Alabama where he played defensive back under legendary head coach, Paul "Bear" Bryant. During his tenure at Alabama from 1971-1974, Riley helped the Crimson tide win the SEC championship four times and the national title in 1973.

After graduating from Alabama in 1975 with a degree in social sciences, Riley was hired as a defensive graduate assistant for the University of California football team. While at Cal, the Bears were co-Pacific-10 champions in 1975 with a 8-3 record.

The coach moved from California to Oregon in 1976 where he served as a defensive graduate assistant on the Whitworth football team in Spokane, Washington.

After moving from California to Washington in two years, Riley settled down and served six years as the defensive coordinator and secondary coach for the NAIA football powerhouse Linfield Wildcats.

While at Linfield, the 'Cats had a 52-7-1 record, including a perfect 12-0 record in 1982 to win the NAIA national championship.

Riley received his first taste of professional football in 1983 when he joined the CFL's Winnipeg Blue Bombers as their secondary coach. During his three years, the Blue Bombers accumulated a 32-15-1 record, including the Grey Cup championship in 1984.

The successful coach moved back to the states in 1986 after his brief tenure in Manitoba to serve as the defensive coordinator and secondary coach at Northern Colorado University.

But, his time in the states would be quick, as the Blue Bombers lured Riley back to CFL in 1987 as their head coach. Riley compiled a 40-32 record during his first head coaching job and won two Grey Cup championships, one in 1988 and the other in 1990. Each year the Blue Bombers won the Grey Cup, Riley was named the CFL Coach of the Year.

After his successful coaching job in the CFL, Riley spent two years in Texas as the head coach of the World League of American Football's San Antonio Riders. The coach led the Riders to a 11-9 record during his two seasons.

Riley returned to the Pac-10 in 1993 as the assistant head coach and offensive coordinator at the University of Southern California. During his three year period at USC, the Trojans won three bowl games and finished first in the Pac-10 in 1995.

The northwest native returned to Corvallis in 1997 as the head coach of the Oregon State Beavers. As head coach, Riley restored interest in a beleaguered program and defeated the Oregon Ducks in one of the most thrilling games ever played.

Once again, Riley would not stay in the northwest long. The San Diego Chargers hired Riley in 1999 as their head coach. As head coach with the Chargers, Riley compiled a 14-34 record.

Riley was released by the Chargers in 2002, but was soon hired by the New Orleans Saints as the assistant coach and secondary coach late in 2002.

During Riley's 27-year coaching career he has spent 11 seasons as a head coach. He has been extremely successful at every level of football, except the NFL.

Riley was responsible for recruiting many of the star players at Oregon State the past few years. The list includes OSU record setters such as Ken Simonton, Jonathan Smith, and Dennis Weathersby. comment: Many Beaver faithful would love to have Riley back. He did lay the foundation for success. Riley also generated interest in the football program which had been horrible for the previous two decades.


Monday...a profile on Boise State head coach Dan Hawkins.

Related: Tim Lappano Profile

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