Riley in 2008
July 6, 1953|
|Alma mater||University of Alabama|
|Coaching career (HC unless noted)|
Winnipeg Blue Bombers (DB)
Northern Colorado (DC)
Winnipeg Blue Bombers
San Antonio Riders
San Diego Chargers
New Orleans Saints (AHC/DB)
|Head coaching record|
|Accomplishments and honors|
Pac-10 Coach of the Year (2008)
Michael Joseph "Mike" Riley (born July 6, 1953) is an American football coach and former player. He currently is the head football coach at the University of Nebraska. Previously, Riley was head football coach of Oregon State University, where he served two stints, from 1997 to 1998 and again from 2003 to 2014. Riley has also coached in several professional leagues, serving as head coach of the San Diego Chargers of the National Football League (NFL) from 1999 to 2001 and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League (CFL) from 1987 to 1990.
Early life and playing career
The son of a collegiate assistant coach and Canadian Football League (CFL) head coach, Riley was born in Wallace, Idaho and spent his first dozen years in the Idaho Panhandle. The family moved from Wallace down to Lewiston in 1959 and up to Moscow in 1962, when his father, Bud Riley, became a collegiate assistant coach for his alma mater, the Idaho Vandals, under new head coach Dee Andros. After three seasons on the Palouse, Andros was hired at Oregon State and Bud Riley joined him in Corvallis in 1965 for eight seasons, first as the secondary coach and later as defensive coordinator. Bud Riley went on to become a head coach in the CFL.
Riley was a hometown hero in Corvallis from his athletic days at Corvallis High, where he led the Spartans as the starting quarterback to consecutive state title games in 1969 and 1970. CHS came up short against Medford in 1969, 27–0, but avenged the loss the following season when they met Medford again and came out victorious 21–10. As the son of a coach, Riley had a peripatetic youth and spent his first twelve years in northern Idaho, but he considers the college town of Corvallis his hometown, where he went to junior high and high school.
Riley graduated from CHS in 1971 and opted not to play his college football in the Pac-8, but for the Alabama Crimson Tide in the SEC under legendary head coach Paul "Bear" Bryant. He had family connections to the state and school: his father was born and raised in Guin, Alabama and his uncle, Hayden Riley, was Alabama's head baseball coach (1970–79) and the former head basketball coach (1960–68). (Mike's cousin, Major Ogilvie, would become a star running back for the Tide in the late 1970s; Ogilvie's mother Peggy is one of Bud Riley's five sisters.)  In his four seasons at Alabama as a reserve defensive back, the Tide won four SEC titles and the 1973 UPI (Coaches' Poll) national championship, though they lost the 1973 Sugar Bowl to Notre Dame on New Year's Eve. (Until 1974, the final Coaches' Poll was released before the bowl games.)
Riley began his coaching career immediately after his playing days ended, first as a graduate assistant at California in 1975, and then as a graduate assistant at Whitworth in Spokane, where he received his master's in physical education.
In 1977, he was hired as the defensive coordinator and secondary coach at Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon. During his stay at Linfield he assisted head coach Ad Rutschman’s Wildcats to a six-year record of 52–7–1, which included five conference titles and an undefeated NAIA Division II championship season in 1982. He became an assistant coach in the Canadian Football League in 1983 with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Hired at age 33, Riley reportedly became the youngest head coach in CFL history in 1987 at Winnipeg but in fact was three years older than Bud Grant, who was 29 when he was hired as Winnipeg's head coach in January 1957 (Grant had turned 30 by the time he coached his first game that summer). Riley led the Blue Bombers from 1987–1990 and won two Grey Cups during his tenure. He also coached the San Antonio Riders of the defunct WLAF. He was hired to coach the San Antonio Texans of the CFL in 1993, but the team folded before it could begin play.
Riley returned to the college ranks in 1993 when USC head coach John Robinson offered him the position of offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach; he later became assistant head coach. The Mesa Tribune named him the league’s top assistant coach in 1993 after leading the Trojan offense to record setting numbers. USC quarterback Rob Johnson earned numerous Pac-10 and NCAA records under Riley's tutelage and would later become a fourth-round NFL Draft pick. "He's a player's coach, who gets the most out of you by treating you like normal," Johnson later said.
Riley remained at USC through the 1996 season, helping the Trojans to post-season victories in the Freedom, Cotton, and Rose Bowls. USC won an outright league title, shared another, and finished second once.
Riley was hired as the head coach at Oregon State in 1997 to replace Jerry Pettibone, who had resigned at the end of the 1996 season. Riley's initial contract was a five-year deal at $185,000 per year. In the Beavers' first season under Riley, they posted a record of 3–8. This was a difficult season for Riley as he attempted to run his NFL-style offense with players recruited by Pettibone to run the wishbone triple-option. The 1998 season was a big step in the right direction, with the Beavers posting a 5–6 record, their best record since 1971. Two of the six losses were by a single point, to Washington and California in back-to-back games late in the season. This was followed by a last-minute loss to a highly ranked UCLA team. The 1998 season was capped off by a double-overtime 44–41 victory over the rival Oregon Ducks in the Civil War game.
Although his first stint with the Beavers only lasted two seasons, Riley is considered, by FSN commentators, to have laid the foundation for the success of the Beavers in the years to come. The 1999 team, led by Dennis Erickson, posted a 7–5 record and earned a trip to the Oahu Bowl, which ended a streak of 28 straight losing seasons.
In January 1999, Riley left the Beavers to become the head coach of the San Diego Chargers of the NFL, signing a five-year deal at $750,000 per year. Riley coached the Chargers from 1999 to 2001, with a record of 14–34. In 2000, the Chargers had their worst season; they went 1-15, with their only win on a last-second field goal against a Kansas City Chiefs team led by an aging Warren Moon. Riley's last game was indicative of his last season, as the Chargers played well, but one poor play turned the tide. The 2001 Chargers ended their 5-11 season with a loss to the Seattle Seahawks, after Doug Flutie passed for 377 yards and drove for the tying field goal with 16 seconds remaining, but poor special teams play led to a long Seahawks kick return and subsequently a 54-yard winning field goal.
Riley was fired as head coach of the Chargers after three seasons and was an assistant coach with the New Orleans Saints in 2002. He was offered the Alabama job in December 2002 after Dennis Franchione left for Texas A&M. Riley was also under consideration for the UCLA job during that period.
Return to Oregon State
After spending the 2002 season with the New Orleans Saints, Riley returned to Corvallis to become the head coach at Oregon State in 2003 following Erickson's departure to San Francisco of the NFL. Riley agreed to a seven-year contract that started at $625,000 per year and increased incrementally to $950,000 in year seven.
After starting the 2006 season 2–3, the Beavers went 9–4 on the regular season, including an upset of #3 USC in Corvallis. The Beavers completed their impressive season with a win over Missouri in the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, ending their season with a 10–4 record.
In 2007, the Beavers again started 2–3 and finished 8–4 on the regular season, including an upset of #2 Cal in Berkeley. The Beavers finished the year 9–4 with a win in the Emerald Bowl in San Francisco over the Maryland Terrapins.
In 2008 Riley's Beavers knocked off #1-ranked USC 27–21 at Reser Stadium. The Beavers went into the Civil War with a chance to reach the Rose Bowl as Pac-10 champions but were defeated by Oregon, 65–38, and instead accepted another invitation to the third place Sun Bowl, where they beat Pittsburgh in a defensive struggle, 3–0.
Though winless in bowl games as a player, Riley has a 6–2 NCAA football bowl record as a head coach through the 2013 season, having won the 2003 Las Vegas Bowl, 2004 Insight Bowl, 2006 Sun Bowl, 2007 Emerald Bowl, and 2008 Sun Bowl. Riley is a combined 8–1 in bowl games as a head or assistant coach. In the 2009 Las Vegas Bowl, the Beavers lost to the BYU Cougars of the Mountain West Conference.
Following the 2009 season, Riley was rumored to be up for the USC vacancy created by the resignation of Pete Carroll. Those rumors were put to rest when Riley signed a three-year extension at OSU through the 2019 season.
During the 2012 season, Riley snatched his 75th career win surpassing Lon Stiner as Oregon State's all time winningest coach, despite never losing fewer than 4 games in any season or winning a conference championship.
On December 4, 2014, Riley was named head coach of the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Riley completed his second stint at Oregon State with a 85–66 record. His 93 wins overall at Oregon State are the most in school history.
Head coaching record
|Team||Year||Regular Season||Post Season|
|WPG||1987||12||6||0||.667||1st in East Division||0||1||Lost in East Final|
|WPG||1988||9||9||0||.500||2nd in East Division||3||0||Won Grey Cup|
|WPG||1989||7||11||0||.389||3rd in East Division||1||1||Lost in East Final|
|WPG||1990||12||6||0||.667||1st in East Division||2||0||Won Grey Cup|
|6||2||2 Grey Cups|
|Team||Year||Regular season||Post season|
|Won||Lost||Ties||Win %||Finish||Won||Lost||Win %||Result|
|SD||1999||8||8||0||.500||3rd in AFC West||–||–||–||–|
|SD||2000||1||15||0||.063||5th in AFC West||–||–||–||–|
|SD||2001||5||11||0||.313||5th in AFC West||–||–||–||–|
- Lewiston Morning Tribune – Bud Riley named Idaho assistant – 1962-05-27 – p.11
- "Down-home hero comes home again". The Register-Guard. 2003-02-23. Retrieved 2008-12-01.
- "Corvallis High Football History". corvallishighfootball.com. Retrieved 2007-12-20.
- Tuscaloosa News – Riley overlooked by Alabama Sports Hall of Fame – 1996-02-21 – p.2C
- The Oregonian – The lives of two Rileys define Oregon State football – 2009-12-02
- obits.dignitymemorial.com – Margaret Riley Watkins (1933–2010) – sister of Bud Riley – accessed 2012-03-30
- Tuscaloosa News – Holidays offer more than a visit home – 1987-12-27 – p.7B
- Seattle Times – Husky Football – Riley's Stock Skyrockets In Corvallis – 1999-01-01
- Mentioned in FSN's coverage of UW vs. OSU game on October 7th, 2000.
- OregonLive.com – Oregon State Insider: Mike Riley, and his dad Bud Riley, both know the sting of being fired – 2011-10-13
- Hurt, Cecil (December 14, 2002). "The No Riley Factor: UA search begins anew". The Tuscaloosa News. Retrieved November 29, 2010.
- Witz, Billy (December 10, 2002). "UCLA expected to meet with Riley Tuesday". The Tuscaloosa News. New York Times News Service. Retrieved November 29, 2010.
- Seattle Times – Riley learns you can go home again – 2003-02-21
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