One of the most respected men at any level of football, Mike Riley is in his third season as Nebraska head coach in 2016. The second-most experienced FBS coach behind Alabama's Nick Saban, Riley leads the Nebraska program with a veteran and consistent presence.
Riley is in his 43rd season overall as a coach in 2017 and his 26th year as a head coach, including 17 in the collegiate ranks. He also owns nine years as a professional head coach, second among current FBS head coaches. Riley surpassed the 100-win plateau during the 2016 season and will enter the the 2017 campaign with a 108-91 record at the college level.
Since taking over the Nebraska program, Riley has immersed himself in the Cornhusker football tradition, while working to build the program to a championship level. After an initial season that featured a series of difficult losses, Riley's 2016 Huskers made strides in the win department, posting a 9-4 record, including a 6-3 mark in Big Ten play.
The Huskers' four-win improvement in the regular season in 2016 was the third-largest in the 127-yaear history of Nebraska football. His 9-3 regular-season mark tied the best season of Riley's collegiate coaching career, and marked Nebraska's 50th nine-win season in school history.
Riley also led Nebraska to its highest ranking in the College Football Playoff poll (10th) and to the program's highest AP ranking (No. 7) in six seasons. He also helped the Huskers finish second in the Big Ten West, a division that featured five bowl participants. Riley led Nebraska to five victories over bowl teams in 2016, and one win over a ranked opponent, while guiding NU to its first undefeated season at Memorial Stadium since 2012. The win over nationally ranked Oregon marked his 16th win over a ranked opponent in his college career.
Nebraska’s overall record in 2015 did not measure up to Riley’s expectations for his first year, however signs of progress were evident throughout the season, particularly during an impressive late-season run. Nebraska's 6-7 record included four losses on the opponent's final offensive play, and the seven losses came by an average of 4.7 points, including four losses by three or fewer points.
The Huskers posted four wins over bowl teams and defeated an opponent who finished the season with double-digit victories. None of the other 28 first-year head coaches in Nebraska history accomplished either of those feats, while NU's 39-38 upset of No. 6 Michigan State marked the highest ranked opponent a first-year Husker head coach had ever defeated. The victory was the Huskers’ first win over a top-10 opponent in four seasons and marked only the third time in the history of Nebraska football that an unranked Husker team upset a top-10 foe.
Riley's first season culminated with a 37-29 victory over UCLA in the Foster Frams Bowl at Levi's Stadium. Riley became the fourth Husker coach to win a bowl game in his debut season, while notching his seventh overall bowl victory. Riley's .700 career bowl winning percentage ranks as one of the nation's best marks among coaches with at least five bowl game appearances.
Riley took over the Husker football program following 12 seasons as the head coach at Oregon State, and 14 seasons overall in Corvallis. Riley also had prior experience at the highest level of football, serving as the head coach of the San Diego Chargers for three seasons, while also spending time in the Canadian Football League and the World Football League.
In his time at Oregon State, Riley built the Beaver program into a consistent winner and regular contender in the Pac-12 Conference. Riley had a 93-80 overall record as the Beavers’ head coach. Riley began the rejuvenation of the Oregon State program in his two-year stint in 1997 and 1998. He returned to Corvallis and has led the Beavers to unprecedented heights in the past 12 years.
Riley owns the most wins ever at Oregon State with 93, while leading the program to eight bowl appearances. Oregon State was ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 for 28 weeks, and Riley has coached players who have earned 32 All-American honors. Riley had 32 NFL Draft picks at OSU, including first-round selections Steven Jackson (2004) and Brandin Cooks (2014).
Before accepting the Nebraska job, Riley was the longest tenured coach in the Pac-12 and had the seventh-longest coaching tenure of any head coach in the FBS ranks. His resume sparkles with coaching achievements.
Riley was the 2008 American Football Coaches Association (AFCA), Pac-10 Conference and State of Oregon Coach of the Year, and his teams have appeared in the final Associated Press top-25 rankings three times in the past eight season. In 2012 he was selected the AFCA Region Coach of the Year.
The 63-year-old Riley posted a 6-2 record in bowl games with the Beavers. Riley built the foundation for Oregon State in his first two years on the campus in 1997 and 1998. Riley took over a program that was mired in a streak of 26 consecutive losing seasons and quickly changed the culture in Corvallis. After Riley departed for the NFL, Oregon State made three postseason appearances.
Riley is the first coach in OSU history to win more than one NCAA-sanctioned bowl game at OSU, capturing the 2003 Las Vegas Bowl, the 2004 Insight Bowl, the 2006 and 2008 Sun Bowls, the 2007 Emerald Bowl and the 2013 Hawai’i Bowl titles. He was also the first coach to lead the program to more than one winning conference season since 1969, and Riley accomplished the feat six times.
Riley returned to the Beaver sideline for the second time in 2003 and led the team to the Las Vegas Bowl title over New Mexico. The team set numerous individual and team records, and led the Pac-10 in both offense and defense. Success immediately followed on the recruiting trail, as Oregon State signed the best recruiting class in school history the following February.
The 2004 team played one of the nation’s toughest schedules en route to a 7-5 record, capped by a strong finish to the season. OSU defeated Oregon in the annual Civil War matchup and completed the year with a 38-21 win over Notre Dame in the Insight Bowl. The Beavers closed the 2004 campaign by winning six of their final seven games.
After a 5-6 season in 2005, Riley’s 2006 team was the second team in school history to win at least 10 games. The Beavers won eight of their final nine games, including a win over No. 3 USC to end the Trojans’ 27-game Pac-10 win streak.
OSU also ended a lengthy Aloha Stadium win streak of Hawai’i and capped off the year with a thrilling 39-38 victory over Missouri in the Sun Bowl. The Beavers finished third in the Pac-10, just one game behind co-winners USC and California, and ended the year ranked No. 21 in the final AP poll.
Like many of Riley’s team, the 2007 squad continued to improve throughout the season, winning seven of the final eight games on the way to a 9-4 mark. The Beavers won at No. 2 California during the season and also posted a win at 18th-ranked Oregon. OSU’s defense was first nationally against the run and led the nation in tackles for loss. The Beavers capped the year with a win over Maryland in the Emerald Bowl and finished No. 25 in the Associated Press Poll.
Many expected the 2008 season to be a rebuilding year for Riley and a young Beaver team. However, OSU tied for second in the Pac-10 with a 7-2 record and finished 9-2 overall. The success came despite playing one of the nation’s toughest schedules that featured three teams that played in BCS bowls.
The highlight of the 2008 season was a 27-21 win over then-No. 1 USC in a Thursday night matchup in Corvallis. Oregon State capped the year with a win over Pittsburgh in the Sun Bowl and finished No. 18 in the AP Poll and 19th in the USA Today Coaches Poll.
In 2009, Riley and his staff had a difficult job of replacing nearly every starter on defense and a total of seven NFL draftees. Not only did the Beavers qualify for a bowl game, but for the second straight year played the season finale with an opportunity to reach the Rose Bowl. A league-high seven Beavers earned first team All-Pac-10 honors.
The 2010 team posted a 5-7 record, but finished the year with a pair of wins over top-25 teams. OSU defensive tackle Stephen Paea (DT) earned the Morris Trophy for the second time, awarded to the conference’s top defensive lineman. Jacquizz Rodgers earned first-team Pac-10 honors for the third consecutive season to become just the third Pac-10 running back to earn first-team all-league honors three times.
After a 3-9 season in 2011, Riley’s 2012 team was picked to finish last in the Pac-12 North, yet went 6-3 in league and 9-4 overall. The team was ranked in the Associated Press Poll a school-record 12 consecutive weeks, including as high as No. 7. The Beavers opened the year with victories over No. 13 Wisconsin and No. 19 UCLA, and posted the third-best conference record behind a pair of BCS bowl teams.
In 2013 the Beavers won six straight games and defeated Boise State in the Sheraton Hawai’i Bowl to conclude the season with a 7-6 mark. Wide Receiver Brandin Cooks became the second Beaver to win the coveted Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s most outstanding receiver. Cooks broke the Pac-12 record for single season receptions (128) and yards (1,760). The season also featured record-breaking quarterback Sean Mannion break the league record for passing yards (4,662).
In Riley’s final season at Oregon State, the Beavers posted a 5-7 mark. The highlight of the season was a victory over then-No. 7 Arizona State in Corvallis in mid-November. That victory continued Riley’s trend of wins over highly ranked opponents, as his OSU teams defeated 13 top-25 teams, including three wins over teams ranked No. 3 or higher.
Riley has a commitment to the total development of student-athletes. His teams have outstanding success in the classroom. In his final six years in Corvallis, Beavers have been honored by the league for academic achievements 70 times.
Riley’s pro style approach to how he manages the program has paid dividends to players who have gone on to successful professional careers.
Riley’s pro style approach to how he manages the program has paid dividends to players who have gone on to successful professional careers. More than 20 former Beavers who were coached by Riley were in the NFL in 2015, including quarterbacks Matt Moore (Miami), Derek Anderson (Carolina) and Sean Mannion (Rams), running backs Steven Jackson (New England) and Jacquizz Rodgers (Chicago), receivers Brandin Cooks (New Orleans) and Markus Wheaton (Pittsburgh) and defensive back Brandon Browner (New Orleans). Anderson, Jackson and Browner have each earned Pro Bowl honors.
In his first stint at Oregon State, Riley left following the 1998 season an opportunity to become the head coach of the National Football League’s San Diego Chargers. He spent four years in the NFL, three seasons as the Chargers’ head coach and the 2002 campaign as the Assistant Head Coach of the New Orleans Saints.
Riley also had previous professional coaching experience in both the Canadian Football League and World Football League. In 1987, Riley was named the youngest head coach in CFL history, taking over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers as the age of 33. He posted a 40-32 record with the organization and won Grey Cup titles in 1988 and 1990. He was the CFL’s Coach of the Year both of those season and was inducted into Winnipeg’s Hall of Fame in 2007.
In 1991 Riley took over the San Antonio Riders of the World Football League, spending two seasons before the league suspended its North American operations.
He returned to the college ranks in 1993 when then-USC head coach John Robinson offered him the position of offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Riley later became assistant head coach. The Mesa (Ariz.) Tribune named him the league’s top assistant coach in 1993 after leading the Trojans’ offense to record setting numbers. USC quarterback Rob Johnson earned numerous Pac-10 and NCAA records, and would later become a first-round draft pick.
Riley remained at USC through the 1996 season, helping the Trojans to victories in the Rose, Cotton, and Freedom Bowls. USC won one outright league title, shared another and finished second one time.
Riley had a long history in Corvallis, Ore. He was born in Wallace, Idaho, but Riley grew up with Beaver football, as his father Bud was an assistant coach for the program from 1965-72 and again in 1979. Mike was a standout quarterback at Corvallis High School, leading the Spartans to the 1970 state title.
Riley went on to a successful college career at the University of Alabama, playing for legendary coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. He played cornerback from 1971-74, helping the Tide to four Southeastern Conference titles and the 1973 national championship.
Riley immediately moved into coaching following his graduation from Alabama. His first stop was as a defensive graduate assistant coach for Mike White at the University of California in 1975. He helped the Bears to an 8-3 record and a share of the Pacific-8 Conference title.
Riley continued his education and his coaching in 1976 at Whitworth College in Spokane, Wash. He finished his master’s degree in physical education in 1977 while working for the popular Pacific Northwest coach and future Canadian Football League legend Hugh Campbell.
Riley’s first full-time appointment came at NAIA powerhouse Linfield College in McMinnville, Ore. From 1977-82 he served as the program’s defensive coordinator and secondary coach, as well as assistant athletic director. Riley assisted head coach Ad Rutschman’s Wildcats to a six-year record of 52-7-1, which included five conference titles and the 1982 undefeated NAIA title team.
An opportunity to coach in the professional ranks presented itself in 1983, and Riley was on his way to the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers as the secondary coach. During his three-years as an assistant, Winnipeg produced a 32-15-1 mark and won the 1984 Grey Cup title.
Riley returned to the college level in 1986 as an assistant coach at the University of Northern Colorado, before returning to the Blue Bombers.
Riley’s respect in the profession is evident in the fact he has been the head coach for three postseason all-star games – the Hula Bowl, East-West Shrine Game and Blue-Gray All-Star Classic.
Mike and his wife Dee are the parents of one son, Matthew, and one daughter, Kate. They also have a grandson, Elijah Jo. Matthew is an OSU graduate and is currently an employee at the University of Texas. Kate is a 2011 OSU graduate and also resides in Corvallis.
Mike has two brothers; Edward Riley is a physician and Associate Professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine and Pete Riley is a scientist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Date of Birth: July 6, 1953
Family: Wife, Dee; Son, Matthew; Daughter, Kate; Grandchild, Elijah Jo
Education: Alabama, Bachelor’s of Social Science, 1975; Whitworth College, Master’s Physical Education, 1977
Playing Experience: 1971-74, Alabama, Cornerback
2015-present: Nebraska, Head Coach
2003-14: Oregon State, Head Coach
2002: New Orleans Saints, Assistant Head Coach/Secondary
1999-2001: San Diego Chargers, Head Coach
1997-98: Oregon State, Head Coach
1993-96: USC, Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks
1991-92: San Antonio Riders (WLAF), Head Coach
1987-90: Winnipeg Blue Bombers (CFL), Head Coach
1986: Northern Colorado, Defensive Coordinator
1983-85: Winnipeg Blue Bombers (CFL), Secondary Coach
1977-82: Linfield College, Defensive Coordinator/Secondary
1976: Whitworth College, Graduate Assistant
1975: California, Graduate Assistant (Defense)
Head Coaching Record
Nebraska career recorrd: 15-11 (2 seasons), 1-1 in bowl games
Oregon State career record: 93-80 (14 seasons)
1997-98: 8-14 (2 seasons)
2003-14: 85-66 (12 seasons); 8 bowl appearances (6-2)
San Diego Chargers
1999-2001: 14-34 (3 seasons)
San Antonio Riders
1991-92: 11-9 (2 seasons)
Winnipeg Blue Bombers
1987-90: 40-32 (4 seasons); 2 Grey Cup Championships