Former Oregon State head coach Mike Riley stunned the college football world by accepting the head coaching job at Nebraska on Thursday morning. Riley finished his 14-year tenure in Corvallis with a 5-7 record and a program that has seen its recruiting and on-field performance stagnate. The decline in the program’s on-field success, and struggles with recruiting, had many OSU fans wondering if Mike Riley was still the guy to get the job done in Corvallis.
Over the last six seasons, the Beavers have won more than seven games twice (2009, 2012) and have made three trips to a bowl game in that time frame (2009, 2012, 2013). Oregon State’s 37-38 (25-27 in conference play) since 2009 is decidedly mediocre, and has impacted the program’s ability to draw talent; due to the fact that the program hasn’t really competed for the conference title since 2008. Thanks (in part) to the on-field performance, the program’s recruiting rankings have plummeted from the 49th ranked 2009 to the 64th ranked 2015 class (the current recruiting class).
The other reason that recruiting has plummeted? OSU’s Valley Football Center (last renovated in 1997) is far behind the times and needs to be upgraded. Currently, Oregon State is looking at a $40-42 million renovation; that lags behind the $68 Oregon spent on its new football facility that opened in 2013, or the $61 million Washington State opened in August, 2014.
Oregon State might have an easier time convincing donors to jump on board with financing the renovation/expansion if the Beavers manage to hire a big name, and/or exciting coach, now that Riley is gone. But it is going to take a massive financial investment from the athletic department and the university if the Beavers are going to keep up with the rest of the Pac-12.
If Riley had been fired, Oregon State would be on the hook for the remainder of his long term deal, at $1.5 million per year (that’s the lowest salary in the Pac-12). Instead, the university is going to receive a $500K buyout from its former head coach, and start looking for a new coach with its limited financial resources.
Riley’s decision to leave Oregon State takes the school off the hook financially, but now forces the Beavers to try and find a new head coach with limited resources and an incomplete plan to upgrade its football facilities in the near future. It’s going to be an interesting couple of weeks in Corvallis.