Nebraska's Riley is business as usual amid coaching rumors
(AP Photo/Chris Knight)
By ERIC OLSON
AP College Football Writer
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) Mike Riley's demeanor offers no hint he could be coaching his last game for Nebraska when it plays Iowa on Friday.
Long known as the "nicest guy in college football," Riley showed up at his news conference Monday in a red top and gray athletic pants and, as he does each week, thanked everybody for coming. Then, same as always, he spent a few minutes running down the injury list, reviewing the last game and offering a brief preview of the next.
Nebraska (4-7, 3-5 Big Ten) has lost 11 of its last 17, and full-throated calls for Riley's ouster have been coming from the fan base since Northern Illinois stunned the Cornhuskers in Lincoln in mid-September. Shawn Eichorst, who hired Riley three years ago and quietly extended his contract before the season, was fired as athletic director five days after that game.
The new athletic director, Bill Moos, has said publicly that Nebraska fans deserve a better product and went on an Omaha radio show and said he's admired the work of UCF's Scott Frost.
Frost quarterbacked the 1997 Nebraska team that won a share of the national championship, and many believe he is on his way to a higher-profile school sooner than later. Riley was asked to comment minutes after Saturday's 56-44 loss at Penn State about speculation that Frost would replace him. Riley kept a straight face, showed no angst and deflected the question.
Asked Monday if he's addressed with his players the precarious position of him and his staff, he said he's never brought it up.
"I talk to our team as if I'm going to be here forever," Riley said, "and I approach each day like that."
Quarterback Tanner Lee said he's seen no change in Riley.
"A big thing I like about Coach Riley, always liked about him, is he's the same guy every day," Lee said. "You know what you're going to get from him. You know what he expects. He's honest. I think it helps our team. I definitely learn from it, just being focused on our team and what really matters."
Riley, 64, is the son of a coach and has been in the business himself for 43 years, 26 as a head coach. He said he's learned to insulate himself and go about his job the same as always.
"Everybody probably has a vision of what they think leadership is, what they think is important for a group of young men," he said. "I really don't see any need at being angry at anybody in particular. I was brought up in coaching in a way that if it's not working, then it's our job to fix it. The focus goes on that. I try not to get into playing the blame game. There's no need for that. What we have to do is try to help them.
"That's the way I want to do it. I want to enjoy these kids, coach them and teach them and have an atmosphere that is about learning."
Riley can't ignore what has become of the season. A loss to Iowa (6-5, 3-5) would leave the Huskers with their fewest wins since the 1961 team went 3-6-1. As it is, this year's Huskers are the first since 1943 to allow 50 or more points in three games and the first since 1945 to give up that many in back-to-back games.
"No matter what happens when you enter into the year, the reality is it unfolds and you have a vision. Losing isn't part of that," Riley said.
Riley was in no mood to reflect Monday. There will be plenty of time for that after the season, he said.
Right now, he said, his mind is on Iowa.
"I think we owe our kids the energy of this preparation," he said. "For every coach and player in adverse circumstances, you can do a lot for who you are by what you put in. The coaches can lead that, so that's what we try to do."
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Updated November 20, 2017