oregon state blog

OSU’s Mike Riley continues to transform the Beavers into a threat

Mike Riley – Oregon State University Head Football Coach

With a fan-base that does not travel, an athletic program with limited resources, and a BCS powerhouse within the state, Mike Riley does what he has always done with the OSU Beavers:

Win with less.

Winning starts with getting players

From the snap, Corvallis is one of the toughest cities in the conference to sell an 18 year-old. Despite an overall record of 72-63, Riley doesn’t have access to the type of players that two of his regional counterparts at Washington and Oregon, because of the town itself.

Imagine trying to convince a teenager that he could have more fun than in Corvallis than in Seattle or Eugene, while also having to play at Reser Stadium. 

With a capacity of 45,674 fans, the venue is smaller than its counterparts, something that does not help with recruiting. Location and stadium size are just two of the contributing factors of Riley’s inability to land even a single player in ESPN’s 2012 Top 150 recruiting class.

Where’s the Tradition?

Riley has little tradition at Oregon State to reference to when giving his recruiting pitches. In his first season he had one historical streak of futility that had to be broken in order to gain success.

Mike Riley

Mike Riley has found a way to win despite being confined in Corvallis.

From 1972-1996, the Beavers failed to win more than FOUR games in a season. Upon his first arrival in 1997-98, Riley went 8-14 in a pair of seasons, and went 5-6 in just his second season as head coach in 1998, before leaving to coach the San Diego Chargers in 1999.

The significance of a five-win season cannot be lost in the defense of Riley because of the inability to get one in Corvallis during a quarter-century before his arrival.

Undoubtedly, Dennis Erickson took Riley’s recruits to new heights with a Fiesta Bowl victory in 2000, but it was Riley that laid the foundation to accelerate Erickson’s ascent up the Bowl Championship Series ranks.

After Erickson’s departure, Riley has continued to transform the Beavers into a post-season threat. When it matters most, the 2008 Pac-10 Coach of the Year has proven his mettle.

Riley has a bowl record of 5-1 as a head coach and a combined record of 8-1 as an assistant or head coach.

His only blemish came in 2009 against BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl.

‘What do you call Oregon without Phil Knight?’

‘Oregon State.’

A typical rivalry joke, yes. In the case of the Civil War, Beaver Nation does have a point.  (In defense of Knight, he has given numerous amounts to Oregon State, even contributing funds to help keep baseball coach Pat Casey in Corvallis.)

Riley succeeds while competing against the trendy, flashy, and undeniably action-packed Oregon Ducks. Given their recent success, Oregon coach Chip Kelly has gained the upper hand with in-state recruiting, making Riley’s job exponentially more difficult.


Riley has little tradition at Oregon State to reference

Despite all of this Riley has only had three losing seasons from 2003-11, with two of the coming recently.

Given his career, one would expect Riley to dam up the losing and continue his winning ways in 2012.

Football Future

Lastly, the purpose of college is to help prepare young adults to get better jobs. Mike Riley does this on the football field.

There are over 25 former Beavers that are playing in the NFL, with some of them at the league’s most important position. For a quarterback with his sights set on the NFL, there is no better coach to play for than Riley.

Oregon State consistently employs an offense that is NFL-friendly, evidenced by the trio of quarterbacks currently on NFL rosters:

Derek Anderson (Carolina), Matt Moore (Miami), and Sean Canfield (New Orleans). Riley simply makes the most of the players that come into the program and churns out success stories.

Riley does not need ESPN Top 150’s or five-star recruits to win ball games, he needs heart and guys with an ability to learn (i.e. Biletnikoff winner and former walk-on Mike Hass).

Imagine where the Beavers would be if the school had resources. In order to do so, all you have to do is look at Eugene.


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About Blair Thomas

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  • NWSportsBeat

    Great read Blair. He does have an uphill climb to land recruits. But he can hold his head high. He’s graduating MEN. Nothing wrong with that.

  • Awesome article. Couldn’t agree with you more. I remember last year a lot of people in Corvallis were calling for Riley’s head, after just two disappointing years—the first of which was more a product of injuries than anything else.

    The guy took a little 5’6 nobody running back named Jacquizz Rodgers from Texas and made him an overnight star. And people aren’t hopeful?

    With his newest batch of recruits, I think this is going to be the first of a special stretch of seasons for the Beavers.

    • Blair Thomas

      Thanks, Jon. Glad you enjoyed it. As a neutral follower, I think he gets a bad wrap within OSU’s fan base. His team generally peaks at the end of the season and he maximizes his talent pool for the most part. Being competitive should be a realistic expectation at Corvallis, not annual BCS appearances…

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