Former Husker coach Mike Riley lands another head coaching opportunity in new professional league

Former Husker coach Mike Riley lands another head coaching opportunity in new professional league
Mike Riley went 19-19 in his three seasons at Nebraska. (World-Herald News Service)

LINCOLN — On his first day back coaching at Oregon State, it rained. Mike Riley didn’t care. He pulled out his bicycle and rode down to the stadium anyway. Old times. It felt good.

Despite being Nebraska’s coach for three years, Riley still had roots in Corvallis. So after he was fired at NU, Riley and his wife, Dee, moved right back to his hometown, where he had had two previous coaching stints. He got an assistant coaching job with the Beavers under new coach Jonathan Smith, who once played quarterback for Riley.

But Riley still wanted to be a head coach. And an opportunity in a new spring football league, the Alliance of American Football, intrigued him.

“If I did this, I would go put the offense together and call the plays,” Riley said in an interview with The World-Herald last month. “And it might be the last time in my life I get to do that because I really don’t have any of that input at all (at Oregon State). I’m enjoying it, don’t get me wrong, but there’s that void there of doing the football and then actually coaching it on the field in a scheme.”

Riley sounded like a man who had already talked himself into the opportunity. On Thursday, he officially left for the new league. Riley was announced as the first coach of San Antonio’s AAF team, one of eight teams in the startup league.

“We want to put together a great product,” Riley said Thursday. “I look forward to it.”

Riley returns after 27 years to San Antonio, where he coached the San Antonio Riders in 1991 and 1992 in the World League of American Football. Riley said in his opening remarks that he and Dee have returned to San Antonio every year since that job in 1991.

He now leaves Oregon State for the third time since first being hired by the school in 1997. He left in 1998 to be the coach of the San Diego Chargers, then again in 2014 for Nebraska.

“I want to thank Coach Riley for his contributions to our program and wish him the best in his new challenge,” Smith said in a statement.

As a coach in the CFL, NFL, WLAF and in Division I football, Riley is 177-174.

The Alliance is an eight-team league and will play 12 weeks, beginning the week after the Super Bowl in February and ending the final weekend of April. Coaches and managers around the league include Mike Singletary, Dennis Erickson, Phil Savage, Michael Vick, Rick Neuheisel and Steve Spurrier.

In his interview with The World-Herald, Riley said his wife wanted him to take the San Antonio job, and the allure of installing an offense would be hard to turn down. Riley was asked to consider what went wrong at Nebraska, and why. He said he wished he had called plays. He considered doing so multiple times during his tenure at NU, and he wanted it be a part of any head coaching role going forward.

“If I had to list my regrets, that might be at the top,” Riley said of his time at Nebraska. “Not even knowing if I would have made a difference — but I would have felt better. Because I hated explaining after the games when I didn’t call it. That’s what I liked about (play calling). At some point there, when I wanted to, it was like the ship had sailed a little bit. You get just far enough away from it.”

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