There was no bigger indictment of the Mike Riley era at Nebraska than what took place last Saturday against rival Minnesota.
Getting beat down by a team who had just one Big Ten win prior to that game? That isn’t how you show you’re moving in a forward direction while clearly under the microscope of a new athletics director.
After this loss it is clear that Riley has no positive momentum in the program at all. Something just isn’t clicking and hasn’t for the past two seasons really.
Riley has tried just about everything, including making Bob Diaco the most expensive coordinator in program history. Not even that move helped, and given Diaco’s obvious frustration about his personnel, one could argue it has actually backfired.
All of it adds up to Mike Riley gone as the head coach of the Huskers, but for some, the firing needs to happen now for the betterment of the program.
That’s not how AD Bill Moos sees it after just a month or so on the job.
“It’s not like I’ve got a coach to hire this afternoon at 3:30,” Moos said Monday, via ESPN.com. “Mike Riley deserves to finish the 2017 season. That’s how I operate.”
Even if new AD Bill Moos has plainly stated he isn’t going to fire Riley today or tomorrow or any time in the next two weeks, some still believe there is little point in keeping Riley around right now.
The logic seems to be that schools like Florida and Tennessee are already getting in the game of finding a new head coach and their season’s are lost causes too. There’s some good thinking here, but overall there is a fundamental difference between Florida, Tennessee and the Huskers of today — prestige.
Simply put, the Huskers program is at least third in the pecking order of jobs people may want to take of those three potential openings.
Add in the fact that the Huskers program doesn’t exactly have a leader worthy of taking on the head coach role, and I ask you what the point of firing Riley right now would be?
Diaco as interim head coach? Not going to happen after he threw his players under the bus.
Some position coach no one has ever heard of? There is still bowl eligibility to be played for and is that coach really ready to get in to that fight against Penn State and Iowa? Doubtful at best.
Not only are those two statements true, but the landscape of college football coaching isn’t exactly a mine full of diamonds just waiting to be polished in 2017. The crop of coaches that may be available doesn’t seem as obvious as home run hires as in years past.
There’s just one guy in the mold of P.J. Fleck, and his name is Scott Frost.
It’s the name almost every Nebraska fan is hoping comes home to Lincoln, but also the name that has an undefeated UCF team to navigate the rest of the season. He’s not jumping ship now, and even getting him away from the Knights this offseason is no guarantee either.
Florida seems to be enamored with Frost, and the Huskers would be stupid not to kick that same tire when the time comes. But, it isn’t as if waiting two weeks is going to make a difference.
UCF is going to be playing in the American championship game the same weekend as the Big Ten championship game is going on. Hint, Frost isn’t going to be talking to other schools in the middle of that situation.
It’s much more likely that he’s going to take a peak at what offers are out there and decide what to do following that championship game. Firing Riley now gives the Huskers what kind of leg-up in this race?
Ultimately, it comes down to the market that Nebraska is competing in. Right now it is hard to see what benefit there is in firing Riley now, with just two games left.
Moos and Co. have made it clear that they are going to do their homework on Riley, and they are likely doing their homework on the coaching front should they choose to fire Riley at the end of the season. I mean, he might as well have said Riley is as good as gone in his talk to the press on Monday.
After all, he did say this:
“I applaud this fan base,” Moos said, “because they’ve been patient and they haven’t had the product — at least from my observation in the short time I’ve been here — that I feel that they deserve. It’s why we’re taking a real hard look at this and one of the reasons I am out to hear their disgruntled thoughts on the state of the program.”
There simply isn’t any scenario where the Huskers look good by firing Riley before the end of the season.
So, sit tight and see if the Huskers can salvage a bowl game from an awful season everyone would like to forget.
Even if that doesn’t happen, which seems highly likely given the opponents on the schedule, Nebraska’s brass are likely planning behind the scenes and will move quickly once the season is over.
Just remember, all good things come to those who wait.