First and foremost, thank you Mike Riley for your time here. I may have been critical this past year, but I was always proud to have you as OSU’s coach and wanted a few tweaks to give you a chance to get on top. I never wanted you to leave.
Of course, Mike is not the type of guy to read my blog, so he may never get that sentiment, but I will always think fondly of the Mike Riley era(s) at OSU. I will never forget the four overtime Civil War win in 1998, the two victories over USC, the Fog Bowl, the 2006 season, going for two in the Sun Bowl, the masterful Emerald Bowl, Some big Civil War victories, some tough decisions, and the fact that I never had to worry about the integrity of the program.
Open practices may end up being a thing of the past, so I thank you for those, for the hot afternoons in August where I got to have my daughter sit on my shoulders while we watched practice, or meeting great Beaver fans who always knew far more about the game than they let on. For the time I worked on the OSU PA site with DVD, and how you always remembered my name, even though there was no reason to.
I thank you for being a man that stood up in scandal and owned it, who helped craft a code of conduct that protected the program and you, for following that code, and for always honoring your word to recruits. I thank you for always coaching and always doing what you thought was right. I thank you for the times you did turn down other high profile jobs to stay in Corvallis. I hope some day, when your hand is heavy with title rings, you come back from Nebraska to Corvallis, and maybe I can chat with you while we watch a Beaver practice that you are not coaching. Or that you are the AD. Or whatever you future holds.
Selfishly, I also thank you for your last gift. As Beaver Nation turned, myself included, and wanted to see change, you not only got a great job, but you gave us one huge boost in the process. You allowed us to move on without the burden of your contract. I would have loved to see you stay, but financially, fan base-wise and culturally, you were being forced out. You could have stayed and done what they asked and collected a paycheck while not being happy, but you stuck to your guns, did the honest and honorable thing, and stood by your convictions, even though it took you from your home of 14 years. You also left in a way that did not put a knife in the back of any future plans that OSU has for change and growth.
For that final gift, I thank you. I don’t know who they are going to hire, and I am sure there will be excitement. But unlike in my youth, when a new coach was hired because the last one had failed miserably, I am sad to see you go. I am sad to see your 94 wins, multiple bowl games and Hip Hip Hoorays go. There will be a new face for OSU football, but I will admit I already kind of miss the old one. Take care, have fun in Nebraska. My family is from there and they couldn’t be happier to welcome you to the Big Red family.
You will be missed.