Mike Riley has served as the Oregon State Beavers head coach twice in his lifetime. First, he manned the Beavers for two seasons from 1997-1998 before departing to become head coach of the San Diego Chargers. Riley would return to the school in Corvallis, Oregon in 2003 and has been there ever since. Since ’03, Riley has taken his teams to a total of seven bowl games, winning five of them. He’s been one of the most consistent coaches in the game, having his teams regularly competing for Pac-12 supremacy. Riley and his teams, however, have never been able to achieve that supreme status.
Now we all know that along with Pac-12 supremacy comes a little trip to a place called Pasadena, California and a game called the Rose Bowl. Yes, there was a mild amount of sarcasm there. What is not a joke though is the fact that, given all of his success as a head coach, Riley has never been able to say that he has led a team into the Rose Bowl. This must be the year that he changes that.
It’s certainly not like the motivation isn’t there. In recent years, Riley has had to sit back and watch the intra-state rival Oregon Ducks enjoy all of the success they have earned, which includes two trips to Pasadena with a victory in the 2012 contest. With the departure of Oregon coach Chip Kelly to the NFL, Riley now finds himself as the most popular coach in the state. With most eyes on him, it’s time he seized the moment. But, does he have the team to get him there?
Riley has a strong contingent of players returning this season to help him achieve this goal. He has two potential All-American defensive ends, an experienced defensive backfield, a potential Heisman contender at running back, and four returning offensive linemen. The biggest hurdle will be settling on a starting quarterback to get him to the promised land. The decision between Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz could be crucial in helping him finally achieve that goal.
To get Riley to Pasadena, it’ll be a tough road in 2013. The Beavers have road contests against the Utah Utes, Arizona State Sun Devils, and Oregon in the feared Autzen Stadium for their annual ‘Civil War’ battle. The one breath of fresh air is having the defending Rose Bowl champion Stanford Cardinal at home in Corvallis.
As much as people doubt the coach will ever make it there, I was never one of those naysayers. Riley returned to Oregon State in 2003 with a purpose. He wanted to get the Beavers to a Rose Bowl. And, if that happens to be 11 years later, then so be it. Mike Riley may not be the most successful head coach in college football, but he’s certainly making a pitch to be the most persistent. However, vindication may be just around the corner.