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Mike Riley to Wisconsin? A Lear Jet Went From Madison to Corvallis, and Badgers Fans Are Excited

After being turned down by Al Golden, reports have Wisconsin moving on to Oregon State head coach Mike Riley. It’s hard to see another reason for a Lear Jet to travel from Madison to Corvallis.

Why Look at Riley? He’s a very good coach. The Beavers have clinched their fourth nine-win season and (probably) top 25 finish since 2003 under Riley. That’s no small feat at a school with arguably the worst raw setup in the Pac 12. He has the particular quality a Wisconsin coach needs (without a strong in-state recruiting base): being able to find under-the-radar guys and develop them. Oregon State’s NFL Draft output under Riley has been far better than the recruiting input. At 59, he’s more of a short-term hire than Golden would have been, though hiring a young coach and expecting him to stay put for 15 to 20 years in the present climate may be naive. See: Bret Bielema.

Would Riley Leave? Corvallis is his hometown. Riley played at Alabama, but his dad was an Oregon State assistant and he played high school football there. He has stability, with a contract through 2019 that extends every time he makes a bowl game. That said, he has left Oregon State before, in 1998, to take the Chargers job. He has brushed up against his ceiling at Oregon State, which will only get lower with a Pac 12 arms race. Wisconsin has a higher one. Though money is not the only factor, the Badgers can offer him a substantial raise from Riley’s $1.5 million per year salary (though so could Oregon State, presumably, with the new Pac 12 TV contract).

Baseless Prediction: He’s a gentleman. He would fit in well with the loyalty culture at Wisconsin. That may be what ultimately keeps him in Corvallis.

 

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