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Looking Forward, And Back. at Oregon State

Mike Riley made a decision that creates a path forward for everyone today.
Mike Riley made a decision that creates a path forward for everyone today.
Steve Dykes/Getty Images

Mike Riley accepting Nebraska's offer to become their head coach took everyone by surprise, but the surprise wasn't that he accepted; the surprise was that Corn Nation saw this as their best path forward, and extended the offer.

Once they did, it really shouldn't have been a surprise to anyone that Riley accepted; it was an obvious opportunity for the best chance at a successful outcome for all concerned, and Riley instantly recognized that.

It's prayers answered for those who have been campaigning not just for change, but a change specifically involving Riley, mostly because they honestly did not believe it would ever be possible to move forward with him.

But while that's a debatable point we will never learn the answer to, it would be a mistake to take the "Good Riddance" or "Don't let the door hit you on the way out" stance that has surfaced amidst the whirlwind of today's developments.

It's true that recent collapses have reached the point of being unacceptable, but it's also true that Riley won more football games as coach than anyone else ever at Oregon St., including 6 of 8 bowl games.

Indeed, Riley is the single person most responsible for the best era in Oregon St. football ever. And the reason Beaver Nation, in last place in the facilities race in the Pac-12, at least have half a stadium, vs. needing to build an entire one.

For that, Riley deserves one final "Hip-hip-horray" regardless of whatever else has gone awry.

As we've discussed before, that, and his personal character, openness with the media and investors, and unprecedented support and coordination with other programs, which, along with 5 wins against top 10 opponents when he didn't have a ranked team, which are why Nebraska made their move away from a coach who consistently won as many games as Riley has at his best, but never beat the bigger boys, and irritated everyone in the process, are what made dealing with the situation difficult.

A 2-12 record in the Beavers' last 14 Pac-12 games, no bowl game in 3 of the last 5 years, 7 straight losses to Oregon, and 3 in a row, and 4 of 5 to Washington, and declines in results in 5 of the last 6 years meant a major change had to happen.

Riley knew that, but everyone also knew that that major change wouldn't include firing Riley, as the University couldn't afford to pay him for 7 more seasons, as they were contractually obligated to do so, unless someone else paid the buyout bill.

And it had come to the point where some of his assistants could not continue, though that's the kind of change Riley didn't want to make.

Now, there is an opportunity for especially Defensive Coordinator Mark Banker and Offensive Line Coach Mike Cavanaugh, both good citizens and loyal to Riley, but the assistants most under fire, to redirect their careers.

Bright young assistants like Trent Bray and Tavita Thompson can take the next step forward in their careers.

Athletic Director Bob DeCarolis will have to make the hire that will define his career.

It will have to be someone who won't just bring energy and work hard, but someone who can articulate both a vision for the future, and a plan of how to achieve that vision.

You can find plenty of suggestions in the comments following the news breaking earlier today.

Based on how DeCarolis handled the Scott Rueck and Wayne Tinkle hirings for the basketball openings that arose, its impossible to predict who will be hired, or when. Expect another shocking announcement sometime between tomorrow morning and mid-winter.

Indeed, about the only thing we know for sure is that DeCarolis won't be adding any unused rollover minutes on his cell phone plan at the end of the month.

The Nebraska opportunity, one Riley accurately characterized as a "Once in a lifetime" one, could turn out to be the occasion of Riley's greatest moment, eclipsing even epic upsets of USC, California, Oregon (once upon a time), and Arizona St.

Our own RVM, usually the glass more than a quarter full guy, was the first to observe that this could be a "wins all around" outcome, and more and more people, once they get over the shock, are seemingly coming to realize this.

Riley gets a well paid opportunity for a fresh start, and DeCarolis gets a chance to end his career with a home-run hire.

Players and recruits, some of them in log-jams at their positions, get a chance to re-evaluate whether their best interests lie with another program, or with the Beavers, after hearing whomever the new coach is explain his plan.

And that coach has an opportunity to lead the way to heights never before seen.

We don't know if Riley will fail at Nebraska, if Banker and Cavanaugh can resurrect their careers, if DeCarolis can get the hire right, if any of the players and recruits will make the right choice, if the new coach can produce a winner, of if Beaver Nation will be able to pull together.

But what Riley did today was give everyone a chance.

Go Beavs!