The moment Mike Riley was fired as the Head Coach at Nebraska, speculation began as to whether he’d be back in some capacity at Oregon State University. Rumors continued to spread after the Beavers’ hiring of former quarterback Jonathan Smith as their new head coach. Smith was a walk-on in Riley’s first year as head coach back in 1997. He then went on to serve as a graduate assistant for Riley in 2003.
Though there are connections between the two, Smith’s recent hire of Trent Bray to the OSU staff ignited further speculation around Riley’s possible return to Corvallis. Bray, after playing under Riley for three seasons, has been his linebackers coach since 2012, both in Corvallis, and Lincoln, Nebraska.
Perhaps the most significant hire suggesting a likely return for Mike Riley, was that of Dan Van De Riet as the director of football operations. Like Bray, Van De Riet, served with Riley throughout his tenure at the University of Nebraska. Prior to that, Van De Riet held the same position at Oregon State. It was, in fact, Mike Riley that promoted him to the position in 2008.
Other rumored coaching candidates, namely Keith Heyward and Inoke Breckterfield, also have strong ties to the twice former Beaver coach. Both have played at OSU with Riley at the helm, and served as his graduate assistants. Though it is unclear whether either of these candidates will be hired by Smith, their ties to Riley leave Beaver fans wondering.
For now, Riley is back at his home in Corvallis, and likely waiting to hear from coach Smith. Though it is likely many Beaver fans would welcome Riley in a limited, behind-the-scenes type of role, there is apprehension about a possible return to the sidelines. For the Beavers it seems, the more things change, the more they stay the same.