LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska has fired coach Mike Riley after the Cornhuskers spiraled to a 4-8 finish in his third season.
Frost warning: Huskers fans obsessing over idea of Scott Frost coming home
From stalking Scott Frost at UCF games to pleas on social media to nonstop chatter on talk radio about all the #Frumors, Cornhuskers fans have shed their calm demeanor and are going SEC crazy over the thought of Frost taking over as head coach in Lincoln.
Whom should Nebraska hire to replace Mike Riley?
It’s clear who is at the top of Nebraska’s list. But are the Cornhuskers as high on Scott Frost’s list of potential suitors? Where will Nebraska turn if Frost spurns the Huskers?
The school announced Riley’s dismissal Saturday morning. He was 19-19 in three seasons.
The Cornhuskers finished the 2017 season by losing 56-14 to Iowa on Friday. It was the first time in school history that Nebraska allowed at least 50 points in three straight games, according to ESPN Stats Information.
“Riley has brought professionalism and energy to the Nebraska football program, but unfortunately, those attributes have not translated to on-field success,” athletic director Bill Moos said in a statement. “After a thorough review of all aspects of our football program, I have chosen to move in a different direction.”
Moos will discuss his decision to fire Riley during a news conference Saturday afternoon.
The 64-year-old coach had lobbied for another season Friday in the aftermath of his team’s fourth consecutive loss.
“I truly believe I’m exactly the right person to do this,” Riley said. “The football parts, I’ve been doing it so long, we know how to fix, and we also are doing a good job recruiting.”
It was to no avail as Moos delivered the news to Riley, his staff and the Nebraska players on Saturday morning in a meeting at Memorial Stadium.
Riley’s contract runs through the 2020 season, and he is due a buyout of more than $6.6 million.
Attention among fans and media has already turned to UCF coach Scott Frost, the former national champion Nebraska quarterback. In his second season, Frost coached the Knights to a No. 15 ranking and an 11-0 record after a 49-42 win Friday over rival South Florida. UCF will play Memphis next week in the American Athletic Conference championship game.
Frost is also garnering attention from Florida for its head-coaching job, sources have told ESPN’s Mark Schlabach and Edward Aschoff.
Riley replaced Bo Pelini as Nebraska coach in 2015, when he was hired away from Oregon State after 14 seasons.
In his first season at Nebraska, the Cornhuskers finished 5-7 in the regular season but were invited to the Foster Farms Bowl because of the lack of bowl-eligible teams that season. Nebraska defeated UCLA in the bowl game.
The Cornhuskers turned things around in Riley’s second year, finishing 9-4 but losing in the Music City Bowl to Tennessee.
Under Riley, Nebraska lost six Big Ten games by at least 21 points over the past two seasons. His stint was the shortest for a Nebraska coach in more than six decades and extended a period of suffering for the fifth-most-winning program in college football history.
Nebraska, still seeking its first conference title since 1999, will be hiring its fifth coach since the 1997 retirement of Tom Osborne. Linebackers coach Trent Bray will serve as the interim coach until a hire is made.
“I expect to find a leader for our football program that will put our student-athletes in a position to compete for championships and grow as young men,” Moos said in a statement. “I am confident our next coach will meet that standard.”
The Cornhuskers will not participate in a bowl game for the third time in 48 seasons and have lost four consecutive home games for the first time since 1968 and 1969.
For the next 14 months, Nebraska will be paying buyouts to both Pelini and Riley. Pelini will receive $128,009 per month and Riley will get $170,000 per month as Nebraska pays them a total of $4.17 million through early 2019.
Riley’s demise accelerated in September when Shawn Eichorst — the athletic director who brought Riley to Nebraska — was fired after the Huskers lost 21-17 to Northern Illinois.
University leaders said at the time that Eichorst’s efforts had not produced adequate results in football and that they were not pleased with Nebraska’s competitiveness.
Soon after, Riley’s team nosedived, losing 38-17 to Wisconsin and 56-14 to Ohio State in consecutive weeks at Memorial Stadium.
Moos was hired as athletic director from Washington State in mid-October. Nebraska won 25-24 at Purdue in Week 9 but closed with the four-game skid that included losses to Minnesota, Penn State and Iowa in which it allowed 166 points and 9 yards per play.
The defensive showing stamped as a failure the offseason hire of Bob Diaco and subsequent scheme change.
Moos spent his first month at Nebraska in evaluation mode. In addition to inspecting the football program, he traveled to parts of Nebraska to hear from fans. Friday at Memorial Stadium marked the 361st consecutive sellout, an NCAA record. Clearly, he decided an overall upgrade was needed.
“Really good players make really good teams that have really good records,” Moos said recently.
Riley’s lone season of success in Lincoln came in 2016. Nebraska started 7-0 and reached No. 7 in the Associated Press Top 25 before losing in overtime at Wisconsin. The Huskers were embarrassed a week later in a 62-3 defeat at Ohio State and lost 40-10 at Iowa to sour a nine-win season ahead of a two-touchdown loss to Tennessee in the Music City Bowl.
All of Nebraska’s seven losses in 2015 came by 10 points or fewer.
Information from ESPN’s Darren Rovell and The Associated Press was used in this report.