On one hand, the dots are so damn easy to connect. A couple of old war horses. A pair of Pac-12 veterans. Smiles all around. Mike Riley and Bill Moos, Butch and Sundance.
On the other hand …
“It’s not good for Riley,” Jim Walden, the former Washington State football coach/radio analyst and Nebraska Cornhuskers assistant, told Land of 10 this week. “Absolutely not. Nothing’s good for Riley.
“His team got beat 56-14 [by Ohio State]. They were [crushed] at home for another ballgame … In my opinion, nothing Bill Moos is going to do is going to make it nice for Riley.”
Walden, 79, watched from the Pacific Northwest last Saturday night as the Buckeyes handed Nebraska its worst home loss in a conference tilt since 1949. The coach-turned-radio personality has a foot in both Cornhuskers and Cougars camps: Walden was a graduate assistant in Lincoln under Bob Devaney in 1969 and 1970 and an assistant under Devaney in 1971 and 1972. He joined the Washington State staff as an assistant 1977 and coached Wazzu from 1978 to 1986.
“Scott Frost is going to have to make a decision. It’ll be him or Chip Kelly,” Walden continued. “I’m sorry to be the voice of doom for Mike Riley, which I hate, because I happen to think the world of him.”
And he’s been there, several times over. But 3-4 is 3-4. And 11-10 — Riley’s record in the Big Ten — is 11-10.
When Huskers fans are leaving at halftime, as chunks did on Saturday, Big Red fans have already voted with their feet. And hearts.
“Make no bones about it,” Walden said. “[When] the new A.D. gets the job, one of the requirements of the new job is, ‘When you come here, will you fire the coach?’ And the answer better be, ‘Yes,’ or he’s not going there.”
Riley coached at Oregon State when his new boss was the athletic director at Oregon (1995 to 2007) and Washington State (2010-17). There are mutual friends and mutual respect. But Walden, who’s known Moos for more than three decades, says the Huskers’ newest athletic director won’t shy away from making tough decisions — cold decisions — when the bottom line is at stake.
‘Scott Frost is going to have to make a decision. It’ll be him or Chip Kelly … I’m sorry to be the voice of doom for Mike Riley, which I hate, because I happen to think the world of him.’
— Former Nebraska assistant coach and Washington State football coach Jim Walden on the future of Cornhuskers football
“They’ll expect a guy that’s full of back-patting,” said Walden, who was removed from Cougars football broadcasts by Moos in May 2012 after 11 seasons in the booth. “He’s got a good line of gab. He’s personable … he’s a P.R. guy.
“He’s not Tom Osborne, by any stretch of the imagination. There are parts of him that are more Bob Devaney-ish. But nothing about him is Tom Osborne, period.
“Overall, you’ve got to give him credit. It’s hard to separate the A.D. at Oregon versus the Nike guy [Phil Knight]. I’ll give him credit for everything he got done in Oregon, but it’s kind of hard to separate the two. And he came [to Washington State] and he did some nice things. Jim Sterk, the former athletic director, had already started the plans — he doesn’t get enough credit. But Bill Moos needs to get credit for finishing the job. Albeit that we’re 11 million in debt.”
There is that. And there’s also an ESPN report at the start of the week intimating feelings of “growing friction” between Moos and new Wazzu president Kirk Schultz, and that the two weren’t always on the same page, let alone the same script.
“I do feel bad [for Huskers fans],” Walden said. “When Bo [Pelini] was doing some good things, I couldn’t understand why he was always so sensitive about the crowd.
“But it does bother me, because some of the best years of my life [were in Lincoln]. I thought, ‘Hell, winning’s easy.’ I really did, because when Warren Powers, Monte Kiffin, me, you look at all of us that were there — it’s an adjustment, when you win as many games as we won. Then you find out it’s harder than you think when you’re with someone else.”
‘Mike Riley is in the exact same situation I was in at Iowa State in 1994. And I would give him the same advice I gave myself: “These people deserve better.” ‘
— Former Nebraska assistant coach and Washington State coach Jim Walden
Walden found that out the hard way as the coach at Iowa State, where he was matched up against the Huskers annually from 1987 to 1994, losing seven of eight meetings with his old pal Osborne.
“Mike Riley is in the exact same situation I was in at Iowa State in 1994,” said Walden, who hosts a weekly radio talk show on KGA-AM (1510) in Spokane, Wash. “And I would give him the same advice I gave myself: ‘These people deserve better.’
“And there is one difference in this whole thing — I’d been there eight years, he’s been there, what, three? In some ways, he hasn’t been given enough time. But again, we’re talking about Nebraska.
“When they’ve turned on you and start leaving the stadium and they start doing things that traditionally they’ve ever done … [You tell Nebraska] ‘I’m sorry, but if we can work out an agreement, I’ll step away four weeks from now.’ …
“And that’s what I can tell him. Because it’s a foregone conclusion. They didn’t fire the A.D. at Nebraska so the coach could stay on. They probably fired him because he wouldn’t fire Riley. It’s not rocket science.”