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  • COLLEGE FOOTBALL

    Riley's coaching longevity bucks the trend in Pac-12

  • CORVALLIS — When Mike Riley emerges with his football team from the tunnel at Reser Stadium on the afternoon of Aug. 30, he will begin his 14th season leading the program.
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  • CORVALLIS — When Mike Riley emerges with his football team from the tunnel at Reser Stadium on the afternoon of Aug. 30, he will begin his 14th season leading the program.
    None of the current coaches in the Pac-12 come anywhere close to Riley's record of longevity.
    Even Utah's Kyle Whittingham can't be included in the conversation. Sure, he's entering his 10th year leading Utah but the Utes just entered the Pac-12 in 2011.
    Yes, Riley has become the dean of Pac-12 football coaches. Although he may not see himself with such a title, he does have a certain degree of pride with his tenure in Corvallis.
    "I came back to Oregon State with the intention of establishing a long-lasting program that had an identity, and I'm glad that I've had the chance to be able to do that and continue to do that," Riley said. "I've seen a lot of guys. I guess somebody told me since 2011 there are 10 new head coaches in our league. We all know it's changing all the time, but we're thankful for the stability."
    Indeed, there are 10 coaches in the Pac-12 that have three years or less under their belts at their current schools. An asterisk might be included next to the name of Steve Sarkisian, who is heading into his first season at USC but did spend the previous five years at Washington.
    Riley's previous 13 seasons at OSU have included two stints —1997-98 and since 2003. The five-year break represents Riley's venture in the NFL as head coach of the San Diego Chargers and as an assistant with the New Orleans Saints.
    After Riley and Whittingham, there is a huge drop-off when it comes to coaching longevity. David Shaw is going into his fourth year at Stanford, but everybody else is in their first, second or third year at their respective schools.
    Overall, the average Pac-12 coach has 3.4 years at his current school — a number that is obviously inflated by Riley and Whittingham.
    Riley has seen plenty of change not only in the Pac-12, but within college football as a whole. The trend toward new offenses with different variations of the spread comes to mind. The recruiting landscape and an emphasis on the welfare of athletes were also mentioned by the coach during interviews at the Pac-12's annual media days gathering last week in Los Angeles.
    "With the kind of dynamics we have and the size of how college football has grown, it's only going to continue to do this and draw this kind of attention to these kind of issues, which I think most them are very appropriate," he said. "I think we might be reaching for better ideas about for sure, student-athlete welfare, for sure recruiting. I think we're going in good directions that can be helpful to the student-athlete and game in general when I'm talking about recruiting."
    So with such changes swirling about, how has Riley maintained a stable program at OSU?
    "I think the key is not getting stagnant with what you do; continue to try to grow in every way," he said. "It's been fun for me. That's why I feel good about this job. I'm energized by football. I always love tweaking what we're doing and trying to make it better."
    "I think we try to do that in every way in our program," he added. "We've made big changes nutritionally with our team this last year, big changes in what we do in the weight room with them. Then just other things that help the program."
    It's those ever-changing parts to the game that keeps Riley's approach to another year fresh.
    "Whether it's trying to do something new for our facility, our field, or whatever it might be, I'm energized by all of that all the time," he said. "So frankly, I've been to a lot of these things now (preseason media day events), but I feel heading into a new year, like a little bit of a rookie again. I don't really want to lose that. I kind of like that part of it."
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