Mike Riley: A coach with no proper dough

By Anthony Casson

There is an extreme amount of skill and even artistic ability required to coach football. College football in particular requires a special person; someone that can not only connect with the players, but also to everyone else affiliated with the program.

Because so few people with a knack for handling the college football environment exist, salaries rise, and rightly so.

Mack Brown, head coach at the University of Texas, was recently given a pay hike from 3 million to 5 million dollars per year. This puts Coach Brown at the top of the salary list in college football.

Coach Brown isn’t the only one earning large sums of money. Others like Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, Dennis Erickson, and even Steve Sarkisian surpass the million dollar mark; the first two make upwards of 4 million per year.

What this tells us then is that college football means a lot to Americans.

If bulks of football fans and programs agree that coaches should be rewarded with bundles of cash, how do we go about divvying the dough?

What kind of person deserves hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars every year to coach college football?

This is where we consider the always-impressive, yet financially underappreciated Mike Riley of Oregon State.

Riley is recognized as one of the nation’s best coaches, despite not leading an “elite program” such as Florida, Alabama, Ohio State, or Texas.

His true talent as a coach is something to be admired by even the highest paid individuals.

If you’re not aware of Riley’s talents, I suggest you do some research. The rest of us, however, know full well what an impact he has had on OSU athletics.

It wouldn’t be surprising, then, to see Riley’s salary touch well above a million dollars, right?


Currently, Riley makes $950,000 per year. Three seasons ago he made $835,000.

That is not a bad number by any means, but comparing the sum to other coaches, it doesn’t seem enough.

Consider Ron Zook of Illinois.

Coach Zook led his team to a Rose Bowl just a couple seasons ago. They were destroyed by USC and finished with a record of 9-4. That year, Zook made over a million dollars.

He made 1.2 million the year before.

This season ended terribly for the Illini, just like 2008. Last year he came away 5-7. This year, he went just 3-9 with the team. The saddening part is his 1.5 million dollar salary that goes along with two losing seasons.

How about Jeff Tedford at California?

Since 2006, he has made at least 1.5 million per year. This season he’s at 2.8 million, not to mention a possible $265,000 bonus if goals are reached (Cal does not specify what those goals are).

Why did Tedford’s pay rise over a million in three seasons, while Riley’s went up just a tenth of that?

Cal’s records since 2007 are as follows: 7-6, 9-4, 8-5.

Riley’s Oregon State team beat Cal each of those seasons. OSU has also been far closer to a Rose Bowl berth than Cal has, especially the last two years.

OSU athletics needs to take all of this into perspective and maybe change it up a bit.

Oregon State doesn’t need to break the bank for Riley, but come on, the guy deserves more than what he currently gets.

The Beavers aren’t supported by a huge fan base and many wealthy boosters, we know. I’m not saying make him a multi-million dollar man though.

In the Pac 10, only Paul Wulff at WSU is paid less. However, his team is really bad, so it matches. Mike Riley does not have an income that matches his success as a coach.

If OSU does anything wrong these days it’s not paying their star coaches enough money. The school may not have the attention and cash flow of some “popular” universities, but there is undoubtedly enough to get the guy seven figures.

It’s my ever-growing fear that if the school doesn’t react, another “top” program will snatch Riley away from us. That may never happen, but college football seems to always throw folks for a loop.


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