Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos said Tuesday morning that his evaluation of Husker football coach Mike Riley and his program could be concluded before the season ends.
“I think it will be,” he affirmed in an interview with the Journal Star.
Moos on Monday told ESPN that Riley “deserved” to finish the 2017 season as the Husker coach.
The decision on whether he’ll retain that role beyond Nov. 24’s season finale, though, will likely be made before the Huskers and Iowa finish play at Memorial Stadium that afternoon.
It wouldn't be the first time Moos has made a coaching decision in-season. The book "The System: The Glory and Scandal of Big-Time College Football," by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian, includes a recounting of Moos’ work at Washington State in 2011, when he fired Paul Wulff and hired Mike Leach. Wulff was not fired until the end of the season, but the decision was made during the Cougars' seventh game.
“The make-or-break game came on October 22 against Oregon State,” Benedict and Keteyian wrote, adding that WSU entered 3-3. Moos watched the game with his senior associate athletic director Mike Marlow and, when the Cougars fell behind 44-21, “Moos turned to Marlow and said, ‘Let’s go.’ It was code that Marlow understood — let’s go find a coach.”
From there, the book outlines the way Moos and Marlow discreetly started putting out feelers to gauge the interest of Leach, who was unemployed at the time, before WSU’s season ended. Wulff was fired Nov. 29, and Leach was hired the next day.
Moos told the Journal Star during his first week on the job that, if a school is considering a coaching change, it needed to have its “playbook together.”
“I’ve seen places that put together 22-person search committees and go get the head-hunters and, in the meantime, all the good talent’s committed to somewhere else and signed,” he said then.
Moos indicated that, as of Tuesday, his evaluation remains in progress.
“Observing the games is part of it and we, for the most part, haven’t played very well,” he said, having seen a one-point road win over Purdue, an overtime loss to Northwestern and a 33-point loss at Minnesota. “There’s a lot more in regards to observing and assessing the program and a lot of it is internally. That has occupied quite a bit of my time during the week.
“We’ve got some good players, and I think we’ve got good coaches. I’ve known some of these guys from previous stops and I’ve been around long enough to know that when things start rolling the wrong way, sometimes it’s hard to stop negative things happening. Sometimes you start to doubt the plan and all that. … That’s very, very difficult. Winning is contagious, and losing can be as well.
“To stop that snowball from rolling the wrong direction takes some doing.”
Moos lamented the injury to starting quarterback Tanner Lee, who Riley said Monday was in the concussion protocol after having someone fall on his head in the first half of Saturday’s loss to Minnesota. Having a quarterback’s status up in the air “hits at a very hard time, too, with two very, very hard conference games remaining on the schedule,” Moos said.
“Obviously, our guys want to win,” he added. “This is Nebraska. You win at Nebraska. It just hasn’t been working out for the three games that I’ve watched.”
Moos will be making the trip to State College, Pennsylvania, on Saturday to watch the Huskers take on No. 14 Penn State. His wife, Kendra, is set to arrive in Lincoln this week and will be along to take in her first NU game.
After last week's loss to Minnesota there were reports that Moos was heard yelling from the visiting athletic director's suite during the game. He said that's not his style, that there's too much work to do.
“I’m supporting my coaches, but especially in the situation I’m in right now, I’m not jumping up and screaming and yelling and all that. It’s all business,” he said. “When I’m watching the game, I’m doing it from my suite, but people aren’t bothering me and they know not to.”