How Mike Riley ended up at Nebraska

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Harvey Perlman still hasn't watched the video of Shawn Eichorst's Nov. 30 press conference to announce the firing of former seven-year Nebraska football coach Bo Pelini.

Perlman, the university chancellor and Eichorst's boss, flew out of Lincoln on that cold Sunday morning -- the temperature at 8 a.m. had dropped 63 degrees in 18 hours from a Saturday record high of 75 -- for a set of meetings with donors in the San Francisco area.

Shortly after 9:30, Nebraska released the news on Pelini, a controversial decision by Eichorst on the heels of a 9-3 regular season capped two days prior with an overtime win at Iowa.

Perlman knew the move was coming. His wife, Susan, set the DVR at their home to save the press conference, televised locally.

Just then, Eichorst, the 47-year-old athletic director known most in two years at Nebraska for avoiding the public eye, took a deep breath as he walked off the elevator to the press box at Memorial Stadium and into the spotlight for the biggest week of his career.

The hire nobody saw coming

In this age of intense scrutiny, some football programs have given up on confidentiality in coaching searches.

Florida took fans and media along for the ride last week as athletic director Jeremy Foley pursued Jim McElwain. Before the school solved his $7.5 million buyout clause with Colorado State, Florida released photos from inside the plane that transported Foley to visit McElwain.

Plane-tracking websites and coordinated social media efforts -- not to mention old-fashioned journalism -- have threatened to derail searches. It leaves schools in the awkward position of handling mountains of misinformation amid morsels of truth. Some administrators figure, let's just control the message.

Not this time around at Nebraska, which endured a painful, 41-day search after the 2003 season. In a setting as football-obsessed as any SEC stronghold, Eichorst got his man in less than four days.

And nobody saw it coming. The school announced Mike Riley, at Oregon State for the past 12 years, as its new coach just short of 98 hours after it made public the firing of Pelini.

"We've experienced some searches that weren't handled very well," Perlman said. "Now, a lot of that is fortuitous. Things have to break for you. The point is, every athletic director -- every good athletic director -- has a list of guys for every coaching position that he's been looking at for a long time.

"That's why it shouldn't be such a mystery that [Eichorst] could get focused as quickly as he did in this search."

As speculation swirled around Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost, former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, Arkansas' Bret Bielema and many others, Riley's name never surfaced.

His profile -- age 61 with a losing record over the past five years at a Pac-12 outpost -- helped deter suspicion, no doubt. But Eichorst remained a step ahead of all the eyes with swift choices and actions to land a respected coach whose move to the Big Ten has inspired positive reviews nationally.

Eichorst managed about three hours of sleep per night during the search, half his norm. He doubled his daily workout routine to keep his mind fresh.

"I was focused," Eichorst said. "I was locked in. I knew what I wanted."

His methodology -- pending positive results on the gridiron, of course -- could serve as a blueprint for contemporaries. Eichorst engineered something of a perfect-looking search.

And in mere hours, Riley's life flipped radically.

So how did it come together?

To continue reading, click here.