by Gary Javitch with Howard Borden
New Cornhusker football coach Mike Riley actually needs no introduction. He has, after all, been the recent subject of numerous articles in the Omaha World-Herald and featured on many local TV news shows.
“However, the timing of our May 14 banquet at the CenturyLink and Mike Riley’s appearance on our program coincide perfectly,” Banquet chair Howard Shandell stated. “Our event follows shortly after the Annual Spring Game, arguably the coach’s preliminary “debut,” and the launch of what could become the most anticipated season opener in recent Husker memory.”
“So in effect, our charity dinner will become the very first live major banquet Riley speaks at in front of a “hometown” crowd. He will address all the buzz that the Spring Game generated, and the questions it raised.
“That’s why we have set aside a special Q & A time to “Ask the Coach” about any of the facets of the game, an opportunity typically afforded only to reporters.”
That Q & A segment will come right after the coach’s presentation, at which time Riley is expected to update fans on his strategy, his players and staff, among many other topics.
And we know that our fans will have plenty of questions to ask, especially about the quarterback. Riley has a well-known reputation for nurturing quarterbacks. You’ll notice that two of the former quarterbacks he coached [plus 17 others] were in the NFL, as of the start of the 2014 season.
Among many of the potential questions the coach will be asked are What role will Tommy Armstrong, the current quarterback play? Will he fit into the new system? Is this really the ‘Year of the Quarterback’ in the Big Ten?
Special Banquet Features
“Besides the new coach, we have an another bonus for our guests,” Henry Monsky Lodge president Ari Riekes added. “The Sklar brothers, the TV personalities who emceed our program last year, will return with the comedic wit, charm and insight that made them such a hit last time.”
During the evening, we will also honor the most outstanding graduating male and female scholar-athlete from among metro area high schools. The scholar-athletes will split $4000 in scholarship money from the Adam Jacobs Memorial Tribute Fund and receive the Lodge’s prestigious Bert Render Award (male) and the Earl Siegel Award (female) plaques in recognition of their achievements on the field, in the classroom, and around the community.
Among the most famous scholar-athlete selections were Heisman Trophy winners Johnny Rodgers and Eric Crouch. Among some of the most famous headliners were Peyton Manning and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
In setting up this entire program, I am glad to say that we have been able to keep the prices for Patron and VIP tickets the same,” Riekes stated. VIP ticket holders and sponsors will also have an opportunity to mingle with the coach before the dinner in a smaller reception room.
Tickets will go on sale shortly from our www.Omahasportsbanquet.org website or by calling the B’nai B’rith office at 402.334.6443.
Riekes added one final very important comment: “We are in our third year of partnering with our local synagogues, the JCC, BBYO and the Jewish Federation. In 2014, our Henry Monsky Lodge distributed over $50,000 to the athletes and their schools (10%) and to our community partners in the form of scholarships and subsidies to make Omaha Jewish life more affordable (90%). In order for us to continue this endeavor, we need and invite everyone’s participation.”
Banquet sponsorships and other advertising opportunities are available by calling Howard Shandell at 402.861.0565.
UNL athletic director Shawn Eichorst selected Mike Riley as head coach for a number of reasons. Figuring significantly into the athletic director’s thinking was that when Riley launched his career at Oregon State University, a PAC 12 team, he turned around a program that had had 26 consecutive losing seasons.
Also important, Eichorst saw in Riley a commitment to the total development of student athletes. His teams had outstanding success in the classroom, and over the last six years, the League honored the Beavers for academic achievement 70 times. That fit into the type of coach Nebraska was looking to hire.
Before accepting the Nebraska job, Riley was the longest tenured coach in the Pac 12 and held the seventh longest coaching tenure of any head coach in the FBS.
Riley, according to Eichorst, possessed the perfect attributes to lead the tradition-rich Nebraska program and named him as the head coach of the Nebraska football program on Dec. 4.
At the same time, Mike Riley saw his job offer as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to coach at one of the nation’s most storied football programs. He takes over the Husker football program following the past 12 seasons as the head coach of Oregon State University Beavers.
Unlike the last few leaders of the football program, the coach begins his Nebraska experience as an already-seasoned head coach. His experience includes service as the head coach of the San Diego Chargers for three seasons. He also spent time in the Canadian football league and the world football league.
Riley was the 2008 American Football Coaches Association, Pac-10 conference in state of Oregon, coach of the year, and his teams have appeared in the final Associated Press top 25 rankings three times in the past eight seasons. In 2012, he was selected to be a FCA region Coach of the Year.
In his time at Oregon State, Riley built the Beaver program into a consistent winner and regular contender in the Pac-12 Conference and has led the Beavers to unprecedented heights during his tenure. Riley owns the most wins ever at Oregon State with 93, while leading the program to eight bowl appearances.
The 61-year-old Riley posted a 6-2 record in bowl games with the Beavers.
Riley is the first coach in OSU history to win more than one NCAA-sanctioned bowl game, capturing the 2003 Las Vegas Bowl, the 2004 Insight Bowl, the 2006 and 2008 Sun Bowls, the 2007 Emerald Bowl and the 2013 Hawaii Bowl titles. He was also the first coach to lead the program to more than one winning conference season since 1969, and Riley accomplished the feat six times.
In 2009, Riley and his staff had a difficult job of replacing nearly every starter on defense (and seven NFL draftees). Not only did the Beavers qualify for a bowl game that season, but for the second straight year, they also played the season finale with an opportunity to reach the Rose Bowl. A league-high seven Beavers earned first team All-Pac-10 honors.
The University of Nebraska at Lincoln provided text and Information for parts of the story.