Mike Riley is many things.
He’s a coach, he’s a son, he’s a religious man. He’s also a quintessential family man. After years spent pacing the Oregon State sidelines, Riley, and his family, are set to make the move to Nebraska as he makes his debut as the Cornhuskers head coach this fall.
Here’s what you need to know about the Riley family, a group that has supported the long-time coach throughout his career and come to shape him, perhaps, even more than football has:
1. Riley Met His Wife Dee While They Were Both at the University of Alabma
Mike and Dee Riley’s story began in college.
The two were both attending the University of Alabama. Mike was playing football there and, one day, he was introduced to a a girl; Dee. As the story goes, the pair were introduced through a mutual friend, Robert Fraley. According to Mike, “Robert knew all the girls.”
After he graduated, Mike’s career took him to the University of California Berkley where he was a graduate assistant. He and Dee lost touch. Until, one day, Mike decided to make a phone call:
I just called her one year…kind of out of the blue. I remember the date specifically because there’s an end to this story. I called her on May 22nd and when she answered the phone it had been a long time since we even communicated and when she answered the phone I said, ‘Happy Birthday, Dee’ and she said my birthday is May 2nd!
They never stopped talking about that. Mike and Dee have been married for over 20 years.
2. He & Dee Have Two Children Together
Both of Riley’s children, Mike and Kate, were born in Canada while he was coaching there in the early stages of his career.
Just like he was, Riley’s children grew up with football, understood the ins and outs of the sport before they understood much else and followed their father wherever his career has taken him. That’s included everything from stints at USC to Oregon State to the NFL and, now, Nebraska.
3. Riley’s Father, Bud, Was Also a Football Coach
Football is in Riley’s blood.
He grew up in the Idaho Panhandle before his father, Bud Riley, took a job as an assistant coach for his alma mater, the Idaho Vandals. After three seasons with the squad, Riley followed head coach Dee Andros to Oregon State where he worked as a secondary coach and later defensive coordinator with the team for eight seasons.
Bud Riley went on to coach in the Canadian Football League for 14 seasons, including several seasons with the Winnipeg Blue Brothers.He also served as a front office executive for the Calgary Stampeders from 1985 to 1987. He was inducted into the Idaho Athletic Hall of Fame in 1998 before passing away in August 2012.
4. His Cousin, Major Ogilvie, Also Played College Football at Alabama
Riley’s connections to Alabama football go way beyond his own stat lines and presence on the box score. His cousin, Major Ogilvie was a standout running back in the Tide backfield in the early 1980’s.
Ogilvie was part of two Alabama national championship in 1979 and 1980 but his most successful season was in 1978. That year, Ogilvie rushed for 583 yards and eight touchdowns. He was an All-SEC First Team Selection and Academic All-American in 1979 as well as the Most valuable Player in both the 1980 Sugar Bowl and 1981 Cotton Bowl.
Ogilvie was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in May 2014.
5. Riley Is a Major Presence in His Grandson, Elijah Jo Riley Stevenson’s Life
Although Riley has focused on keeping his family life as private as possible, despite decades in the public eye, it’s difficult to ignore the fact that his grandson, Elijah, is the apple of his eye. The coach explained to Oregon Live:
It’s a different threshold when it comes to my family. My job is very public, and we’ve always been careful … For me, my life is focused through my faith. And that’s all been reinforced through this. Something that looked so hard has turned into the greatest thing in the world. It’s a little miracle. Maybe this is a good story. Maybe somebody out there needs to know, there’s a plan.
Baby Eli was born on August 4, 2011 and, for Riley it was a match made in heaven. He broke his usual norm and actually brought Baby Eli to a postgame press conference after the Beavers notched a 27-20 upset over UCLA in the 2012 Rose Bowl.