The lone red balloon being battered around the stadium by the wind was a perfect metaphor for Nebraska’s 56-14 loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes.
As discouraged fans filed out of Memorial Stadium in the midst of Nebraska’s second consecutive loss in front of a home crowd, Mike Riley sealed his fate.
I’m not saying it will happen tomorrow, or even next week, but by the end of the season, Riley will be out, and Nebraska will begin its search for its third head coach in 11 years.
While logistical reasons including salary payouts, a lack of a permanent athletic director and the future of recruits could keep him around another year, one bigger reason surrounds his imminent departure — the struggling culture surrounding Husker football.
Tradition, and the Big Red’s culture, have always been what Nebraska prided itself in, and even that seems to be fading. When Nebraska fans released the red balloons — normally reserved for the first score — after Nebraska converted its second first down of the night, that became more apparent than ever.
Everyone is fed up, and after watching the Buckeyes beat the Huskers to a pulp by 42 points, I don’t blame them. It’s clear a change needs to be made.
Following the loss, fans took to Twitter to express their disgust with the program. While the angry sentiments filled social media, the emptying stadium before the first half was over was the more notable event.
Apparent in both the fans and the players, the fire is fading, and I don’t think Riley can reignite it.
He’s had his time. And with his overall record at Nebraska standing at 18-15, it’s become painfully clear Riley isn’t the one who will bring back the ‘Huskers of ole.’ Riley’s in bad company, and with a winning percentage of 54.5, he’s currently coming in lower than the infamous Bill Callahan and his 55 percent. With statistics like that, it’s clear Nebraska is far from being competitive, something that seems far from happening at this point.
When former director of athletics Shawn Eichorst was fired, President Hank Bounds and Chancellor Ronnie Green made a point to say that it was because of the lack of competitiveness in Husker athletics, and Riley is currently at the forefront of that discussion.
While the interim director of athletics Dave Rimington made it clear that he’s not here to fire anyone, once a new AD is hired, it could be a big "see ya" to the coach who’s effectively brought the success of Nebraska football to a screeching halt.
I want to like Riley, I really do. But when the stadium is at 40 percent capacity at the start of the fourth quarter, I can’t help but wonder if he’s doing more harm than good. After an embarrassing loss where Nebraska was outran, out-thrown, out-defended and overall out-matched, I think it’s safe to say the Riley era is on its way out, and the end can’t come soon enough.
If the program is going to turn around, Nebraska needs to employ someone who recognizes the meaning of Nebraska football. The culture, the fandom and the fire will be lost until Riley is out.