PORTLAND, Ore. - Mike Riley is back at Oregon State.
Four years after leaving the resurgent Beavers for the NFL, Riley agreed to a deal Wednesday to replace Dennis Erickson, who left last week to coach the San Francisco 49ers.
The 49-year-old Riley, defensive backs coach for the New Orleans Saints last season, could not be reached for comment Wednesday night. A news conference formally introducing him as the Beavers’ coach was scheduled for Thursday afternoon.
Riley was among several candidates athletic director Bob De Carolis interviewed, including Boise State coach Dan Hawkins and Beavers assistants Tim Lappano, Dan Cozetto and Gregg Smith.
Hawkins, considered among the front-runners for the job, pulled out of the running Wednesday morning. Hawaii coach June Jones withdrew his name from consideration last weekend.
Riley was among the top candidates from the start. He contacted De Carolis the day Erickson announced he was leaving.
When Riley first took over at Oregon State in 1997, he inherited a program that had won just three games in the combined 1995-96 seasons.
He was 8-14 during his tenure with the Beavers, but his recruits - including quarterback Jonathan Smith and running back Ken Simonton - found ultimate success under Erickson, who finished 31-17 at Oregon State.
In Erickson’s first year at Oregon State, the Beavers finished 7-5 after an NCAA-record 28 straight losing seasons. The following season, Oregon State went a school-best 11-1 and beat Notre Dame 41-9 in the Fiesta Bowl.
Riley, fired after going 14-34 in three seasons with the Chargers, also interviewed for vacancies at Alabama and UCLA. He was offered the Alabama job, but turned it down to wait for UCLA’s decision.
The Bruins ultimately went with Denver Broncos receivers coach Karl Dorrell.
Erickson’s departure and Riley’s subsequent hiring was the first major hurdle faced by De Carolis, who became Oregon State’s athletic director last August.
De Carolis replaced Mitch Barnhart, who hired Erickson in 1999 but left last summer to become Kentucky’s athletic director.
In Erickson, De Carolis had a staunch supporter and affable spokesman for the school’s plans for an $80 million, 8,000-seat expansion to Reser Stadium.
It is expected that Riley will pick up fund-raising efforts where Erickson left off.
Because he grew up in Corvallis and attended Corvallis High School, Riley has strong ties to the community. His father, Bud Riley, was an assistant at Oregon State from 1965-72, and again in 1979.
Before his first stint at Oregon State, Riley served as assistant head coach and offensive coordinator-quarterbacks coach at Southern California from 1993-96.
He was also head coach of the San Antonio Riders of the World League of American Football from 1991-92. Riley led the Riders to a 11-9 record in two seasons, including a 7-3 mark in 1992.
Riley spent the 1987-90 seasons as the head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League, where he was 40-32 and won two Grey Cup championships. He was the CFL coach of the year following the 1988 and 1990 seasons after each of his team’s Grey Cup victories.