As the Nebraska football program finds itself in a spiral not seen in decades, Mike Riley’s popularity is understandably not very high among Husker Nation. Many fans have called for his immediate firing, but letting him go after one year would be the metaphorical equivalent of dropping a nuclear bomb on the program.
The fallout would taint Lincoln to the point of any desirable coach staying many a comfortable mile away from the city for years.
I bring good news to fans who find themselves punching walls as their hairlines recede: you are the key to Nebraska’s resurgence. Yes if you, my dear reader, are a Husker fan and want to see an uptick in performance, you hold the power.
How can I make such a claim? Following a recent article, the parent of an addition from Nebraska’s 2015 class contacted me and pointed out that in the evidence presented about Riley being a solid recruiter, there was an important factor for the Huskers that I had forgotten about: the fans.
No doubt you’re familiar with national writers going on and on about how Nebraska has so many recruiting disadvantages despite having brought in players from talent-rich states. This parent’s son happens to be from one and while the Big Red has a lot to offer, it was the folks in the stands that were a major tipping point.
I want to share how powerful Nebraska fans were in his recruitment. At the request of the parent, no names will be used for the sake of privacy.
The recruit took a visit to a current top-25 school. "Wow, they can't even fill this place for a conference game,” the prospect said.
Another team in consideration was having difficulty putting butts in the seats, so they had to sweeten the pot for fans to show up.
Finally, he was able to visit Nebraska. Word leaked that he was on his way (imagine that) and as a result, he gained 2,000 Twitter followers and his HUDL film was seen by 800 more people in 24 hours.
The social media impact was apparently the tip of the iceberg. Random fans approached the recruit and his family in restaurants and while walking around town welcoming him to Big Red country in a genuine manner.
To quote the parent, “That did not happen anywhere else. People in [Nebraska] care about their team and recruits value that.”
Nebraska has three games left (two of which aren’t likely to be pretty in Michigan State and Iowa), but both of those are at home when recruits will be in attendance. This weekend’s game versus the Spartans is a huge recruiting weekend as prospects for both this class and major talent for 2017’s will be in Lincoln.
I urge those who will be in Memorial Stadium to heed the words of this recruit’s parent when they say, “Bottom line: Husker fans and the support they bring does and will impact recruiting.”
Riley needs his Jimmies and Joes. Husker fans can help ensure that 2015 does not happen again. All they have to do is live up to the words above Memorial Stadium’s gates and be the best fans in college football.