Mike Riley wasn’t taking an easy job as Nebraska’s new head football coach and he knew that. He knows fans aren’t happy about the 2-3 start to his tenure.
However, he may be fighting a battle that poses far more problems than any stout defense or stud quarterback to keep in check.
Former Cornhusker running back Damon Benning and linebacker Jay Foreman were having a discussion on Wednesday morning that was eyebrow-raising to say the least.
The discussion between Benning and Foreman came up later in the day on Omaha, Neb. radio program Unsportsmanlike Conduct. Co-host Josh Peterson addressed the dense fog that was beginning to swirl around North Stadium in Lincoln over a matter of hours.
"I talked to somebody [who knows] what's happening with the Nebraska football program. He has been right more often than he has been wrong,” Peterson said. “I asked him what was happening and he told me that, and this is allegedly happening...that [former] coaches are reaching out to players and not vice versa.”
Peterson went on to mention that he was given a specific name but would not share it on the air due to not knowing the rules of doing such.
"The coach is actively reaching out to current players to stir the pot and instigate on new staff versus old."
Again, these actions are alleged, but Peterson emphasized that the individual who gave him this information is someone he has extreme faith in when it comes to such sensitive information in the Cornhusker football program.
This all may be nothing more than rumor, but let’s entertain the idea that it’s not. If true, this officially becomes a rebuilding year for Mike Riley regardless of record.
Forget what Riley has to tweak and adjust with coaching style, talent or any other standard duties of a head coach. Battling toxic messages from Pelini’s old staff is a truly massive undertaking by comparison.
If this is happening do I blame the players? No. You’ve got young impressionable kids whose psyches are malleable as clay. Some took the dismissal of Bo Pelini harder than others.
I’d put good money on the idea that some still haven’t gotten over it despite not transferring like Avery Moss or LeRoy Alexander did when they followed Pelini to Youngstown State.
I understand when players don’t automatically buy into a new system or it takes time to trust a new coaching staff. However, if a coach who was in a position of power and trust is so bitter that they would attempt to poison the well to this extent not even a year after their removal, it’s not vindictive, it’s cruel.
Trying to sabotage a program you allegedly loved just because you weren’t kept on during a regime change is unprofessional at the most basic level. It’s part of the game in coaching circles. You’d think that would be necessary graduate assistant knowledge, but perhaps not.
As a result, not only does Riley have to plug away at getting what positives he can out of the 2015 season, he may be battling a locker room divided thanks in part to The Process. Hopefully evidence for or against these charges will come to light quickly.
It’s getting to the point where too many people with legitimate connections are hearing the same thing from others for it to be a coincidence.
Fortunately, the sports world is very small thanks to social media and the like.
If these alleged actions are true, Husker Nation would likely be very interested in finding out the name of the person that caused this smoke in the first place.
Perhaps any current employer would, too.