Mike Riley said his goodbyes to the Oregon State Beavers at an emotional team meeting on Thursday morning.
Riley, who is the longest-tenured coach in the Pac-12 and has coached at Oregon State for 14 seasons, will be introduced as Nebraska's head coach on Friday morning. He replaces Bo Pelini, who was dismissed after the Huskers finished the regular season 9-3.
In a statement, Riley called the Nebraska job a ''once-in-a-lifetime'' opportunity, but the move stunned many in Corvallis, where Riley's ties to the community date back to when his father, Bud, was an assistant coach under Dee Andros.
''Didn't see that coming,'' Oregon State freshman cornerback Kevin Hayes posted to Twitter. Sophomore offensive lineman Sean Harlow posted simply: ''It's a business.''
Riley, 61, is credited with turning around an Oregon State team that had 26 straight losing seasons when he first became head coach in 1997. He left for the San Diego Chargers in 1999, and Dennis Erickson coached the Beavers for four seasons from 1999-2002. Riley returned to Oregon State in 2003.
Riley took the Beavers to eight bowl appearances, compiling a 6-2 record.
Riley was under contract with Oregon State through 2021. He was the lowest-paid coach in the Pac-12, making a reported $1.5 million this year.
''Coach Riley has twice led a program, with integrity, to new heights and tremendous growth. The entire university owes him a well-deserved thank you. We are excited about the future for the loyal fans and donors of Beaver Nation as we launch our search for the new leader of our football program,'' Oregon State athletic director Bob De Carolis said in a statement Thursday.
Oregon State finished this season 5-7 and some called for Riley's dismissal. The Beavers had just two conference wins, but one came at home against then-No. 7 Arizona State. It was the high point of the season and another in a string of big upsets in Corvallis that Oregon State became known for under Riley. The Beavers knocked off No. 3 Southern California at home in 2006, then the top-ranked Trojans in 2008, and No. 13 Wisconsin in 2012.
He also had a knack for finding players that weren't heavily recruited and turning them into stars, like running back Jacquizz Rodgers and former Biletnikoff winner Mike Hass. And plenty of recent Beavers are seeing success in the NFL, including receiver Markus Wheaton of the Steelers, guard Andy Levitre of the Titans, defensive tackle Stephen Paea of the Bears and cornerback Keenan Lewis of the Saints.
''I would not be the man I am today without Coach Riley's impact on my life. On and off the field, no one does it better. Sad to see him leave,'' former Beaver Gabe Miller of the Washington Redskins posted to Twitter.