Mike Riley introduced his new defensive coordinator on Friday afternoon, and in doing so he also spoke about the process of relieving the old one, Mark Banker, of his duties.
Riley said the decision had been coming for a while and is based both on the defense’s performance and Riley’s desire to change schemes.
“Mark and I were together a long time,” Riley said during his press conference. “I can’t tell you how appreciative I am of that relationship and that time together. He has coached and mentored literally thousands of our players and did a great job. We got to the point through looking at it over a long period of time that change was needed, and change in a couple of ways. Probably productivity-wise as I looked at it and then schematically, a change.
Riley has a background with the 3-4 defense and said it’s been on his mind for a while.
“I’ve been thinking about that a long time,” Riley said. “I grew up in the 3-4, so I’ve always been intrigued by it. We have to play against it. I actually think that will be a great benefit to our offense to get to practice against it more often as we go forward. I think those were really the reasons that we did.”
Riley sat down after the bowl game was over and watched the film, and ultimately he decided that the defense had not made enough progress under Banker.
“Some of the things that we had kind of ear-marked as things that needed to be changed from a year ago were the same things I saw we had some issue with in the game,” Riley said. “That isn’t all of it, but it put a little bit of an exclamation point on it I guess.”
Making difficult decisions is never easy, and that was certainly the case with letting Banker, his long-time friend and assistant, go.
“It’s no fun,” Riley said. “Our relationship went back so far and I’ve appreciated that, the relationship and the coaching. Never with Mark was it ever about the effort and the detail and the work that he did; that was always unquestioned. As I looked at this team and evaluated the first two years here, it was time to change.”
Banker had previously offered his perspective to the media, and he revealed that Riley notified him that he would not have a job at Nebraska moving forward over the phone, something Banker was not pleased about.
“It’s been talked about, about the manner in which it was done and I can appreciate that and I don’t really like it,” Riley said. “I think that without going into all of the logistics, the best way to say it is we ran into a timeline that I had a tough time dealing with getting done what we wanted to do and then being able to tell Mark, and I don’t like how that had to take place.”
Riley said he had to act quickly to get his man in Bob Diaco, and he did so. Riley said Nebraska got a hold of Diaco on the trip home from visiting with Arkansas who was reportedly also interested in his services.
“I stopped the plane [in Chicago] and got him before he went home right after his Arkansas visit … We got him on the trip to Lincoln,” Riley said.
Riley’s quick action proved to be warranted after meeting with Diaco.
“To listen to this guy talk about defense, it became pretty apparent to me that this was the guy and we didn’t want him to leave,” Riley said.
As for Banker, Riley said he has not spoken to him since letting him go, although he said he intends to.
Jacob Padilla has been writing for Hail Varsity since 2015. He covers football, volleyball men’s basketball and prep sports. He also co-hosts the Nebraska Preps Postgame and Nebraska Shootaround podcasts for the Hurrdat Media and Hail Varsity podcast networks. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.