Mike Riley is following through on a promise. A promise that's extremely important to Brenda Tracy. A promise that could be important to the Nebraska football team, to college football in general, and perhaps even beyond.
Tracy was a victim of a sexual assault in 1998 near Oregon State's campus, where Riley was head football coach at the time. Two OSU players were reportedly involved. Riley suspended them for one game.
"One game for my rape," she tells John Canzano of The Oregonian in this excellent column. "One (expletive) game."
As for Riley's promise ... Before accepting the Nebraska job and resigning at Oregon State, Riley promised Tracy that he'd sit down with her, and that he wanted her to talk with his team and help the players understand the effect a sex assault has on a survivor.
On the day Riley was announced as the coach at Nebraska, Tracy received word that Riley's offer stood. She'd come to Lincoln, not Corvallis, Oregon, if she desired.
She's scheduled to be in Lincoln on June 22.
Canzano writes that Riley has re-shaped his public stance on player misconduct. Last week Riley talked about Tracy's visit to Lincoln and how he's re-shaped his own thinking on player conduct and accountability.
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"Doing the right thing is the key," Riley told Canzano. "What I've learned is that some things that are not negotiable about the opportunity to be on a team. One of those is certain kinds of assault, and one of them is anything to do with guns."
Daniel Van De Riet, the Huskers' associate athletic director for football operations, on Tuesday will book Tracy's airline ticket to Lincoln. Tracy is awaiting an itinerary. This is powerful stuff. Tracy will tell Nebraska's players how those men in the apartment near the OSU campus treated her like garbage. Her story becomes particularly germane in the context of the sexual-assault scandal at Baylor that cost Art Briles his job.
Tracy hopes for a one-on-one meeting with Riley, but that apparently isn't a done deal at this point. Writes Canzano:
Tracy would still like that 1-on-1 meeting with Riley, if only to tell him that his in-action as a coach and leader victimized her, almost as if it happened hand-in-hand with the assault itself. She's hopeful that after Van De Riet finalizes her itinerary that it will include an invitation to speak privately with Riley.
"I don't hate Riley today," Tracy said. "Thank God. That type of anger eats away at your soul. I've found a lot of peace."
Maybe this is an example where something very good will come out of something awful. Maybe Tracy and Riley can become the impetus to new ways of thinking.
"College football needs to change," she said. "It needs a hero. It needs someone to be vocal and call on the rest of college football to be transparent and accountable when something like Baylor happens. Who better to step up nationally than Mike Riley?"