In a move that shook the college football world, the University of Nebraska announced the hiring of Oregon State's head coach Mike Riley on December 4, 2014. Riley had what was dubbed a "lifetime contract" at Oregon State, where every year he led a team to a bowl game, his contract was extended by one year. In 2010, Oregon State Athletic Director Bob De Carolis said Riley had talked about wanting to retire in Corvallis and be the "Joe Paterno of Oregon State." In the same time period, Riley said, "I want to make it known that I'm very excited to be to coaching at Oregon State University and I anticipate doing so for a long time." Nebraska fired head coach Bo Pelini, opening the door for Riley to make the unanticipated move.
An equally shocking move came just six days later, as the Oregon State Athletic Department announced that they had hired Gary Andersen of Wisconsin as Riley's replacement on December 10, 2014. Andersen left Wisconsin after just two years with the program, citing high academic standards set by the university made recruiting difficult for Andersen, compiling a 19–7 overall record and coming off of a trip to the Big Ten Football Championship Game. Since Andersen left after just two seasons, a reported $3 million buyout was in effect. The coaching announcement came moments after the university announced $42 million upgrades to its football operations building, known as the Valley Football Center. It marked the second straight Wisconsin coach (Bret Bielema left for Arkansas) to leave for what many considered a job with a less prestigious program. Andersen was announced in a press conference on December 12, 2014.