COLUMBUS, Neb. (AP) More than 600 men and women dressed in their Husker finery filed into the giant exhibition hall of the Platte County Agricultural Society. Hearty New York strips and pork loin were ready in the buffet line, the cash bar was open and a crowd was forming around the table where a Nebraska football season ticket was up for raffle.
In the back of the room, coach Mike Riley, with wife Dee by his side, shook hands and made small talk with folks who passed by. Some asked for an autograph. Many wanted their pictures taken with him. About an hour later, the former Oregon State coach stood at the dais and professed his love for the state where he took up residency a year and a half ago, reviewed the 2015 season and offered a position-by-position rundown for 2016.
By Friday afternoon, similar scenes will have played out in seven towns and cities across the state as part of a four-day goodwill tour. They are common throughout college football, but it takes on added significance in a state where there are no major professional sports, let alone another power-five conference program.