18 years later, accuser in Oregon State rape case confronts coach

Brenda Tracy stopped in front of the door to Nebraska football Coach Mike Riley’s office.

“Is he in there?” she asked. When told that he was, Tracy took a deep breath.

She was about to come face-to-face with a man she once despised, for his leniency toward two Oregon State players she said took part in gang raping her 18 years ago, when she was a 24-year-old single mom working as a waitress in Salem.

This is what accountability looks like. This is what transparency looks like. This is how we get things done.

— Brenda Tracy

Back in 1998, Riley was a young head football coach for the Beavers. Two of his players were among the four men Tracy accused of gang raping her while she was drunk to the point of passing out and possibly drugged.

But after two weeks of backlash and death threats, Tracy dropped her charges. Riley suspended his two players for one game each and said, “These are really good guys who made a bad choice.”

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Tracy told the Oregonian earlier this year: “I despised that man. I hated him with every cell in my body.”

But on Wednesday she entered Riley’s office for a meeting he’d been trying to arrange since before leaving Oregon State last year.

The coach greeted and hugged the nurse, who sobbed into his shoulder. They talked for more than an hour, and he apologized for not looking further into the incident at the time and possibly doing more about it.

“I feel like he got it, the things I was saying to him, and the way he impacted me, I think he understood how much he impacted my life and how that decision hurt me,” Tracy the Lincoln Journal Star. “And I really feel like he would not do something like that again. I feel like he understands that lives are more valuable than win-loss record.”

After speaking with the coach, Tracy then addressed the entire Nebraska football team, something else that was Riley’s idea. She didn’t hold back, describing in great detail her alleged ordeal and its aftermath.

The meeting was closed, but Tracy described what happened to a group of reporters that evening. She said she pointed to Riley and told his players, “At one point I hated this man more than my rapists.”

“You could literally see the whole room turn and look at Coach Riley,” Tracy told USA Today. “It was intense. I saw them all look. I could feel it. Not too long after that, I started talking about the idea that he didn’t have to bring me here. Even under those circumstances, he didn’t have to bring me here. This is what accountability looks like. This is what transparency looks like. This is how we get things done, and [they] should be appreciative that they have a coach like this as their mentor, their example of how to deal with something like this.”

Tracy also told reporters she was “very proud of Coach Riley and his football team.”

Riley did not discuss the meetings with reporters but said in a statement:

“Brenda has suffered immeasurable pain and has shown the strength and willingness to share her story. Her story today was powerful and I know that it left an indelible imprint on our student-athletes, staff and myself.”

He added: “This has been an important day for me and for our football program and we must keep the focus on the victims, and on preventing inexcusable acts in the future.”