Lincoln Riley shocked the college football world on Sunday when he decided to leave his longstanding position as head coach at Oklahoma for the bright lights of USC.
According to multiple reports, Riley is set to replace former USC coach Clay Helton, who was given the boot this past September after going 46-24 over seven years and killing any and all enthusiasm for Trojans football.
USC originally made a big play for their top choice head coaching option, but ultimately failed to get him. Fortunately, this isn’t a bad consolation prize.
Riley’s abrupt move to depart the Sooners left many scratching their heads. Just one day earlier, he seemed to suggest that he had no interest in LSU’s vacancy because he was so happy with Oklahoma. As it turns out, that was only half true. He didn’t have any interest in coaching the Tigers, but it was only because he had his sights set on LA.
So why the sudden change?
According to college football insider Chris Vannini, Riley’s decision to jump ship was predicated on one main factor: zero desire to coach in the SEC.
“Multiple coaches have said to me that Oklahoma becomes a much harder job in the SEC and they thought Riley would be wise to look elsewhere, whether that was LSU or USC,” he tweeted.
The Sooners are preparing to shift from the Big 12, which they’ve consistently dominated, to the much more difficult SEC – which programs like Alabama (and now Georgia) have had a stranglehold over.
Beyond just the conference change, several smaller factors also played into Riley’s choice.
“Things really escalated late last night and into this morning, I’m told,” reported Bruce Feldman of The Athletic. “For Riley, it was the appeal of LA; the local recruiting talent; and the opportunity of trying to rebuild a brand. That was all very enticing to him.”
Riley went 55-10 overall and 37-7 in-conference over the span of five years in Oklahoma. Many thought he might leave the Sooners for one specific NFL opportunity, but nobody thought he’d leave for a Pac-12 gig.
That’s one way to celebrate divorcing Johnny Manziel. https://t.co/jQ28nDRqn1
— Game 7 (@game7__) November 24, 2021
In retrospect, Riley’s blunt comments about the Oklahoma fan base were quite telling.
In a college football season marred for some by an SEC reporter being blasted for her overly “revealing” wardrobe and flagrant bullying of team personnel, the past 24 hours has certainly been fun to watch. Very exciting stuff.
It will be interesting to see what Riley will ultimately be able to accomplish at USC.