The Oklahoma Sooners faithful have been a little sore about Lincoln Riley ever since he left to become the head coach of the USC Trojans. Former Sooners coach Bob Stoops shared that he was “disappointed,” Big 12 commish Bob Bowlsby chimed in about character, and an Oklahoma state senator wanted to name a tiny section of a desolate highway after the departed coach.
Things didn’t get much nicer when some former Sooners started showing up on the USC roster following a trip through the transfer portal. Chief among them was Caleb Williams, the would-be starting quarterback for Oklahoma who’ll now be the Trojans signal-caller. Former Oklahoma wide receiver Mario Williams followed Caleb to SoCal and 4-star cornerback Latrell McCutchin quickly entered the transfer portal and announced he’d play for Riley as well.
Riley broke a lot of unwritten rules when he left Oklahoma for USC, at least in the eyes of Sooners fans. Riley tried to defend himself on Tuesday during an appearance on The Herd with Colin Cowherd, though his explanation probably just made Sooners fans hate him even more.
“We didn’t take players from Oklahoma. We took players from the transfer portal,” Riley said. “Those players and their families had to make a decision to stay at that university … or to enter the portal where they could be recruited by anybody.”
#USC's Lincoln Riley on The Herd today: "We didn't take players from Oklahoma. We took players from the transfer portal. Those players and their families had to make a decision to stay at that university … or to enter the portal where they could be recruited by anybody …"
— Antonio Morales (@AntonioCMorales) February 8, 2022
Obviously, the way that Riley is trying to spin all of this feels a bit disingenuous. Of course, those Oklahoma players entered the transfer portal knowing that the guy who recruited them would love to continue coaching them at his new school. They didn’t just transfer and happen to end up at USC as if they had no idea Lincoln Riley was now the coach there. Not to mention none of them would likely even be in the transfer portal had he not left in the first place.
And based on the reactions to the appearance, it doesn’t appear that anyone is buying Riley’s transfer portal theory.
Riley just trolling the Sooners with this answer. What a politician https://t.co/GaOFYHefqL
— Geoff Schwartz (@geoffschwartz) February 8, 2022
The more he speaks the more we realize what an idiot this man is https://t.co/bq8ErcnVO6
— Barstool Sooners (@OUBarstool) February 8, 2022
That’s certainly one way to look at it. https://t.co/vi4GNtYvph
— Jason Kersey (@jasonkersey) February 8, 2022
What luck for Lincoln Riley, he thought they'd be starting from scratch and just happened to check the transfer portal one afternoon and discovered, Whoa, Caleb Williams is in there! And two other guys he knew from Oklahoma! Whoa, what are the chances?!?! https://t.co/t7PKBGuG5s
— Seth Emerson (@SethWEmerson) February 8, 2022
For their part, USC fans and national media are kinda appreciating the heel turn.
Lincoln Riley being an actual Bond villain is exactly the kick in the pants the college football culture wars needed. Things were getting way too SEC-centric. https://t.co/fA1yKKJscy
— parker (@statsowar) February 8, 2022
I think Riley should just lean hard into the heel turn. Just be the Bobby The Brain Heenan of college football. https://t.co/01UMaTFRx9
— Andy Staples (@Andy_Staples) February 8, 2022
Lincoln Riley was built in a lab to be a perfect college football coach. Nobody is better at Xs and Os and nobody is better at being fundamentally dishonest without actually lying on camera. Also he made an entire blue-blood fanbase act like St. Louis Cardinals fans
— Alex Kirshner (@alex_kirshner) February 8, 2022
The shame of it is that Riley’s deflection puts some of the anger that is being directed on him onto the players, who are just doing what they think is best for themselves.
All we know is, if USC and Oklahoma ever end up playing one another while Riley is still coaching the Trojans, it is going to be a whole thing.