It’s officially that time of year when college football powerhouses fill the vacancies caused by firing one coach in order to hire the guy they think can turn it all around. The coaching carousel is in full swing and Oklahoma Sooners head coach Lincoln Riley might be the biggest rider of them all.
Riley, who has led Oklahoma to a staggering 55-10 record in five seasons and led the Sooners to four Big 12 titles in five years, is perhaps the hottest coaching prospect in the country. Despite the fact that he coaches one of the blue blood programs of the college football world, some of the biggest openings in the nation command a lot of money and a lot of attention, and all of them would love a guy as proven as Riley to lead their football teams.
Word broke on Saturday that Riley was going to leave Oklahoma for the LSU Tigers, who are looking to fill the vacancy created when they agreed to part ways with Ed Orgeron after this season. However, Riley denied those rumors, literally telling reporters “I’m not going to be the next head coach at LSU” and affirming his commitment to OU.
However, no college football fan worth a darn believes a head coach when they say they’re committed and it turns out that Riley is just the latest in a long line of head coaches to say they’re staying right before jumping to another team. According to The Athletic and ESPN, Riley has accepted the head coaching position for the USC Trojans and will leave the soon-to-be-SEC program for the Pac-12 powerhouse in serious need of rebuilding.
The reaction across the college football world was swift and split between those who knew Riley was going to leave one way or another and those who are shocked he’d leave Oklahoma now.
Seriously Riley leaving Oklahoma is pretty shocking. Arguably the only other program that's been more consistently nationally relevant over the past 50 years and into the current era is Ohio State. The ceiling is as high there as anywhere. But maybe not for much longer.
— Matt Hinton (@MattRHinton) November 28, 2021
High-level Power 5 moves are rare. Jimbo did it, going from FSU to Texas A&M. In 2003, Dennis Franchione left Alabama for Texas A&M.
But Lincoln Riley’s move from Oklahoma to USC might be the biggest such move in the modern history of college football.
I'm sure I'm missing some
— Ross Dellenger (@RossDellenger) November 28, 2021
Lincoln Riley is going to USC because he will never have to post a picture of brisket on Twitter at that job.
— Andy Hutchins (@AndyHutchins) November 28, 2021
It’s a stunning move that could shift the entire landscape of the Pac-12 and the way it impacts the rest of college football. While Oklahoma and Texas moving to the SEC is going to have a seismic impact of it’s own, the move gives Riley a chance to rebuild a sleeping giant in a conference where it’s much easier to win than the one he was about to enter. He’s likely to feel some blowback from the perception that he ran from the challenge, but he’s also probably going to sleep comfortably on a bed made out of millions of dollars while living in Southern California, so he might not care.
Certainly more reactions to come regarding Riley’s move and how it impacts both schools.