LOS ANGELES—USC football was on life support; a losing season, the firing of Clay Helton and embarrassing losses to bitter rivals UCLA and Notre Dame. It seems the Trojans got the last laugh by hiring Oklahoma’s Head Coach Lincoln Riley on Sunday, November 28.
USC was longing for a big name to take the reins of a beleaguered, struggling program which has never made the College Football Playoff while posting a mediocre 33-23 record over the last five seasons. In this tectonic shifting move, the Trojans landed the biggest fish in the pond in Lincoln Riley, a move that will have ripple effects on USC, and the entire PAC-12 Conference as a whole.
“Everything intrigued me, the location, the history of the program, the opportunities here to recruit and to build a national championship level roster,” said Lincoln Riley at his news conference. Riley, who went 55-10 in five years at Oklahoma, had three College Football Playoff appearances as well as four BIG-12 titles under his belt.
It’s not just the Riley’s who are headed to Southern California, Lincoln is poaching several 5-star recruits who originally committed to Oklahoma are already visiting with Riley including five-star Quarterback Malachi Nelson, from Los Alimitos High. Oklahoma has already seen seven commitments since Riley left.
“It was never our goal to change the landscape of college football with one of the biggest moves in the history of the game, but we did exactly that,” boasted USC Athletic Director Mike Bohn. He referred to USC as the “sleeping giant” that has been awakened.
At 38, Riley established himself as a wunderkin, earning the nickname, ‘Quarterback Whisperer,” nurturing Heisman Trophy winners Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Heisman runner up Jalen Hurts. All three QB’s currently start in the NFL. Needless to say, everyone at Oklahoma feels hoodwinked.
While the optics are horrible, Riley bolting from the Sooners just hours after their heartbreaking loss to rival Oklahoma State, we must put this in context. Had Riley waited until the end of Oklahoma’s season to tactfully quit, he would have missed out on the early signing period. This is the life blood of college football- visiting these families home to recruit these kids, and get them to commit as sonny as possible.
Blame the NCAA, not Riley or USC for how this situation unfolded. “It was tough to leave the place I left,” said Riley,” who shed tears during his press conference. “But at the same time I knew this was the right thing.”
Riley has made a calculated move, first, Oklahoma is moving to the SEC Conference. Oklahoma dominated the BIG-12 for decades, however, the Sooners would likely never reach the College Football Playoffs facing the likes of Alabama, Georgia and other SEC foes in this supreme conference.
Furthermore, Riley has an opportunity to control the PAC-12 Conference at USC, which has slipped over the past decade in football. This move helps the entire conference.
Riley’s contract is one of the greatest deals in the history of sports: $110 million, unlimited use of a private jet, the Trojans are buying both of his houses in Norman, Oklahoma for a steep markup and finally, purchasing a $6 million home in Los Angeles!
“The Coliseum is gonna be full. This will be the Mecca of college football,” said Riley.