The news just broke.
The funny part was, Lincoln Riley was asked about the rumors he was taking the LSU job last night and said, “I’m not going to be the next head coach of LSU.”
Well, he wasn’t lying.
Right off the bat, I think you have to view this move by Riley in the context of Oklahoma’s impending move to the SEC.
A lot of people are saying Lincoln Riley is afraid to coach in the SEC, but I think the real reason is that it’s just a much more attractive proposition to be coaching at USC, in the Pac-12, then at Oklahoma in the SEC. It’s not about being “scared,” it’s about making the smart move.
At Oklahoma in the SEC, Riley would have to be dealing with Bama and Georgia on a yearly basis.
At USC, he has to deal with Oregon and Utah. And he’d be able to recruit in Southern California, rather than try to compete with Oklahoma guys against teams that recruit in high school football hotbeds like Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas.
Plus, coaching in the SEC is an absolute meat-grinder. Look at Ed Orgeron: the guy won a National Championship less than two calendar years ago and he’s already fired.
In the SEC, unless you’re Nick Saban, you’re in a terrible spot. Your fanbase expects you to compete with Bama and Georgia and win National Championships, and when you don’t do that, you get run out of town in disgrace. The expectations are unrealistically high for all SEC coaches, and failing to meet those unrealistic expectations is a career-killer.
Colin Cowherd brought up a great point: you always want to have the best job in your conference. In the Big 12, Oklahoma is probably the best job. Normally it would be Texas, but Texas has sucked for a decade, and right now Oklahoma is the better job.
But in the SEC, Oklahoma is not the best job. It might not even be in the top-4, honestly.
The move to the SEC changed everything for Lincoln Riley at Oklahoma. It really did. It changed the calculus. The OU job is no longer as attractive as it once was.
Neither is the Texas job.
Lincoln Riley would no longer be the big fish in the small pond with Oklahoma moving to the SEC.
Now he’ll be the big fish in the small pond in the Pac-12.
At USC, he has a much easier path to the playoff than he would’ve in the SEC. It’s just a fact.
He’ll have a much better recruiting base in Southern California, and that’s a big deal. USC just lost three top quarterback prospects from the Southern California area to Bama, Ohio State and Clemson: Bryce Young, CJ Stroud and DJ Uiagaleilei are all from SoCal, and they all spurned USC.
With Lincoln Riley as head coach, USC now becomes a destination spot for top QB prospects. Lincoln Riley is viewed as one of the best QB mentors in the sport. He turned Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray into Heisman winners, and transformed Jalen Hurts from a running QB into a a Heisman finalist who is now the starting QB for the Philadelphia Eagles.
QBs want to play for Lincoln Riley, and now they will be begging to play for him in Southern California.
This is an incredible boon for USC recruiting. It’s really a match made in heaven, I think.
The main question with Lincoln Riley is whether he can get the defense right at USC, because he was never able to at Oklahoma. He’ll certainly be able to recruit anyone he wants out there, but as we’ve seen with Ohio State, being able to recruit any and everyone doesn’t automatically translate into a stout defense. Riley will have to find a solid defensive coach to handle that side of the ball for him.
Now, I will say that I don’t really view Lincoln Riley as a “USC guy.” It’s a unique job, and not everyone is suited for it.
For some reason, I just keep going back to Pete Carroll as the prototypical “USC guy”: the larger than life personality, the big smile, the celebrity culture, etc. I don’t think Lincoln Riley is that type of guy. I think he’s more quiet and introverted, it seems like.
But who knows? He may well be able to return that program to prominence. He will absolutely be able to recruit elite QBs, and he’ll turn USC into an offensive powerhouse, that’s for sure.
As for the Oklahoma aspect, that is a big job that is now open. I haven’t even begun to research possible candidates to succeed Riley there, but I’m sure tons of names will emerge in the next few hours. There will be a lot of guys who want that job.
Perhaps Matt Campbell, who was rumored to be the front-runner for the USC job until just now?
I did not think Lincoln Riley would leave Oklahoma, to be honest. He was set up there by his former mentor, Bob Stoops, who named Riley as his hand-picked successor back in 2017. Bob Stoops really did Lincoln Riley a huge favor in paving the way for him to get that job, so there might be some bitterness or maybe people in Norman viewing Riley as ungrateful. I mean, Bob Stoops went out of his way to make sure Lincoln Riley was his successor, and Oklahoma welcomed him with open arms.
They’re probably going to be pretty pissed at him for leaving.
But at the end of the day, it’s hard to blame him. Moving to the SEC changes everything. I’ve seen some reports on Twitter that Lincoln Riley was upset about the move to the SEC, and was against it.
This would explain why he wasn’t interested in the LSU job but was eager to jump on the USC job.