Lincoln Riley stunned the college football world this week when he left Oklahoma for USC, and the coach insists the opportunity came together as quickly as it appears.
Riley shed some light on his decision to take the USC job during a Tuesday appearance on “The Herd w/ Colin Cowherd.” He said the move is something that was “very sudden” and that he was genuinely committed to Oklahoma before the Trojans approached him.
.@LincolnRiley on his decision to leave Oklahoma for USC:
"It was very sudden… You could feel their energy. You could feel the leadership at the very top was willing to do the things that maybe haven't been done as of recent to get USC where it needs to be." pic.twitter.com/aulrMGMlBe
— Herd w/Colin Cowherd (@TheHerd) November 30, 2021
“It was very sudden. I was totally committed to our team as we made a championship and playoff run,” Riley said. “I made that very clear to anybody that was interested.
“We got to Norman late Saturday night/early Sunday morning and had a conversation that USC had some serious interest. I slept for a couple of hours and woke up and had a conversation with the USC people, and you could feel their energy. You could feel that the leadership from the very top is willing to do the things that maybe haven’t been done here as of recent to get USC to where it needs to be.”
A lot of people will find Riley’s timeline hard to believe. The USC job has been vacant since Clay Helton was fired in September. It is highly unlikely that the discussions between Riley and USC only began on Saturday night. Even Oklahoma’s president seemed frustrated with Riley over the way he handled his exit.
Of course, that is how things work in college football. Coaches are sometimes in positions where they can’t risk having information leak. That said, Riley may have also misled people by emphatically shooting down another rumor less than 24 hours before his Oklahoma departure.
There are always going to be hard feelings when a coach leaves one top program for another. Riley probably could have done some things differently, but avoiding that altogether is impossible.