Leading up to Saturday’s matchup between No. 10 Oklahoma and No. 7 Oklahoma State, rumors circulated on social media that Sooner coach Lincoln Riley was bound to accept the LSU coaching job following the game.
Oklahoma would lose, falling 37-33 to the Cowboys to get eliminated from the Big 12 championship game. After the match, Riley made a statement that dispelled those rumors.
“I’m not going to be the next head coach at LSU,” Riley said in the postgame press conference.
“Leaving OU was probably the most difficult decision of my life,” Riley said in a statement released by Oklahoma. “OU is one of the best college football programs in the country, and it has been forever. … This was a personal decision solely based on my willingness to go take on a new challenge, and I felt like it was the right opportunity for me and my family to do that.”
The 38-year-old Riley posted an impressive record of 55-10 in his five years at Oklahoma. His Sooners were dominant in the Big 12, going 37-7 against conference opponents and winning the Big 12 championship in each of his first four years until they fell short this season.
At USC, Riley is tasked with returning a program with an unparalleled football tradition back to national prominence. Riley’s hire ends a three-month coaching search by USC after they fired coach Clay Helton following the second game of the season in September. Helton posted a 46-24 record in seven seasons at the helm of USC.
“I look forward to honoring that successful tradition and building on it,” Riley said in the statement released by USC. “The pieces are in place for us to build the program back to where it should be and the fans expect it to be.”
Riley’s departure is a significant blow for Oklahoma, which is set to join the SEC as soon as 2023. They must be sure their next hire is a success, and big names such as Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury and Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables have already been mentioned as potential candidates.
For now, Oklahoma will be led by Bob Stoops, who will be the interim coach through the Sooners’ bowl game. Stoops coached at Oklahoma for 18 seasons, leading the Sooners to the national championship in 2000. Lincoln Riley succeeded him after he retired in 2017.