NORMAN, Okla — Lincoln Riley became Oklahoma's head coach in a stunning announcement back in the summer of 2017, when Bob Stoops blindsided fans with his retirement.
Now Riley's departure was a more jaw-dropping announcement than that.
After five seasons and 55 wins in Norman, the 38-year-old coach is leaving OU for USC.
We got our guy.
— USC Football (@USC_FB) November 29, 2021
Becoming the first Sooners coach to leave OU for another college job since Jim Tatum back in 1946.
Reports say Riley was never in favor of OU's move to the SEC.
For most of the season there was no indication of a rift, but for the last week or so there had been multiple reports out of Louisiana that Riley was considering taking the LSU job.
Riley was asked about that after last night's loss to Oklahoma State in Bedlam, his answer "I am not gonna be the next head coach at LSU".
There are reports that Bob Stoops will step in as interim coach for the upcoming bowl game.
Riley (in USC’s announcement): “I want to thank the administration, coaches and players at Oklahoma for five incredible years as their head coach. We accomplished some great things there and I will always cherish my time as a Sooner.” #Sooners
— Ryan Aber (@ryaber) November 29, 2021
Reaction from OU players today on Twitter:
I appreciate all the concerns about the situation but I am also happy for Coach Riley, mama Riley, Sloan and Stella for that huge opportunity ahead. That’s all I plan to say right now! #boomer
— Caleb Williams (@CALEBcsw) November 28, 2021
🤷🏾♂️…Still got a game that needs to be won!
— Justin Broiles🧥 (@JustinbroilesJ) November 28, 2021
— Theo Wease Jr (@_TheoWeaseJr) November 28, 2021
The OU President, Vice-President & Director of Athletics, Lincoln Riley, and Bob Stoops all issued statements regarding the recent news:
STATEMENT FROM OU PRESIDENT JOSEPH HARROZ, JR.:
“We’re grateful to Lincoln Riley for his leadership as head coach of our football program these past five seasons, and we wish him the best at USC. As Sooners we know that our better days are always ahead of us, and we’re committed to the continued success of our storied football program. Though we’ve had stars and icons throughout the years, Sooner football isn’t defined by any one individual, but by the excellence we have enjoyed and sustained for generations. Our future is unlimited, and we will undoubtedly find a visionary leader for our next exciting chapter. Until then, we’re fortunate to be in the tremendous hands of Sooner legend Coach Bob Stoops. Boomer!”
STATEMENT FROM OU VICE PRESIDENT AND DIRECTOR OF ATHLETICS JOE CASTIGLIONE:
“I’d like to thank Coach Riley for all he has done to help our football program since he arrived in Norman in 2015. The leadership and ingenuity he displayed during his two years as offensive coordinator made our decision to promote him to head coach when Bob Stoops retired a no-brainer, and he certainly lived up to expectations in his five years as head coach.
“Oklahoma is one of the premier football programs and jobs in the country. Our storied history, annual pursuit of conference and national championships, tremendous fan support, beautiful facilities and quality of life combine to make this an incredible place to recruit to and coach, and we have begun the search for our next great leader.
“Coach Stoops, who will be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame next week, will serve as our interim head coach. He is looking forward to the opportunity and we certainly appreciate all he has done and continues to do for our athletics department and football program. Our team and players are in great hands under his leadership.
“When we met with the team today, I communicated to our players that our program is about them. It will always be bigger than any one person. And just as it’s always been, Oklahoma football is positioned for greatness.”
STATEMENT FROM LINCOLN RILEY:
“My time at OU has included some of the most special years of my life and my family’s lives. I had so many great memories and made so many great friends that we’ll take with us forever. A lot of things that we were a part of here, I’m incredibly proud of — the success on the field, the success off the field, the players. Proud of the staff. Proud of the way we worked so well with the university and our administration. We’ve been able to have two phenomenal leaders in President Harroz and Joe Castiglione, and they have been everything I could ever ask for in this role and more.
“Leaving OU was probably the most difficult decision of my life. OU is one of the best college football programs in the country, and it has been forever. That’s not going to change. It’s not going to change in the SEC, it’s not going to change with another head coach. It’s stood the test of time and it’s going to continue to do so. 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.
“We’ll leave here with fond memories. It’ll be very difficult to say goodbye to Norman, but it will always be a part of our family, our history. I’ll be a Sooner fan as long as I live — a fan of this state, of this university and the people here. I love them all very much.”
STATEMENT FROM OU INTERIM HEAD COACH BOB STOOPS:
“First and foremost, I’m a program guy and whatever I can do to help OU and to support the players, of course I’m glad to do it. I’ll do everything I can to help them finish the season in a strong and successful way and I look forward to that.
“Lincoln did a great job in his five years as head coach here and I appreciate all he did for this program. I’ll always appreciate the close friendship we’ve had and will continue to have. I wish the best for him, Caitlin and their family.”
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