Lincoln Riley Leaving Oklahoma to Become USC Head Coach

By George Eisner on November 28, 2021 at 4:35 pm
Lincoln Riley
Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman/USA TODAY Network

Lincoln Riley is bound for Los Angeles.

USC officially announced Sunday that it has hired Riley as its new head coach. Riley, who had been Oklahoma’s head coach for the last five years, will take over for interim head coach Donte Williams after the latter temporarily replaced Clay Helton just two games into the Trojans' 2021 schedule.

The move comes less than 24 hours after Riley and the Sooners lost to Oklahoma State in the most important Bedlam rivalry game in a decade. The defeat, paired with Baylor's win over Texas Tech, left Oklahoma out of the Big 12 Championship Game. Saturday night's 37-33 defeat to the Cowboys was the first time Riley suffered a Bedlam loss since becoming the Sooners' head coach in 2017.

Riley's departure from Oklahoma is not necessarily a surprise, but the destination still registers as somewhat shocking. USC had hardly been mentioned in any capacity as a landing spot for Riley to the point that one Trojan media outlet openly labeled the speculation as “ridiculous.” The primary candidate to land Riley had been rumored to be LSU, who is also searching for a new head coach after parting ways with Ed Orgeron.

For USC and a fanbase that openly wanted a high-profile coach such as Urban Meyer to take the reins of the program, this will be a welcome hire. Riley brings significant recruiting clout and a consistently effective offensive approach to a program that has been aching to return to flagship status since Pete Carroll left for the NFL.

As for LSU, the search for a new head coach will have to continue. Riley was more than likely the Tigers' primary candidate for their job, and with Sunday also bringing news that Louisiana head coach Billy Napier will take the helm at Florida, LSU lost out on a premium in-state candidate to replace Orgeron.

Given that college football's regular season just ended less than 24 hours ago, the coaching carousel is only beginning to hit full speed — but a major domino fell Sunday with Riley’s move from Norman to the City of Angels.

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