In Riley’s five years at Oklahoma, the Sooners have gone 55-10 with three appearances in a four-team CFPGETTY IMAGES
USC "smartly sidestepped a passel of fresh faces and recently hot names to lure" Oklahoma's Lincoln Riley as its new football coach in what was a "stunning Sunday morning maneuver" by AD Mike Bohn and his Chief of Staff Brandon Sosna, according to Bill Plaschke of the L.A. TIMES. In Riley’s five years at Oklahoma, the Sooners have gone 55-10 with three appearances in a four-team CFP that "has thus far eluded the Trojans." This is "more than just the right coaching hire," this might be the "most right coaching hire in USC football history." Riley "entertains," an attribute that "makes him perfect for Hollywood." He also is used to being "surrounded by the Midwestern toughness," something the "prototypical West Coast Trojans lack." Riley "popped up on Bohn’s radar from the moment the plug was pulled" on former football coach Clay Helton after two games this season. This is Bohn’s "first big hire since he was named athletic director two years ago." USC Board of Trustees Chair Rick Caruso "encouraged him to swing for the fences." Riley was reportedly "not thrilled" with Oklahoma's decision to move to the SEC and "began feeling increasingly disconnected to the program." Bohn "saw an opportunity, made some connections with Riley’s representatives and waited all season for the right moment" (L.A. TIMES, 11/29). In Oklahoma City, Ryan Aber notes Riley and OU "agreed to a six-year contract extension" in '20. The contract "carried an average annual value of more than" $7.5M. OU "will be owed" a $4.5M buyout (OKLAHOMAN, 11/29).
HOME-RUN HIRE: In California, Jim Alexander writes it is "safe to say no one saw that coming." Bohn "needed to think big, to go after the best coach possible rather than just the best coach available." This is "not just about winning Monday afternoon’s press conference." It is about "reassuring Trojan football’s many stakeholders that those in charge care as deeply as they do." When USC football is "relevant nationally, so is the Pac-12." The L.A. schools "drive the narrative for this conference," and a "successful USC program will restore credibility throughout the conference" (Riverside PRESS-ENTERPRISE, 11/29). THE ATHLETIC's Antonio Morales wrote when Bohn was hired as USC’s AD two years ago and brought Sosna along a month later, the two "first set out to attack some of the smaller issues surrounding Trojans football." There had long been "complaints about the structure of USC’s support staff in comparison to its more modern peers." Bohn and Sosna "fixed that." Those were "well-intentioned steps to help fix USC and its infrastructure," but after a "decade in the wilderness, this program and its fan base needed a splash." Bohn and Sosna yesterday "set aside the singles to celebrate a grand slam with the surprise hire" of Riley, a move that "instantly legitimizes USC’s athletic administration in its mission to fight off the perception problems brought on by its predecessors and turn the Trojans into heavy hitters again" (THEATHLETIC.com, 11/28).
SHOCKWAVES SENT: ESPN’s Mike Greenberg said Riley's move is sending “shockwaves across the country.” ESPN’s Paul Finebaum: “It’s the biggest story of the year in college football from a coaching standpoint … and it has really set the world of college football coaching carousel on its ear.” ESPN’s Heather Dinich said it is a “seismic” hire. Dinich added for Oklahoma, there are “a lot of good options still out there” to replace Riley, but there is also now a “lot of pressure on Oklahoma to hit a home run.” ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky: “It’s the biggest hire since Alabama got Nick Saban” (“Get Up,” ESPN, 11/29). ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg: “USC put its best foot forward, took advantage of the moment and made an incredible hire for itself, the Pac-12, and the entire West Coast” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 11/29).
WIN FOR THE PAC-12: YAHOO SPORTS' Dan Wetzel noted the Pac-12 likely will miss the CFP for a fifth straight season, a "drought of irrelevance compounded by the fact that the best players from the West keep signing to play football outside of the league." USC "doesn’t deserve all of the blame," but "if there was a program that could lift all boats, that could contend for national titles regularly and land a string of five-stars on an annual basis, it’s USC." Wetzel: "Maybe now it’s back. Not just the Trojans, but the entire league." There is a "jolt of energy to not just USC, but the conference that will have to raise its game to compete with him." It "mimics Ohio State’s 2012 hiring of Urban Meyer, which launched the Buckeyes and forced the rest of the somewhat-sleepy Big Ten to keep up" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/28). CBS SPORTS' Dennis Dodd: "USC, and by extension the Pac-12, are on the road to becoming relevant again. .... There's something about the lure of the West Coast" (CBSSPORTS.com, 11/29).
SEC ISSUE: USA TODAY's Dan Wolken writes Bohn and his senior staff should be commended for "pulling off one of the splashiest, and yet most Keyser Soze-like hires in many years." But the "more interesting angle to this is what it says about the new-look SEC," where all 16 teams are going to be "paying their coaches massive amounts of money and pouring resources into facilities." Where most of the fan bases are "going to expect College Football Playoff spots," and where the coaches are "generally going to be a three-game losing streak from the hot seat." For the coaches who will be in that league when Texas and Oklahoma join, "most aspects of the job will be bad." It is "undeniable that if Riley had stayed at Oklahoma, his job would have been much harder once the Sooners entered the SEC" (USA TODAY, 11/29). In Oklahoma City, Berry Tramel notes the Oklahoma job "changed in July," when OU "pledged to the SEC." Riley would have been tasked with "beating Alabama and Georgia not for national supremacy, but for conference supremacy." It seems like USC "offered what Riley had" before July: one of the "historically five best jobs in college football, a program that should dominate its conference and be a regular" in the CFP (OKLAHOMAN, 11/29).