USC's Lincoln Riley: I Could've Handled Some Parts of Oklahoma Exit 'Better'

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVApril 20, 2022

Southern California head coach Lincoln Riley gestures during an NCAA college football practice Thursday, March 24, 2022, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

USC Trojans head coach Lincoln Riley discussed his decision to leave his coaching job with the Oklahoma Sooners for his current one in a letter on the Players' Tribune.

He notably admitted he could have handled certain things about his move differently:

"On the plane ride to Los Angeles, so many emotions were flowing through my mind. I was so excited about USC and its potential, but I was also filled with some guilt and sadness realizing that Norman was no longer home. There are aspects of my departure and transition that I would certainly do differently if I could do it again, and I acknowledge that I could have handled some parts of the situation better. I absolutely own that. While I was able to talk with several players after the team meeting, I wish I would have had the time to sit down with each individual player and staff member to explain my decision."

Riley also said he "always figured I would end my coaching career at OU," but he became "intrigued by the possibilities" when learning about USC's interest.

He went on to call Norman, Oklahoma, "home" and somewhere he "made incredible friendships and memories that will last a lifetime." He also ran through a list of memories during his time with the Sooners and thanked "every player, every staff member and every fan" who helped make it such a success.

"Since my move, many have asked me why I would leave Oklahoma, and the best—and most honest—answer is that the opportunity at USC was simply the right job at the right time for me and for my family," Riley wrote. "We all have moments in life where we are faced with difficult choices, and this was the path my family and I chose."

It's hard to argue against the success Riley enjoyed on the field with Oklahoma.

His teams went 55-10 with four Big 12 championships during his five seasons from 2017 through 2021. The Sooners had double-digit wins in each of those campaigns except the shortened 2020 one, when they still went an impressive 9-2 and won the Cotton Bowl over Florida.

Riley quickly became best-known for his offensive prowess as a head coach, and Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray each took home the Heisman Trophy during his tenure.

That surely stood out to the USC administration in its decision to hire him as the Trojans look to return to the upper echelon of college football. The program is coming off a disappointing 4-8 season and has just four double-digit-win seasons since 2008.

That stands in stark contrast to the Pete Carroll era when the Trojans were annual national championship contenders and won double-digit games seven years in a row from 2002 to 2008.

Riley isn't the only key member from Oklahoma's football program to go to USC this offseason, as quarterback Caleb Williams also transferred to the Pac-12 team and will look to help lead it back into the conference championship or College Football Playoff picture.