Lincoln Riley shocked the Oklahoma system, but the Sooners need to move on quickly


A welcome wave of nostalgia hit Oklahoma’s Switzer Center at a press conference Monday – but not for the barely over Lincoln Riley era.

No, Oklahoma officials upped the DeLorean and stepped back in time a decade or two. Here is Sooner legend, former Fox Sports analyst and part-time tequila pitchman Bob Stoops, speaking about a return as interim coach for the bowl game. As he can, Stoops made a combative opening statement on the program which is reeling from Riley’s defection to Southern California on Sunday.

Abridged Version: If you think that’s bad, think back to when Stoops got hired in 1998 after four years without a bowling ball.

“This place is in much better shape than it was on December 1, 1998,” Stoops said. “We are a sustainable team of the top five, 10, 15 teams each year. We play that kind of football. This job will attract the best in the coaching world and they are already lined up and calling. …

“It’s a great job, a great university with great leadership. All the fans, and even the players, the players, everyone, give it time and you’ll see it’s just a little bump in the road. There is not a single guy, a single person in the history of the program who is greater than the program.

It was a pep talk the nation needed earlier. The program, administration, and fan base have been hit hard by Riley’s mind-blowing exit to the Left Coast, followed by the 2022 and 23 recruiting class divide and knowledge the SEC is awaiting soon. Former Heisman frontman Spencer Rattler announced that he is entering the NCAA transfer portal and will no doubt have company.

If you thought Chris Beard’s reaction to leaving Texas Tech for Texas was angry, OU turned the animosity up a notch – although OU president Joe Harroz and athletic director Joe Castiglione were pretty restrained.

The two said they were discussing a contract extension with Riley for several weeks as rumors circulated about the fifth-year coach and LSU. They received a call Sunday morning from Riley that he was speaking with USC, then were informed hours later by Riley that he was gone after four Big 12 titles, two Heisman winners, but no football playoff wins. university.

When asked if Riley could have handled things differently, Harroz replied, “Were we disappointed? Absoutely. This disappointment lasts until you realize that now you have to move on. I would have liked more reviews. We were surprised at this yesterday. It was his decision.

Castiglione responded to the lingering perception that Riley was not thrilled with Oklahoma’s impending move to the SEC with Texas. He said Riley had been “introduced to the conversation, the thinking process we were having about the future of varsity athletics, the rapidly changing landscape… and what we could see happening down the road.”

“He was definitely okay with that.”

Castiglione recognized the need to make upgrades without pushing.

“Let me be absolutely clear: we knew that,” Castiglione said.

He still views the SEC’s decision as positive and has said he has a list of possible replacements for Riley. Oklahoma has traditionally hired rising assistants, although Castiglione is not committing to this model.

Castiglione also faces a looming deadline with the early December signing period.

“We understand that we have a moment to seize,” Castiglione said.

Failure is something Oklahoma cannot afford. Despite all of history and tradition, national titles and Heisman winners, Riley’s departure for another Blue Blood was a shock to the system.

“It really hurts right now,” said Mike Farrell, national director of recruiting at Rivals.com. “The recruiting was going very well. Offensive players were flocking to Oklahoma. They were heading to the SEC. They had so much to sell as a program as Texas struggled.

“The right coach has to be hired to get started and regain that momentum because they are losing rookies. And they lost a little face.

Farrell said players and rookies will wonder why Riley left. He doesn’t believe Riley is dodging the SEC challenge. He thinks Oklahoma will do well in the SEC.

Oklahoma also faced potential competition in the market from future SEC rival LSU, another team with a tradition and title aspirations burned by Riley’s exit. But the Tigers were reportedly close to a successful hire Monday night for Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly, according to Yahoo Sports.

“I have LSU in the top six and Oklahoma in the top 10, Oklahoma around the 10th,” Farrell said. “The difference, of course, is the talent of the state. That’s what it’s about. They’re both going to be in the SEC. But, LSU has the best home recruiting advantage of any Power Five program.

“It’s the difference between the two jobs. The new Oklahoma coach will win more battles on the road than at home. The LSU coach is going to have to win most battles at home and spot rookies elsewhere. Both are in the top 10 jobs, but LSU is the best job right now. “

Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley pleads for a sideline appeal during the Cotton Bowl Classic first half against Florida at AT&T Stadium on Wednesday, December 30, 2020 in Arlington.  (Smiley N. Pool / The Dallas Morning News)

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