USC Coach Lincoln Riley Pens Letter To Oklahoma Fans, Explains Abruptly Leaving Sooners To Trojans

CBS Sports - April 20, 2022 9:46 pm

Nearly five months after his decision to leave Oklahoma for USCLincoln Riley has penned an open letter to Sooners fans in the Players’ Tribune explaining his decision to leave the storied Big 12 program for the West Coast.

After sharing several of his best memories from his seven years in Norman — including the last five as head coach — Riley wrote of the “unexpected” opportunity that coaching the Trojans afforded.

“As much as my family and I loved Norman and cherished the success we were having on the field, sometimes life throws you curveballs at the most unexpected times,” wrote Riley. “Honestly, I always figured I would end my coaching career at OU. But when my agent called me to pass along interest from USC, I was immediately intrigued by the possibilities”

Riley claimed that he jumped on a Zoom call with USC officials and made his decision quickly. News broke of his departure the morning after the Sooners’ loss to rival Oklahoma State in November to miss out on the Big 12 Championship Game for the first time since it was reintroduced in 2017. In that postgame press conference, Riley said that he would not take the open job at LSU; in hindsight, his wording was important.

“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,” Riley wrote. “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.

“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. We all have moments in life where we are faced with difficult choices, and this was the path my family and I chose. I don’t expect everyone to understand; in my line of work, that’s not possible.

Riley’s decision to leave Oklahoma came as a shock for the fanbase. The Sooners had not lost a coach to another collegiate coaching job since Jim Tatum left after one year for Maryland in 1947. Oklahoma had not held an external coaching search of any kind since Bob Stoops was hired in 1999.

The Sooners ultimately hired former Stoops assistant Brent Venables to lead the program. Venables is the fourth consecutive first-time coach at OU.

“I want to say THANK YOU to everyone who was a part of our journey in Norman: every player, every staff member and every fan,” Riley wrote. “I am eternally grateful for each one of you.”


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