It has been one year since Lincoln Riley was hired as the head coach for the USC Trojans.
A year ago, Oklahoma lost to Oklahoma State in the Bedlam game, and rumors swirled in the days preceding that game about Riley potentially going to LSU. However, Sunday morning came, and a bombshell dropped that Riley was the new head coach at USC in a whirlwind series of events across college football.
It seemed unreal, yet here we are. One year later, the Trojans have a Heisman Trophy finalist at quarterback, a Pac-12 title game appearance, and a shot at the College Football Playoff.
It’s only been one year. Let’s recall what happened on November 28, 2021, and in the 24 hours after that explosive event which changed everything for USC:
BREAKING: Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley is leaving for USC, sources tell @BruceFeldmanCFB.
To say I’m stunned would be a massive understatement. This will be Oklahoma’s first football coaching search since 1999, when it hired Bob Stoops
— Jason Kersey (@jasonkersey) November 28, 2021
I wrote that the next head coach at USC needed to “be both Hollywood and hard-working. In a word, you’ve got to be talented because if want-to was all it took to get what you want, I’d be 6-foot-6, 260 pounds and walk around with a cape.”
They said “Bet” and hired Lincoln Riley.
— RJ Young (@RJ_Young) November 28, 2021
HE WAS RIGHT
USC HC Lincoln Riley when asked how long it will take to return the football program to prominence,
“Well… I’ve been in LA for a couple of hours,” Riley said with a laugh. Says that in this day and age it can happen quickly.
— Keely Eure (@keelyismyname) November 29, 2021
MIKE BOHN WENT BIG
Mike Bohn says Lincoln Riley was No. 1 on his list as soon as the USC search began.
Riley: “You probably wouldn’t tell them if I was two or three, would you?”
— Adam Grosbard (@AdamGrosbard) November 29, 2021
“I remember thinking at one point before we went to bed that night, you’re going to sleep for about an hour or two, get up and make a decision that’s going to change a lot of people’s whole worlds. Under that timeline, it was just kind of crazy being in it. That something that life-changing could happen that fast.”
MIKE BOHN STATEMENT
“Lincoln is universally considered one of the brightest and most talented football coaches in the nation, and the fact that he chose USC is a testament to the strength of our brand, the power of the Trojan Family and the leadership of our university,” Bohn said in a statement. “This is for our current players, our former players, our alumni, our fans, and our entire university community. Our time is now.”
“USC has an unparalleled football tradition with tremendous resources and facilities, and the administration has made a deep commitment to winning,” Riley said in a statement. “I look forward to honoring that successful tradition and building on it. The pieces are in place for us to build the program back to where it should be and the fans expect it to be. We will work hard to develop a physical football team that is dominant on both lines of scrimmage, and has a dynamic balanced offense and a stout aggressive defense.
TOUGH TO EXIT OKLAHOMA
“Leaving OU was probably the most difficult decision of my life. OU is one of the best college football programs in the country, and it has been forever. That’s not going to change. … This was a personal decision solely based on my willingness to go take on a new challenge, and I felt like it was the right opportunity for me and my family to do that.”
(h/t Matt Zemek of Trojans Wire)
Oklahoma fans were obviously upset with Riley after his departure from Norman. That’s completely understandable, and contextually unique. OU fans were abandoned by Riley; their displeasure is legitimate because Riley broke up that relationship when he wasn’t expected to.
ESPN has interviewed Riley several times, giving the USC football program a platform. New Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff is maneuvering to make USC and other Pac-12 teams more visible in advance of new football media rights negotiations that are coming ever closer (next year, which is just one year away).
When one considers whether Riley will help the Pac-12 as a whole, not just USC, the media sphere is where one can find many reasons to support a positive outcome for the conference
On Sunday, the Trojans ended the carousel. Not officially, of course. There are plenty of vacancies remaining. But for all intents and purposes, the comatose colossus at the corner of Figueroa and Exposition has awoken — and it just won the hiring cycle.
In fact, USC smacked a walk-off home run.
Assuming they touch home and dot the i’s with Lincoln Riley, the Trojans have hired a head coach who will instantly transform their program, the Pac-12 Conference and college football in the western third of the country.
MIKE BOHN HOME RUN
It was Lincoln Riley, not Matt Campbell. What an incredible plot twist.
When Oklahoma lost to Oklahoma State, Riley became available for contact. Had OU been in the Big 12 title game, this door would not have been open this soon.
Bohn was ready. He made his offer. He closed the sale.
ONE YEAR LATER, WE CAN ALL SEE WHY
USC is back baby. Lincoln Riley is gonna run the Pac-12 and compete for national championships in short order. Every quarterback in California is going to want to play for him which means all the skill talent will to. Just gotta build the lines and hire the right DC.
— Patrick Schmidt (@PatrickASchmidt) November 28, 2021
The moves sends shockwaves throughout college football landscape, not only because it brings more power and credibility to a lagging Pac-12 conference and pushes USC back towards the national spotlight, but also because the hire came seemingly out of nowhere.
The less taxing Pac-12 also gives Riley a much easier path to the College Football Playoff over the Big 12 and eventually the cut-throat SEC; Oklahoma and Texas were slated to joined the premier college football conference starting in 2025.
Riley will inherit a USC team – particularly on offense – that’s been depleted of high-end talent over the last few seasons.