NORMAN, Okla. (KFOR) – All eyes are on Norman as University of Oklahoma fans await a decision on the next head coach for the football program.
It’s been a whirlwind the past 72 to 96 hours with Lincoln Riley’s sudden departure and everything that’s happened with recruits decommitting and current players jumping into the transfer portal.
Some people are still expressing optimism about the future by putting faith in OU Athletic Director Joe Castiglione to make the right hire and stabilize the situation. Others are still trying to figure out why it all went down the way that it did.
“It’s such a crippling blow to the program,” said Al Eschbach, an Oklahoma sports radio personality.
“Just relax,” said Gabe Ikard, former OU center. “The sky is not falling.”
It’s an unprecedented time for the university’s football program. Now former head coach Lincoln Riley has departed for the University of Southern California, making him one of three coaches in program history to leave the program for another job without being fired or resigning first.
“There’s so much pressure for OU not to hit a single, not a double, not a triple, a homerun hire,” Eschbach said.
“Oklahoma’s got to move quickly,” Ikard said. “They need to stabilize things.”
The other two coaches left in the 1940s and the 1970s. This one happened roughly 72 hours ago on Sunday afternoon. Riley was formally announced as the head coach of USC in a Monday afternoon news conference. He got choked up speaking on his time at the University of Oklahoma.
“Toughest decision of my life to come here,” Riley said at the podium before stopping to collect himself. “Those people there were tremendous to me.”
Riley claimed he learned of USC’s interest late Saturday night or early Sunday morning after the Bedlam loss, slept on it and made a decision. He said it all came together quickly. KFOR spoke with sports agent Kelli Masters on Tuesday. She could not speak on camera due to work travel, but she did answer our question regarding Riley’s statement. She said it’s possible, but not probable, that Riley first spoke with USC the night of Bedlam. She said that “complex deals like this do not come together overnight.” She also said “likely his agent was handling all communication and negotiations over the past weeks and months.”
“Lincoln, you think we’re all fools like that?” Eschbach said. “C’mon, man.”
Eschbach talked more on the multiple recruits dropping from the 2022 and 2023 classes, along with current players Spencer Rattler and Jadon Haselwood hopping into the transfer portal.
“What this will do to the Oklahoma football program in the future remains to be seen,” Eschbach said.
“The way I see it, is if a coach doesn’t want to be here, all right, see ya,” Ikard said.
Ikard said he was at first shocked and upset by the move but has moved on with the “next man up” mentality. He said he is putting his faith in Castiglione to make the right hire and stabilize the program he once represented on the field.
“Whoever they announce as the next head coach, we’ve got to rally around that man,” Ikard said. “I just hope he gets him quickly. Because time is of the essence right now.”
Castiglione said in Monday’s news conference that they do understand the magnitude of the situation and are moving quickly. Ikard said he’d be surprised if a coach was not hired by the end of the week.