NORMAN, Okla. (KFOR) – As Sooner fans prepare to see OU’s new head coach back on the sidelines this weekend, the team’s former coach is speaking out about his abrupt departure from Norman.
Following a heartbreaking loss to the Cowboys in Bedlam in November, the Sooner faithful were dealt another blow.
One day after the loss, then-OU head coach Lincoln Riley announced that he was leaving OU immediately to become the head football coach at the University of Southern California.
The move led to several assistant coaches following Riley to USC, and OU officials scrambled to assemble a staff before the Sooners headed to the Alamo Bowl.
Now that the dust has settled, OU is preparing for its first season under new head football coach Brent Venables.
In the article, Riley talks about some of the memories he created in Norman and how many great come-from-behind victories he saw from the Sooners.
“I have no regrets about the effort we poured into the program. The staff was completely invested in making OU Football better each day. We certainly weren’t perfect, but we gave it everything we had, every single week. Our staff wouldn’t have had the highest winning percentage in the history of the OU program without that effort,” Riley wrote.
He also addressed the sudden move to USC.
Riley said he expected to end his coaching career at OU, but was ‘immediately intrigued’ when his agent called and said USC was interested in him.
“Everything that happened next was a blur: I jumped on a Zoom with USC officials, I informed our athletic director, Joe Castiglione, of my decision and then, in one of the most difficult moments of my life and career, I stood in front of our Oklahoma team to let them know that I was leaving. I saw the immediate consequences of my decision on the faces of our players. I really hated the timing, because our team was coming off a gut-wrenching loss, but with the recent rule changes in college football impacting the recruiting cycle, it certainly affected the timeline and made a difficult transition even tougher. Shortly after that meeting, USC announced the news, and my family and I were on our way to Los Angeles,” Riley wrote.
He said that if he could go back, he would do some things differently.
“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,” he said.
When asked why he decided to leave Oklahoma, Riley said that, “USC was simply the right job at the right time for me and for my family.”