A typo in the original version has been corrected.
NORMAN, Okla. (KFOR) – The University of Oklahoma’s President, Athletic Director, and new interim head football coach addressed concerns about the Sooner’s football future, after the former head coach announced he’s going to be the head coach for the University of Southern California.
“I’m just kind of, I guess worried,” OU student Aidan Callahan told News 4.
“I didn’t know what to think,” said another student, Cole Petering.
“It just seems like the whole college football universe sort of descended on the state of Oklahoma in a 24-hour period,” said Berry Tramel, a legend in Oklahoma sports journalism.
The lingering question on Monday, after former OU Head Coach Lincoln Riley’s unexpected announcement about parting with OU the night before, is why?
“I personally think Lincoln Riley left because he didn’t want to coach in the SEC,” said Tramel. “USC offers him the same, in a lot of ways, the exact job he had at Oklahoma.”
Tramel blames much of Riley’s decision on OU’s choice to leave The Big 12.
However, OU Athletic Director Joe Castiglione isn’t sold.
“We talked about that with him. He was engaged in our thoughts about it. And he was definitely on board with it,” said Castiglione during the press conference.
Both OU President Joe Harroz and Castiglione confirmed the news was a surprise.
“Yesterday, Joe Castiglione and myself were in conversations couple weeks about extending contract all the resources to be successful in The Big 12 and SEC and by yesterday afternoon, we found out just before you all did that Riley made the decision to go to USC,” said Harroz.
Minutes later, the pair decided to phone a friend for help. Five years after his retirement, former head coach Bob Stoops is once again at the helm, at least in the interim.
“We called him and he just said, ‘How can I help?’ Same thing he always says,” said Castiglione.
“I’m going to be here as long as they need me. Until they find the next new head coach, whoever that may be,” said Stoops.
Stoops called the whole thing a bump in the road. He said the Sooners are still in good shape.
“This place is in a hell of a lot better shape than it was in December 1998,” he said. “This job is going to attract the very best in the coaching world and they’re already lined up and calling.”
Stoops also addressed another concern: recruitment. Soon after Riley’s announcement, several key recruits started backing out.
“I promise you, every kid on OU’s commitment list heard from all kinds of schools Sunday and Monday,” said Tramel. “It’s a hard sell. ‘Hey, we don’t know who your coach is going to be but you’ll like him!’ Kids don’t like that.”
However, Tramel thinks that’s another key area where Stoops will come in handy.
“That’s why Stoops is so valuable. Any other interim coach wouldn’t have as much cache’ with people,” Tramel said.
Meanwhile, as fans anxiously await, Harroz and Castiglione both promise the process will be quick and the future still looks bright.
“This is really a moment in time that helps define whatever our next chapter is going to be and I’m so excited that chapter is going to be another great one in the history of Oklahoma,” said Castiglione.
“I think OU has stood the test of time and I think really it’s not going to be the end of OU football,” said Sam Soule, a student at OU.
Tramel believes the Sooners will have their head coach named within a week.
Coach Stoops is still on track to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame next week in Las Vegas.