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How Lincoln Riley's Move to USC Impacts Arizona State, Pac-12

When Lincoln Riley accepted the head coaching position at USC, nobody truly anticipated the dominoes that would fall in both the short and long term of his decision to lead the Trojans moving forward.
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After relieving head coach Clay Helton of his duties during a 2021 season where the program wouldn't gain enough wins to become bowl eligible, the USC Trojans knew they needed a splash. 

For what felt like an eternity, USC was a powerhouse in the world of college football. Superb location, top-tier athletes continually churning through the program and a rich history molded with consistent success made the men of Troy must-watch television. 

Coaches such as Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian were unable to deliver on the splash USC desired. 

Now, there's a new man on the diving board. 

Lincoln Riley became one of the biggest hires across the sport in recent memory, perhaps since Urban Meyer once packed his bags for Ohio State, while simultaneously becoming likely the most hated man anywhere close to the state of Oklahoma. 

Riley's sudden move to USC has been nothing short of controversial from a multitude of angles. 

However, the Trojans now have their guy, a coach widely considered to be one of the brightest offensive minds in the business. Riley's success at Oklahoma (both on and off the field) merging with the aforementioned desirables already in place at USC could reestablish the Trojans as one of the top programs in the country once again. 

At least Riley thinks so.

However, Riley's newfound leadership of the Trojans also impacts the surrounding college football landscape as well. 

Impact of Lincoln Riley's Move

Oklahoma Sooners

Let's start with Oklahoma, which now find themselves out of a Big 12 title game for the first time in years with no head coach moving forward. 

The Sooners, set to join the SEC relatively soon, now attempt to pick up the pieces left by Riley almost overnight in a move that shocked most everyone in Norman. 

"It really blindsided us all, coaches included," Oklahoma defensive lineman Isaiah Thomas said

"It kind of hurt honestly just because of how Coach Riley portrayed himself in the media saying stuff like 'I know where I belong' and all that."

The metaphorical knife many Sooners feel in their backs only worsens when Oklahoma's recent loss of recruits since news of Riley dashing town is evaluated. 

Four top recruits in Oklahoma's 2022 class have announced the decision to decommit since Monday, while four additional high-end recruits in the 2023 class have revoked their commitments as well. 

This includes highly coveted quarterback Malachi Nelson, who announced he would be following Riley to USC. 

Needless to say, the Sooners are scrambling quickly to salvage whatever they can of the future. 

While some have suggested Riley's departure would set Oklahoma back 10 years in terms of progress, that may not exactly be the case. The Sooners will still be able to recruit at a high level, with a talented roster already in place and a list of strong head coach candidates that could still steer the program in the right direction. 

However, there's no denying the stain of uncertainty on Oklahoma's future on and off the field, especially when the schedule gets undeniably tougher when the move to the SEC becomes official. 


Perhaps the biggest winner is the Pac-12 conference, which hasn't had a team in the College Football Playoffs since Washington in 2016. 

The conference, for lack of a better term, has been especially weak in recent memory. The Pac-12 has been dominated mostly by the Oregon Ducks lately, although no CFP recognition has been gained by their performance. 

Although the Pac-12 had been hoping for some sort of national success, recent moves by the SEC to add Oklahoma and Texas and the formation of an alliance between the Pac-12, ACC and Big Ten add even more pressure for the conference to produce something greater than what's already been achieved. 

Enter Riley, whose presence at USC brings with it hopes and aspirations of returning national championship promise in the honeymoon stage of his arrival. 

A more competitive USC makes for a more competitive Pac-12, increasing the conference's prestige and adding another hat into the College Football Playoff ring. 

The best part? With the Trojans playing in the South, the Pac-12 could easily conceive more conference title games with their two heavyweights (and others, of course) vying for a title and possible spot in the CFP. 

The Pac-12's current broadcasting deal ends in the spring of 2024, giving Riley a few years to settle his feet and make good on his promise to turn USC into a football mecca again. 

That's music to the ears of the Pac-12 from a competitive and financial perspective. 

Arizona State

Prior to the 2021 season, there was a strong feeling surrounding Arizona State that this season had to be special. 

For reasons ranging from potential punishments from the ongoing NCAA investigation to a boatload of talented seniors ready to leave following the season, many believed this year to be the final moments before another Pac-12 title window closed. 

Another reason for those beliefs was USC's window currently being shut, leaving opportunity for teams such as Arizona State and Utah to take advantage of the Trojans not being in the hunt. 

Now, with Riley's arrival, it truly feels as if the Sun Devils let their best opportunity to compete in a Pac-12 championship game slip through their grasp. USC, already improving on stellar recruiting classes, probably won't be down for long. 

The Trojans figure to make life hard once again for Arizona State to achieve a goal that's eluded head coach Herm Edwards since his arrival in 2018. 

Will we see any immediate ripple effects for the Sun Devils? Likely not.

However, if USC returns to prominence and begins to dominate the Pac-12 South, change would almost certainly be coming to Arizona State sooner rather than later. 

Other Impacted Areas

Riley had already established a connection of recruiting players out of Los Angeles, and that's already been evident in his short time at USC. One does have to wonder if Riley can really get a grip on the recruiting trail in his backyard, a place where schools such as Arizona State love to focus their recruiting efforts. 

Additionally (on a positive note, at least for USC), ticket sales have been impacted in a great way, especially after an empty Coliseum was noticed too often for the Trojans this year. 

The current opening at Oklahoma also means the Sooners will be looking for their next leader at head coach, likely prying a talented play-caller from another team. 

With names such as Cincinnati's Luke Fickell, Clemson's Brent Venables, and Iowa State's Matt Campbell among other top names, one of those programs will then need to find their next replacement for whomever is picked for the Oklahoma job. 

With a move of this magnitude, there's no overstating the corners and crevices Riley's introduction to USC could find down the road.