Lincoln Riley shocked the college football world on Sunday with a stunning decision to leave Oklahoma and take over the program at USC.
After weeks of speculation that Riley could potentially leave Norman for LSU, he starkly denied he would be headed to Baton Rouge just moments after the Sooners fell to Oklahoma State on Saturday night in Stillwater.
Now, after a whirlwind 24 hours that has seen the Sooners go from a win away from the Big 12 Championship Game to suddenly without a coach, Riley has released a statement on his decision.
“My time at OU has included some of the most special years of my life and my family’s lives,” Riley said in a statement released by OU. “I had so many great memories and made so many great friends that we’ll take with us forever. A lot of things that we were a part of here, I’m incredibly proud of — the success on the field, the success off the field, the players. Proud of the staff. Proud of the way we worked so well with the university and our administration. We’ve been able to have two phenomenal leaders in President Harroz and Joe Castiglione, and they have been everything I could ever ask for in this role and more.
“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. It’s not going to change in the SEC, it’s not going to change with another head coach. It’s stood the test of time and it’s going to continue to do so. 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.
“We’ll leave here with fond memories. It’ll be very difficult to say goodbye to Norman, but it will always be a part of our family, our history. I’ll be a Sooner fan as long as I live — a fan of this state, of this university and the people here. I love them all very much.”
The kind words about Oklahoma on the way out surely won’t offer much solace to a fan base that has been blind sided by the bombshell news of the day.
Time will tell if the wounds of Riley’s move out west will heal. But for now, he will begin a new venture and the Sooners are left wondering where the program goes from here.