USC will drop Lincoln Riley in 2024, Paul Finebaum says

Lincoln Riley will be out at USC at the end of the 2024 football season, according to a stark prediction made by Paul Finebaum.
Lincoln Riley is just 19-8 in two seasons as USC football coach, and his third time out could be his last, Paul Finebaum suggests.
Lincoln Riley is just 19-8 in two seasons as USC football coach, and his third time out could be his last, Paul Finebaum suggests. / Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports

Lincoln Riley has been considered one of the best younger head coaches in college football, but he's just 19-8 overall after two years at USC, and one prominent analyst suggests his third season with the Trojans program will be his last.

"I don't think Lincoln Riley has a path back," Paul Finebaum said on WJOX in Birmingham.

"It's not a matter of wishing him bad luck out there. That's already happening. And if you look at the reality, the number of players that are bailing on Lincoln Riley in Southern California is startling."

Finebaum added: "I've always thought he was a good coach, especially on the offensive side. But I don't think anybody today views him in that same realm. And quite frankly, I think he'll be out of Southern California at the end of the season."

Riley appeared to be a subject of conversation, if unspoken, at Oklahoma when the school celebrated its official membership in the SEC earlier this month.

Sooners athletic director Joe Castiglione appeared to throw some shade at Riley with his remarks about coaches' enthusiasm about joining the conference.

"I will tell you, without reservation, every coach that we talked to was excited. And you know what? The ones that weren't aren't here anymore.," he said. "You either gotta accept it or not. This is Oklahoma. Get with it, or get on with it."

OU president Joe Harroz said in response: "We call that a mic drop."

In reference to that event, Finebaum said: "What we all sensed was real. This wasn't just 'beat up the coach'... This was even more stark, because Lincoln Riley was popular. He had taken the program to three playoffs and a couple of Heisman Trophy winners. And he just clearly tucked and ran."

He added: "Running away from something is probably the worst look. And that's how they feel about him. And this is an incredibly proud program that has been at the pinnacle of the sport."

For his part, Riley specifically denied that OU's looming conference realignment was a motivation for his leaving the school, shortly after arriving in Los Angeles to take the Trojans head coaching position.

USC won 11 games in Riley's debut season and quarterback Caleb Williams won the Heisman Trophy behind a stellar offense, but the Trojans' inability to stop opponents cost the program what appeared to be an inevitable College Football Playoff berth.

A bad loss to Utah in the Pac-12 title game put Southern Cal out of the semifinal and a loss to Tulane in the Cotton Bowl followed that.

Then, USC went just 8-5 last season behind another poor defensive effort. This offseason, Riley replaced Alex Grinch with D'Anton Lynn as coordinator after the latter coached UCLA's defense to a No. 10 national ranking a year ago.

This isn't the first time Finebaum has delivered some harsh criticism of Riley and his job at USC.

Weeks ago, Finebaum used his daily show to suggest that "It's over" for Riley at USC when looking ahead to the schedule the team will play in his Big Ten debut this fall.

And in comments to The Matt Barrie Show last season, the ESPN analyst and long-time college football commentator called the Trojans a "complete disaster" under Riley.

“I don’t know that I’ve seen a worse coaching job by anyone than Lincoln Riley this year,” Finebaum said after USC's loss to UCLA, the team's fifth defeat in six games.

“It’s a complete disaster, and quite frankly, he outta pack up. I don’t really see what his path is moving forward.”

“Maybe, Lincoln, you oughta look in the mirror,” he said. “Maybe you’re just a total fraud as a coach.” 

Related: What CFB teams will jump, slump in 2024 realignment



More college football from SI: Top 25 Rankings | Schedule | Teams

Follow College Football HQ: Bookmark | Rankings | Picks

James Parks


James Parks is the founder and publisher of College Football HQ. He previously covered football for 247Sports and CBS Interactive. College Football HQ joined the Sports Illustrated Fannation Network in 2022.