For the first time since 1999, Oklahoma is searching for a new coach after Lincoln Riley made a sudden and surprising move to leave for USC. It’s a monumental shift that promises to have wide-ranging ramifications for Riley, the Sooners, and beyond.
This is relatively uncharted territory for Oklahoma, though the blue-blood program has maintained historic levels of success throughout different coaching tenures. That tone resonated Sunday evening in a statement released by school athletic director Joe Castiglione in response to Riley’s departure.
“Oklahoma is one of the premier football programs and jobs in the country. Our storied history, annual pursuit of conference and national championships, tremendous fan support, beautiful facilities and quality of life combine to make this an incredible place to recruit to and coach, and we have begun the search for our next great leader,” said Castiglione.
“When we met with the team today, I communicated to our players that our program is about them,” Castiglione continued. “It will always be bigger than any one person. And just as it’s always been, Oklahoma football is positioned for greatness.”
Riley’s interaction with the team on Sunday, one day after a 37-33 loss to Oklahoma State that knocked the Sooners out of the Big 12 Championship Game race, was reportedly brief.
Castiglione thanked Riley for his seven seasons with the program — two of which he spent as offensive coordinator and five as head coach — calling the “decision to promote him … a no-brainer, and he certainly lived up to expectations.”
Legendary coach Bob Stoops, Riley’s predecessor, will serve as the team’s interim coach through the bowl season. Among the lengthy list of candidates who could be in line to fill one of college football‘s top vacancies is reportedly Arizona Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury, though there are several obstacles that make that potential marriage unlikely.