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But when he announced he was leaving the Oklahoma Sooners to take the USC job, things weren’t quite so rosy.
Angry Sooners fans weren’t shy in voicing their displeasure with Riley’s decision, but according to a new interview, some went much too far. In an interview with Graham Bensinger released on Wednesday, Riley believed that his family would be in danger if they stayed in Norman any longer.
“I didn’t care about the house, I didn’t care about anything else,” Riley explained in the interview. “Just their safety and we thought we were going to— because we wanted the girls to be able to finish out school, just because the semester was almost over. And as that stuff transpired, we said, ‘No, we gotta get ’em the hell out of here as fast as we can.’”
Riley doesn’t harbor any ill will towards the vast majority of Sooners’ fans, but said there were some who went overboard with their anger.
“… 95% percent of the fans and people out there at Oklahoma or anybody else are great,” Riley continued. “You typically always have that percentage that, at times, take it too far. Obviously this was one of those instances.”
Over The Top Reaction To Lincoln Riley Decision
Oklahoma fans were justifiably frustrated when Riley left for Los Angeles. But threatening someone’s family is never remotely acceptable, regardless of the situation.
It’s understandable to be upset that a top coach is leaving for another program, but Riley’s decision makes a world of sense when viewed dispassionately. While his contract details aren’t clear, it’s a near-certainty that he was given a massive pay raise to come to LA. Most rumors have suggested he’s making roughly $10 million per year.
It’s hard to turn down a big jump in income, even when you’re already wealthy.
Riley also now has an opportunity to revamp one of college football’s most storied programs after essentially a decade of underperformance. USC under Pete Carroll was a juggernaut, winning national championships, Heisman Trophies and producing dozens of NFL players. A series of poor coaching hires pushed the Trojans to the periphery of college football however, as the SEC dominated the 2010’s.
All the ingredients to make USC a perennial contender are still there though, as Riley’s quick turnaround indicates. Oklahoma, while also an elite program, faces stiffer recruiting hurdles, and doesn’t have the same big money boosters.
Likely though, Riley saw an opportunity to make a whole bunch of money and move from Norman, Oklahoma to Palos Verdes.
Threatening his family’s lives for a decision millions of people would make is ridiculous. And unfortunately for college football, not surprising.