USC Coach Lincoln Riley Responds To Rumors That He Dodged The SEC

As Texas and Oklahoma each celebrated their inclusion in the SEC, former OU coach Lincoln Riley might’ve had a different reaction …

Riley’s offseason departure from Norman, coming off a much-anticipated agreement for Oklahoma to join the SEC in 2025, prompted talks on whether the coaching protégé dodged college football’s stiffest conference by moving to USC / Pac-12.

“I heard the whole SEC narrative,” Riley said in an interview with CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd, denying any apprehension over the eventual exodus out of the Big 12 for Oklahoma.

Riley chalked the move to forgo the SEC and head to LA to a strong offer by the Trojans.

“To me, the SEC has nothing to do with it. It’s all about the program that you’re at and the position you think you can get to.”

He admitted that his personnel back in OU wasn’t capable of getting the job done.

“I’ve walked into four playoffs, and I’ve never had better than maybe the third-best roster [of the four semifinal teams],” Riley admitted. 

“Every other year, we were four of four. We had really good rosters, but they weren’t the same. … I can’t imagine that there could be a setting that we could build a better roster than we can here.”

After also facing rumors of a potential move to the NFL (Dallas Cowboys), Riley’s pivot to join SC was, holistically, the easiest path forward for the coach.

But Riley remains destined to revive the USC Trojans back to a primetime college football brand.

With a fast start to recruiting and a powerhouse program to steer, Riley’s hold on the Pac-12 seems like a safer bet than dethroning Alabama, Georgia or any of the high-caliber programs in the SEC.

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Follow along on Twitter: @AlejandroAveela

Written by Alejandro Avila

3 Comments

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  1. He took the easy…and probably the smartest way out. He was not going to upgrade his roster to the extent that he needed to, so why stay. Make the move while you’re still considered “elite” and chuckle all the way to the bank. If he wins, that’s a plus. If not, well, he was going to be no better than 4th or 5th in the SEC anyway. Wise move…but…definitely trying to dodge the bullet.

  2. I’ll admit dodging the SEC might be part of the reasoning, but so what? The real issue is that the PAC-12 has been a dumpster fire for several years now. If Riley gets SC to the CFP a few times we’ll start recruiting like Alabama. Winning the PAC-12 will be far easier and getting a conference championship and an occasional CFP spot is what it’s all about. It doesn’t matter if you win a cupcake conference, it’s all about the exposure that goes a long way towards the building of the program. I think the softness of the current PAC-12 is what Riley thought about more than the toughness of the SEC scaring him off.

  3. Smart move. I always said that USC should be in the CFP every year. The talent in California and who do they have to recruit against? UCLA, Arizona, Stanford, etc? C’mon.

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