Oklahoma fans have not taken Lincoln Riley's departure to USC well. In the week-plus since Riley bolted the state for greener pastures, Sooners everywhere have been apoplectic. And mighty petty. It's time for the school's fans to just move on. Riley isn't coming back and they got a pretty good replacement.
Things have gotten downright nuts on Oklahoma message boards this week, with wild rumors and accusations flying at Riley and the assistant coaches he's bringing with him. Wild conspiracy theories about an affair and a lawsuit that would force USC to fire him ran rampant -- these kinds of rumors always run wild when a coach leaves a school. But for the most part there has just been a lot of petty vitriol aimed at a coach who opted to take a fantastic opportunity.
On Tuesday, Oklahoma state senator Bill Coleman proposed legislation that would name three inches of desolate road the "Lincoln Riley Highway." The spot is in the westbound lane of State Highway 325 in Oklahoma's panhandle. Here's what Coleman said about the bill.
When discussing his proposal, Coleman essentially said Riley was free to seek employment elsewhere but apparently felt entitled to rip him on the way out.
Riley didn't leave Oklahoma because he hated the place, he just clearly saw a better opportunity at USC. And why wouldn't he? He gets to live near the beach, and coach at a place with incredible football tradition in the heart of Los Angeles. USC recruits itself when it's run right and sits atop some of the most fertile recruiting grounds in the country. Pete Carroll showed that a competent coach can produce a national contender every year at USC.
Then there's another big factor: the advent of NIL money. If Riley gets the Trojans moving in the right direction, there could be an ocean of NIL opportunities for his players and potential recruits. It's an entirely different ballgame given where USC is located and what the future of college sports could look like.
On top of that, Riley is 38. If he was going to make a move it had to be now, not 10 years from now when he's more settled. He was excellent in five seasons at Oklahoma, leading the Sooners to a 55-10 record and four Big 12 titles. They were 10-2 in rivalry games during his tenure and reached the College Football Playoff three times. Everyone was having a great time winning all those games. Fans loved him. Now they hate him.
It's not like Oklahoma is suffering now. Brent Venables has long been a top head coaching candidate waiting for the right opportunity. He should do well in Norman. Some of Riley's staff will likely be staying to help the new coach and the transition to the new regime shouldn't be difficult. I expect the Sooners to once again compete for a Big 12 title next season.
This scenario is good for everyone. USC gets a potential generational coaching talent to turn around its sleeping giant of a program, Oklahoma gets a well-respected, defensive-minded head coach to lead it into the SEC and Riley gets three inches of windswept highway named after him. Everybody wins.
What I've seen from Oklahoma fans over the past week has been pretty awful. But as William Congreve so eloquently wrote, "Heav'n has no Rage, like Love to Hatred turn'd, Nor Hell a Fury, like a college football fanbase scorn'd." At least, I think that was the quote. I'll be honest there are a few years of college that are pretty hazy. Think I nailed it though.
Come on Oklahoma, it's time to get over this. You've got a new coach. Put your energy into supporting him, not worrying about your ex.