Lincoln Riley's move from Oklahoma to USC 'genius,' Heisman Trophy winner says

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Lincoln Riley got some praise for his decision to jet for USC and take the head coaching reins after a few years at Oklahoma from former NFL star and Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III.

Griffin, who won the Heisman Trophy in 2011 and had one win over Oklahoma during his collegiate career, dubbed Riley a “genius” for getting out as the Sooners are only a few years away from joining the SEC.

NORMAN, OK – NOVEMBER 20:  Head coach Lincoln Riley of the Oklahoma Sooners greets players before a game against the Iowa State Cyclones at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on November 20, 2021 in Norman, Oklahoma.  The Sooners won 28-21.
(Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

NORMAN, OK – OCTOBER 16:  Head coach Lincoln Riley works with quarterback Spencer Rattler #7 and quarterback Caleb Williams #13 of the Oklahoma Sooners before a game against the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on October 16, 2021 in Norman, Oklahoma.  Oklahoma won 52-31.
(Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

Riley said his decision was “personal” in hopes of taking on a new challenge elsewhere.

“Leaving OU was probably the most difficult decision of my life. OU is one of the best college football programs in the country, and it has been forever. That’s not going to change. It’s not going to change in the SEC, it’s not going to change with another head coach. It’s stood the test of time, and it’s going to continue to do so. This was a personal decision solely based on my willingness to go take on a new challenge, and I felt like it was the right opportunity for me and my family to do that,” he said.

“We’ll leave here with fond memories. It’ll be very difficult to say goodbye to Norman, but it will always be a part of our family, our history. I’ll be a Sooner fan as long as I live — a fan of this state, of this university and the people here. I love them all very much.”

ARLINGTON, TEXAS – DECEMBER 30: Head coach Lincoln Riley of the Oklahoma Sooners celebrates the Cotton Bowl Championship win with his team after defeating Florida Gators 55-20 at AT&T Stadium on December 30, 2020 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

Riley took over as Oklahoma’s head coach before the 2017 season. He led the Sooners to three College Football Playoff appearances but never managed to win a game in the tournament. His teams saw the emergence of two Heisman Trophy winners – Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray. Both players were No. 1 draft picks as well.

He was 55-10 as a head coach and won four Big 12 championships.

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