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A lot of people claimed, mostly spurned Sooner fans, that former Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley left Norman for sunny Los Angeles because he didn’t want to compete in the toughest college football conference that is the SEC.
Of course, that’s nonsense as anyone in their right mind that found themselves in that position would have made the exact same choice as Riley did. But one can’t help to think that maybe that choice was made a bit easier if Riley knew of USC’s plans to bolt the Pac-12 for the Big 10.
While the Big 10 will be a tougher conference to win on a regular basis with Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State on the schedule more times than not, the Trojans’ chances of making the College Football Playoff significantly increased by being in the Big 10. They’ll have a better strength of schedule and more revenue that could go Riley’s way via bonuses and whatnot.
So we asked Matt Zemek, editor of TrojansWire.com what he thought of the idea of Riley possibly knowing of USC’s departure plans when he was hired back in November. Just like Lee Corso, Zemek says not so fast my friend!
Industry insiders think there’s no way Riley could have known about this. That’s probably true, especially when you realize that USC Athletic Director Mike Bohn and UCLA Athletic Director Martin Jarmond reportedly didn’t talk over the phone about any of this until two weeks before the deal was announced, so that would be in the ballpark of June 15 (mid-June). This was kept quiet on a lot of levels, so to that extent, Riley was not informed.
However, Riley would still be at Oklahoma (most likely) if the Sooners had not moved to the SEC with Texas. That move upset Riley and created a new political situation at Oklahoma which Riley did not like. That move — OU and Texas to the SEC — is when rumors of USC and UCLA going to the Big Ten began to emerge. To that extent, Riley had a general awareness of the state of play. He probably just wasn’t informed by Bohn about the machinations of a move being underway.
A lot of dominoes had to fall Riley’s way for him to land in the sweet spot he currently is in. Now the question is can he take full advantage of it with recruiting and eventual championships in whatever conference the Trojans are in? Everyone associated with USC is convinced Riley can.
But in the next couple of seasons and possibly beyond, Dan Lanning and the Oregon Ducks would also like to channel Coach Corso.
Not so fast my friend!