When Lincoln Riley said Saturday night that he wouldn't be LSU's next coach, Oklahoma fans exhaled.
A day later, Sooner Nation is in shock. Riley is leaving Oklahoma, but not for the SEC. He's headed to USC to be the next Trojans coach, a seismic move in an already historic college coaching carousel. Riley's hire is massive for USC, the Pac-12 and West Coast recruiting, and gives the program a jolt it has been lacking since the Pete Carroll era.
His stunning departure cuts deep for Oklahoma, which brought Riley in to galvanize its offense and then promoted him to follow a Hall of Famer in Bob Stoops. Riley, 38, delivered with four conference titles, three College Football Playoff appearances, four Associated Press poll top-seven finishes and a 55-10 record in Norman. He molded back-to-back Heisman Trophy winners in Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray as well as other standouts such as Jalen Hurts.
Like other schools, Oklahoma never expected to be looking for a new coach in this cycle. Coaches simply don't leave OU often. OU hasn't conducted a true coaching search since hiring Stoops in 1998. A coach hasn't left Oklahoma and coached the following season since Chuck Fairbanks departed for the New England Patriots after the 1972 college season.
Oklahoma is an A-list job by any measure. The Sooners have won 50 conference titles and seven national titles. They have dominated the Big 12 under Stoops and Riley. But the upcoming move to the SEC creates some unease around the program. For all the recent success Stoops and Riley had, neither could win a CFP game. Will Oklahoma remain an upper-crust college program when it joins the SEC?
Athletic director Joe Castiglione has been in his post since 1998 and is one of the nation's best and most respected administrators. OU also has made recent facilities upgrades, although it likely needs even stronger financial and resource commitments in the coming years to keep pace with the best in the SEC.
ESPN's Adam Schefter on Sunday reported that Oklahoma would target Arizona Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury, who came from Texas Tech, as a candidate to replace Riley. Here are some other names OU could consider.