USC has finally found their next head football coach.
According to sources familiar with the situation at the University of Southern California, the Trojans football program is expected to named former Oklahoma Sooners coach Lincoln Riley as their next head football coach.
USC fired former coach Clay Helton early in the season and Donte Williams was named the interim head coach in his place. Since then, the Trojans have had one of their worst seasons of this century. The 17-time national championship program is currently 4-6 on the year and will play their final game of the regular season at Cal next week.
Get Southern California news, weather forecasts and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC LA newsletters.
There have been a bevy of names linked to the USC job over the last few months, as the head coach of the Trojans is still considered one of the premiere jobs in college football. Rumors had been swirling for weeks with names like James Franklin, Deion Sanders, Urban Meyer, Pete Caroll, Luke Fickell and more. As recently as Friday, current Iowa State coach Matt Campbell was considered the favorite to take over the Trojans.
Meanwhile, Riley was leading the Sooners to another 10-win season and has won four Big 12 titles in his five years at Oklahoma. He has also appeared in the College Football Playoff three times. Riley finishes with a record of 55-10 in his five seasons with the Sooners and coached back-to-back Heisman Trophy winners in quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
Riley was seen as a quarterback guru, and was even a frontrunner to take over as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys after Jerry Jones fired Jason Garrett following the 2019 season. Riley's success with quarterbacks is likely a reason why USC athletic director Mike Bohn targeted him to take over the program. Freshman quarterback Jaxson Dart has taken over the starting job in recent weeks and is seen as a potential Heisman Trophy candidate in his own right. Bohn likely wanted a young, quarterback-friendly coach that could help Dart's growth and maturation in the coming years.
Get Los Angeles's latest local news on crime, entertainment, weather, schools, COVID, cost of living and more. Here's your go-to source for today's LA news.
Riley, 38, took over the Sooners program at the age of 33 from Bob Stoops. Stoops will reportedly coach Oklahoma in their upcoming bowl game as they look for their next head coach. Riley was linked to the open coaching job at LSU, but on Saturday after the team's 37-33 loss to Oklahoma State he told reporters, "I'm not going to be the next coach at LSU." Notably, he did not mention USC in his remarks.
USC released a statement Sunday evening, confirming the reports of Riley's hiring:
"We are ecstatic to announce Lincoln Riley as our next head coach and welcome his wife Caitlin and their daughters Sloan and Stella to the Trojan family," said Bohn. "Lincoln is the rarest combination of an extraordinary person and and elite football coach. His successes and offensive accolades as a head coach the past five years are astonishing. Lincoln will recruit relentlessly, develop his players on and off the field, and implement a strong culture in which the program will operate with the highest level of integrity and professionalism.
"Lincoln is universally considered one of the brightest and most talented football coaches in the nation, and the fact that he chose USC is a testament to the strength of our brand, the power of the Trojan Family, and the leadership of our university. This is for our current players, our former players, our alumni, our fans, and our entire university community. Our time is now."
Riley also issued a statement:
"I am truly excited to come to USC and join the Trojan Family as its new head football coach. USC has an unparalleled football tradition with tremendous resources and facilities, and the administration has made a deep commitment to winning. I look forward to honoring that successful tradition and building on it. The pieces are in place for us to build the program back to where it should be and the fans expect it to be. We will work hard to develop a physical football team that is dominant on both lines of scrimmage, and has a dynamic balanced offense and a stout aggressive defense."
USC will have to pay a $4.5 million buyout to Oklahoma in order to get him out of his current contract, which runs through Jan. 31, 2026. Details of Stoops contract with the Trojans is not immediately known and is reportedly still being finalized.
The hiring of Riley will immediately bolster USC's standing on the recruiting trail.
After four-star running back Raleek Brown heard the news, the California-based running back who originally committed to playing for Riley at Oklahoma hinted he might change his mind and stay home to play for USC.
Brown is just one of many Oklahoma recruits who could flip to USC now that Riley is the new head coach of the Trojans. Additionally, Riley is known for his recruiting skills at Oklahoma across the country. That includes athletes from the west coast, the mountain region, the midwest and even the south. In his next two classes at Oklahoma, Riley has seven commits from California, Colorado, and Nevada.
A press conference to announce the hiring of Riley will take place at 3:00PM PT on Monday afternoon.