Lincoln Riley sets the record straight as USC rebuilds in earnest while embracing steep expectations

 Lincoln Riley has heard them all. You know, the real reasons he supposedly bolted Oklahoma for USC so suddenly late last year.

The climb up the SEC hill was to too big for him with the Sooners transitioning from the Big 12. It’s easier to win in a trending-downward Pac-12 than either the Big 12 or SEC.

“I heard the whole SEC narrative,” Riley told CBS Sports. “To me, the SEC has nothing to do with it. It’s all about the program that you’re at and the position you think you can get to.”

The Trojans’ new coach then launched into his real reasons. Never mind that he is taking over a 4-8 program whose most recent national success is 15 years old.

To get to the top, you’re going to have to beat everyone anyway, Riley says. Why not start on the ground floor and take on a new challenge filled with palm trees, sunshine and youth in your hip pocket while on a career path that still looks like an endless runway?

“I don’t look at it like where I want to retire, trying to set up stability [at one place],” Riley said. “I’m 38. I want to experience different things. I want to win. This opportunity is so good, how can you not do it?”

Those words will no doubt grind teeth from Norman to the Oklahoma statehouse where Bob Stoops recently reminded legislators that no one is bigger than the Sooners.

“Lincoln Riley didn’t invent OU football,” Stoops said.

No, he did not, but college football spun off its axis a bit when Riley chose — at this point in his career — to reinvent USC football.

Author: Lucy Green