Yet, with Oklahoma’s season over and the Dallas Cowboys job (among others) likely to open as soon as today, the proverbial stuff is about to hit the fan, so it’s worth revisiting one more time.
In a post-Peach Bowl debriefing with the OU media, here’s what Riley said Sunday:
“I’ve told (recruits) the same thing that I’ve told you guys: This is where I want to coach and this is where I want to coach for a long time. I’m not ever going to say never because I don’t ever want to be that guy, but it’s hard to envision me wanting to leave this place unless something about our setup here changed that I thought wasn’t good for the program or our future.”
That is indeed the same frustratingly vague, admirably honest answer Riley has given throughout his 3-year head coaching career, with one difference (to my eyes, at least). Riley put real-world parameters on what it would take to get him eyeing greener pastures: “…unless something about our setup here changed that I thought wasn’t good for the program or our future.”
Oklahoma has been famously stable at its top-level leadership positions, which is largely the reason Bob Stoops turned down numerous NFL opportunities to remain in Norman for 18 seasons. Joe Castiglione has been in place as OU’s athletics director since 1998, and David Boren served as OU’s president from 1994 through 2018. James Gallogly lasted just 10 months as Boren’s successor, and Oklahoma currently has an interim president, Joseph Harroz.
But the idea Oklahoma will suddenly hire a president that would force Riley out is as unlikely as a Lincoln Riley offense getting shutout for a month straight. Oklahoma boasts the winningest program in college football since World War II. For everything the University of Oklahoma is or is not, the culture on campus is one that does not hinder Sooner football, and it’s hard to imagine that changing.
Given that, it’s hard to imagine Riley leaving OU in the foreseeable future, barring Riley getting restless, winning a national title, hitting his head on the Playoff ceiling enough times that he realizes he can’t win a title in Norman, or some combination therein.
Still, the questions will remain. Four-star running back Jase McClellan flipped from OU to Alabama earlier this month after two years as a Sooner commit, reportedly due to skepticism that Riley will remain in Norman for the duration of his career. (Or, at least Nick Saban’s leveraging of that underlying skepticism.)
Rival recruiters will continue hammering that possibility, and so Riley will keep giving that stock answer. The difference here is, Riley could now be days away from having to give it Jerry Jones himself.
As always, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest.