Just 48 hours ago, USC fans were walking out of the Coliseum hanging their heads after a 35-31 loss to No. 12 BYU.
Today, the Coliseum radiated a different energy as USC officially welcomed Lincoln Riley as its head football coach after a three-month search.
The Spirit of Troy played the USC fight song, and by its conclusion, two hectic days ended with the introduction of Riley as the next head coach of the USC football team.
“It was never our goal to change the landscape of college football with one of the biggest moves in the history of the game, but we did exactly that,” USC athletic director Mike Bohn said.
Bohn’s fiery opening statement set the tone for the rest of the hour.
“It demonstrates that we’re committed to winning championships. It says that USC is the premier destination for the best and brightest,” Bohn said.
The hiring of Riley has launched USC back into the national conversation and could potentially reorientate the axis of power in college football. Multiple four and five-star recruits have already decommitted from Oklahoma, and Riley confirmed that members of his staff— namely defensive coordinator Alex Grinch— will be joining him in L.A.
“It sends a loud and powerful message to the rest of the college football world that this sleeping giant is wide awake,” Bohn said.
Bohn continued to laud Riley’s achievements and said the former Oklahoma coach was, “always USC’s number one choice.” Amid a carousel of coaching rumors, Riley’s name was never linked to USC, but Folt expected the best out of Bohn, and Bohn knew Riley was that guy.
University president Carol Folt and USC Board of Trustees Chair Rick Caruso echoed Bohn’s statements. Folt described Riley as a “unicorn” in a forest— USC found the unicorn.
“He is the perfect choice for USC,” Folt said. “Honestly what made Coach Riley stand out among all the candidates for me was the parts about him that are not really on the paper. It’s who he is as a person and the inspired leadership he brings to the team.”
Finding the unicorn took Bohn and Chief of Staff Brandon Sosna compiling over 400 pages of insightful data in addition to making a 50-slide presentation on USC athletics, culture and impact.
All the compiling and slides paid off the moment Riley chose USC as his new home.
Riley’s decision to leave Oklahoma was shocking considering all the success and accolades he amassed in Norman.
“This was the toughest decision of my life to come here,” Riley said while visibly choked up. “Those people there were tremendous to me. That’s one of the best college football programs in the entire country and has been forever and will continue to be.”
But now, Riley said he is ready to get to work immediately. With early signing day just over two weeks away (Dec. 15), Riley is ready to “hit the ground running.”
He said he believes he can accomplish a lot within those two weeks, turning behind him to look at the Los Angeles landscape and Coliseum field— “not a bad place to start,” Riley said.
Trojan fans and players, current and former, erupted on Twitter after the hiring yesterday, but Bohn said he is happiest for the current players. Riley had a chance to speak with the team before the press conference, and that the energy in the room was electric.
Perhaps Riley said it best himself when he stepped up to the podium today: “Wow, is this real? Unbelievable.”