Lincoln Riley professed his love for Oklahoma throughout the fall.
Oklahoma returned the sentiment on Tuesday.
OU got Riley off to a Happy New Year when the school announced a contract extension for its second-year head coach in a press release.
“We felt it important to extend and amend Lincoln’s contract at this time as we want him at the University of Oklahoma for a long time,” president James Gallogly said in the release. “He is a great coach and role model for our student-athletes. His record of success speaks for itself.”
The Sooners are 24-4 in his two seasons, back-to-back 12-2 campaigns with two Big 12 Conference championships and two College Football Playoff appearances.
Riley, 35, was hired as Bob Stoops’ offensive coordinator in 2015, and he got a $3.1 million annual raise when he replaced Stoops in June 2017. Last June, he received another raise and extension to $4.8 million through 2023.
Terms of the new deal “are being finalized,” according to the release, and need approval from the OU Board of Regents, which meet later this month.
Riley’s current contract has a built-in annual raise of $200,000 every Feb. 1, and he also has an annual stay bonus that pays him an additional $500,000 every June 1. He also receives significant incentives: $50,000 for getting to the Big 12 Championship Game, $75,000 for winning the Big 12 championship, and $75,000 for getting to the Orange Bowl (he reached the same bonuses last year).
“We’re obviously appreciative of what’s already been accomplished in such a short time,” said athletic director Joe Castiglione, “but strengthening our relationship with Lincoln is also important as we collectively focus on the larger goals of our program.”
Said Riley, “My family and I are very appreciative of the support the University of Oklahoma has shown. We’re thankful for the relationships we have with President Gallogly, Joe Castiglione, the OU Board of Regents and the entire Norman community. This has been a great home for us. We’ve had a great start and we’re excited for many more great years in the future.”
In October, after the Cleveland Browns fired head coach Hue Jackson, Riley immediately appeared on various lists as a candidate to replace Jackson — and coach his former OU pupil, No. 1 overall pick and 2017 Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield.
But Riley said then, as his team prepared for a rivalry game against Oklahoma State, that he had no designs on being in the NFL.
“No, not right now,” Riley said. “You sit here and answer these questions and … I always want to be truthful. And the truth for me is I love Oklahoma. I love coaching here. I love college football. I certainly don’t have that itch right now. I don’t know if I ever will.
“I’m never going to be a guy that’s going to stand up here and say, ‘No way, no how will any of these things ever happen.’ I don’t know that. I know right now I could care less about the NFL. We’re trying to win this game and trying to make a run that we all think we have in us right now.”
Later, before the Sooners played Texas in the Big 12 Championship game, Riley was asked to expound on what he loves about OU and college football.
“I like the age (of) the guys I’m coaching,” he said. “Still kind of in that ‘hot zone,’ where they’re still growing. They’re kind of learning to become men at this point, but there’s a lot of growth that’s gotta happen in these years. I enjoy that part.
“I enjoy the X’s and O’s, but I do enjoy, at this level, the different hats you have to wear, especially in this role as a head coach. I enjoy getting out and recruiting. I enjoy talking to these guys about their academics, about things going on in their lives that you don’t necessarily have at other levels. There’s just a lot more going on, a lot more growth, a lot more things that are going to shape the rest of their lives and it’s kind of all yet to be determined for these guys. Kind of like being a part of this process with them. I like the vibe of college ball. I do. The way it’s set up, the rivalries. I just think the sport’s in such a good place right now. I do. I love that part of it. I always have.
“I love that fact that we’re invested here (at Oklahoma),” he continued. “I love the fact that we have what we need to be successful. I love the fact that people care about our program, (which) has been nationally relevant for a long time. People here are invested in it. That the former players come back. I know how much it means to this community, to this state. … To coach football at any level, anywhere, this is absolutely one of the elite programs, regardless of level, without a doubt.
“There’s not a better job anywhere else.”
Riley became the first coach to tutor back-to-back Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks in Mayfield and Kyler Murray, both of whom set numerous records during their time in Norman. The Sooners also led the nation in total offense each of Riley’s two seasons as head coach. In his two years as head coach and two years as offensive coordinator, Riley even produced the NCAA career record holder for extra points and kick scoring (Austin Seibert).
“He has proven to be one of the most innovative minds in the game today as well as a very successful leader for his student-athletes,” Castiglione said. “His remarkable ascent as one of the most outstanding football coaches in America is grounded in creating the right environment for developing the best growth opportunities for all of his players. The incredible level of achievement and energy around our program all point to a very bright future under his leadership.”
“Lincoln,” added Gallogly, “is also the right representative for our university in such a high-profile position. I am proud to work with him and anxious to support him as he takes our program into the future.”
Columnist John E. Hoover is co-host of “The Franchise Drive” every weeknight from 6-8 on The Franchise in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, and appears throughout the day on other shows on The Franchise. Listen at fm107.7 in OKC, fm107.9/am1270 in Tulsa, on The Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page. Hoover also covers the Big 12 for Sporting News and Lindy’s magazine and is a feature writer for Sooner Spectator magazine. Visit his personal page at johnehoover.com.