John E. Hoover: Lincoln Riley’s contract is huge, full of bonuses … and worth every penny

John E. Hoover: Lincoln Riley’s contract is huge, full of bonuses … and worth every penny

Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley has been all smiles since being named OU’s head coach on June 7.

Lincoln Riley’s contract details were released on Tuesday, and the University of Oklahoma is all-in on paying its new football coach.

And the youngest coach in major college football is worth every single penny.

Eric Bailey of the Tulsa World reported that Riley’s contract — a five year, $17.5 million deal that runs through 2022 — includes an annual stay benefit of $500,000 each June, 28 football season tickets, 25 hours per year of access to a private aircraft and two golf club memberships.

Riley also gets a $200,000 annual pay bump each February to his personal services agreement, which starts at $1.775 million a year. That’s in addition to his annual base salary of $325,000 as a university employee, and a $500,000 annual sum for fundraising appearances and speaking engagements.

Riley also has some incentive bonuses built into his agreement: $50,000 for an appearance in the Big 12 championship game, $75,000 for a conference championship, $25,000 for a bowl game appearance, $75,000 for appearing in the College Football Playoff, $125,000 for winning a College Football Playoff game, $175,000 for getting to the national championship game and $250,000 for winning the national championship.

Riley gets $25,000 for Big 12 coach of the year honors and $50,000 if he’s named Associated Press national coach of the year.

He also gets paid for good graduation rates: $30,000 for 65 percent, $40,000 for 75 percent, $50,000 for 85 percent, and $125,000 for 100 percent.

Riley just turned 34 years old last week, and he is all of three games into his head coaching career. But his contract is a sound investment for the school and its fundraising team.

Beating No. 2-ranked Ohio State in Columbus two weeks ago — and the bold and creative way in which he did it — shows that Riley is worthy of such a contract.

Bob Stoops built an empire in 18 seasons at the OU helm, winning 10 conference championships a national championship and renovating the stadium and its palatial amenities several times over.

Every bit as significantly, Stoops and his successes were the impetus for a boom in donors, from 17,000 before he arrived to more than 191,000 this year.

That’s essentially an 1,100 percent return on investment, at least on the number of people who are willing to write checks.

Again, it’s early. Sooner Nation will have a better long-term read on Riley’s tenure after senior quarterback Baker Mayfield moves on.

But so far, all signs — an early recruiting boom in Norman, an overall talent drop in the Big 12, the expansion to four national title contenders (only two teams advanced in Stoops’ era, and he made the final four times), and that thoroughly impressive win at Ohio State — point to Riley having similar success.

And that means more on the bottom line for OU.


Columnist John E. Hoover is co-host of “Further Review with Hoover & Rew” and can be heard every weekday on The Franchise in Tulsa from noon to 3 p.m. with co-host Lauren Rew. In Oklahoma City, catch him Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings at 10:25 and every Friday afternoon at 4:05. 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. Visit his personal page at


Hoover wrote for the Tulsa World for 24 years before joining The Franchise, where he's now co-host of "Further Review" on The Franchise Tulsa (weekdays 12-3, fm107.9/am1270) . In his time at the World, Hoover won numerous writing and reporting awards, including in 2011 National Beat Writer of the Year from the Associated Press Sports Editors for his work covering the Oklahoma Sooners. Hoover also covered Oklahoma State, Arkansas, Oral Roberts and the NFL as a beat writer. From 2012 to 2016, Hoover was the World's lead sports columnist. As a columnist, Hoover won national awards in 2012 and 2014 from the National Athletic Trainers Association for reporting on sports medicine and in 2015 won first place in sports columns from the Oklahoma Society of Professional Journalists. After receiving a journalism degree from East Central University, Hoover worked at newspapers in Ada, Okmulgee, Tahlequah and Waynesville, Mo. He played football at Ada High School and grew up in North Pole, Alaska. Hoover and his family live in Broken Arrow.

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