Oklahoma has gotten serious about Lincoln Riley.
The OU Board of Regents on Thursday announced an extension of Riley’s contract and significant raise as the Sooners’ offensive coordinator, a three-year deal worth $1.3 million a year.
Riley is the first Sooner aide to surpass $1 million annually, and his extension is the longest ever for an OU assistant.
Riley and defensive coordinator Mike Stoops were paid $900,000 last year.
When Riley arrived in Norman, he received a two-year deal worth $500,000 a year. In 2014 as offensive coordinator at East Carolina, Riley was paid $278,000 a year. His salary is now tied for fifth among assistant coaches in the nation, according to USA Today.
“This has been in the works for a few months,” said OU head coach Bob Stoops. “Lincoln’s done a phenomenal job in his two years here and we’re excited for him and his family. They’re great people and have fully immersed themselves into the Oklahoma community. He’s fully committed to OU and what we’re doing as a university and football program, and all of us are looking forward to continuing to work together to develop young men on and off the field, and bring more championships to Norman.”
“I appreciate OU and coach Stoops taking a chance on me a couple of years ago and the loyalty they’ve shown to my family,” Riley said. “We are extremely grateful, and I want to display my strong loyalty to this school and program in return. We absolutely love living here. It’s a place we relate to, a place we feel very much at home. I love the people I work with at OU and I love the players I coach. It’s been a fantastic first two years, but I’m excited for what’s ahead in Norman. We’re looking forward to being a part of this university and community for a long time.”
Locking up Riley and boosting his salary is a smart move by the OU administration. Riley, 33, is one of college football’s top young minds, a passing game wiz whose players set aerial records at East Carolina, and a master of versatility and adaptation that produced two 1,000-yard runners at Oklahoma.
It also was a strong preemptive strike against Riley taking another job.
“We’re hopeful he’ll be with us as long as he can,” OU President David Boren told The Oklahoman. “We just decided there was no reason to put it off. We made that decision, we were already in agreement over what we were going to pay him and extending for three years.
“Why not let our competitors know that? They’re going around saying (to recruits), ‘Oh, they might not still have him if you go to OU.’ In the middle of recruiting season, why wait to let everyone know he’s coming back?”
Beyond Riley’s gifts as a coordinator — he won the Frank Broyles Award last year as college football’s top assistant coach in helping Baker Mayfield shatter the NCAA record for passing efficiency as OU had two Heisman Trophy finalists — the Sooners also might already have their next head coach in camp.
Bob Stoops shows no signs of slowing down and seems to have cleared the 2014 rough patch with back-to-back Big 12 Conference championships. But Stoops turns 57 in September. By the end of Riley’s current deal, Stoops will be 60.
Stoops will retire on his own schedule, but Stoops will retire.
College football head coaches now are more CEO than coach, but from Bud Wilkinson to Barry Switzer to Stoops, the Sooners’ track record with promoting or hiring prominent assistants has been spectacular and produced seven national championships.
There’s no reason to think Riley is too young or too inexperienced or otherwise incapable of leading the Sooners — when the time comes.
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.