Everything USC head coach Lincoln Riley said on the set of ESPN's College GameDay
Trojan head coach Lincoln Riley was on ESPN’s College GameDay Saturday morning to talk to the crew about his transition from Oklahoma to USC.
College football is better when its traditional powers are strong, host Rece Davis said to Riley, and Riley’s done well so far to put USC on the track back toward national prowess. The Trojans have been on fire on the recruiting trail of late, and Riley is slowly but surely putting together his staff.
He and the GameDay hosts, on the field at the Rose Bowl, talked about starting over, what attracted him to the job, what he has to do to make USC attractive to others, and more. Here’s the full interview (questions are edited for brevity, responses are not):
On the Rose Bowl:
“Ready to get back. I’ve had two experiences here, one was one of the great Rose Bowls ever played, and then had a chance to come back and play UCLA here in a nonconference game a few years ago. This is one of those venues that everyone in sports knows and obviously it’ll be a big goal at USC for us to get back (to).”
On Ohio State QB CJ Stroud’s comments that USC and UCLA games don’t offer the same kind of gameday atmosphere or fan support as other programs outside California:
“I think those of us that have followed college football for a long time have a great appreciation for what USC can be, has been, and what I fully believe will be again. When this program is rolling, when it’s operating at a high level, I really believe there’s none like it in the country. But it’s our job to not just rely on the past, not just rely on the logo, we’ve got to go make it happen right now, and that’s why we came.”
On having to start over and having to reset a culture, and what the first steps he has to take in doing that are:
“I think the first thing is bringing a staff of people that understand what that looks like, that we don’t have to teach them what the culture looks like and then in turn teach the players. So, we’ve been able to bring a tremendous staff, guys that know what a championship program looks like, how it operates. And then you just bring it to these guys. There’s a lot of buy-in right now. I think USC’s at a place where maybe the program has been maybe humbled in a way. I think everybody realizes we’ve got to all get on board, we’ve got to all do it together, and we all recognize the opportunities if we do that.
“Programs that are championship programs, that are right there in the mix year-in and year-out, it starts with culture. And that’s what’ll happen for us at USC.”
On how difficult it was to leave Oklahoma:
“I don’t even know if I can describe how hard it was. Executing it was hard. The people there that you love, the relationships, all the great memories, that was the hard part. But, this was the right thing for my family, for me, professionally it was just the right place at the right time and so I really had no hesitation about that part of it. Again, I just feel like what this can be, I feel like we’re very uniquely positioned right now with all this changing in college football and as you looked ahead I just felt like, man, this was too good to pass up.”
On the state of college football and opt-outs in bowl games:
“It’s a double-edged sword. From an individual perspective, you see that. I think as a college coach it’s our job to offer perspective on these guys because these are opportunities that you don’t get back. You understand why guys have those thoughts that cross their minds, but you try to give them perspective like all of us are never gonna play another snap. When you get down the line and you look back, are you gonna be happy that you did that? Are you gonna look back and say, ‘Man, that one last opportunity with my squad to go play in some of these historic bowl games,’ I think a lot of guys will miss that. I really do.”
On the differences between his first few weeks at USC and his first few weeks as head coach at Oklahoma:
“Very different. Oklahoma was in June, the majority of the staff was in place, I was learning a lot on the fly. I think coming in now there are some things I’ll do different because this is the start of something. It’s exciting to have a chance to join with everybody, to kind of build this thing together. We just keep looking at what the top end can be here, and really we feel like the possibilities are endless. It makes it fun to get up each morning and attack.”