Lincoln Riley announced on Sunday that defensive coordinator Alex Grinch had been dismissed, effective immediately. The news came on the heels of a 52-42 loss to Washington at home and, while it was a move many USC fans had wondered about, few expected it to be made during the season.

Riley elected to retain Grinch after the 2022 season came to an unceremonious close, and given the close personal relationship between the two, the prevailing belief was that Grinch would close out the year in his position. Riley said Monday night when he met with reporters the decision was his.

But it was not an easy one.

“It sucks,” Riley said. “I’ve been very lucky. I’ve had great staff members in the time that I’ve been a head coach that have supported me, Alex being one of those. We won a lot of games, a lot of championships, did a lot of great things together. He’s a good friend. He’s got a great family.

“Shoot, our kids are close. There isn’t anything easy about it and as much as you wish you could, sometimes it’s hard to separate professional from basic human feelings about one another and our families. I knew it was a decision that was the right decision at this time and point, but that certainly didn’t make it easy.”

But Riley also said he is committed to playing great defense at USC and he’ll do whatever is necessary to accomplish that goal.

Riley said Grinch was one of the first people to agree to follow him from Oklahoma to USC two years ago. “He wanted to be here,” Riley said. “And I think that ought to be appreciated.” Riley also said Grinch should be appreciated for being part of the “greatest turnaround in this school’s history.”

Grinch was hired by Riley prior to the 2019 football season when Riley was still coaching at Oklahoma. Riley had parted ways with former defensive coordinator Mike Stoops after the Sooners gave up 48 points to rival Texas. In 2018, OU finished 101st in scoring defense, allowing 33 points a game. In Grinch’s second year with the program (2020), Oklahoma would finish 28th after it allowed 22 points a game.

He was never able to make his system work at USC, which has slipped to 124th in scoring defense this season. The Trojans are tracking toward their worst single-season defense in recorded program history.