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Paul Finebaum predicts Lincoln Riley will be out at USC at the end of 2024 season

Matt Connollyby:Matt Connolly07/08/24


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As Lincoln Riley begins his third season at USC, Paul Finebaum believes this will be his final one. The ESPN college football analyst joined McElroy and Cubelic in the Morning on Monday and discussed the offensive guru’s coaching future.

Riley led Oklahoma to four Big 12 titles and three College Football Playoff berths, before leaving to become the head coach at USC ahead of the 2022 season. He is 19-8 across two seasons with the Trojans, and defense continues to be an issue.

To add insult to injury, last week, Oklahoma AD Joe Castiglione took a shot at Riley, implying that he didn’t want to go to the SEC and instead wanted Oklahoma to stay in the Big 12.

“I will tell you, without reservation — every coach that we talked to was excited,” Castiglione said on the SEC move. “And you know what, the ones that weren’t aren’t here anymore… You either got to accept it or not. This is Oklahoma. Get with it or get on with it.”

When you add it all together, you get a coach who Paul Finebaum believes is in serious, serious trouble.

“I don’t think Lincoln Riley has a path back. And what we all sensed on Monday [in Oklahoma] was real. This wasn’t just the ‘beat up the coach.’ I mean listen, we all lived through that 20 years ago at Alabama when Dennis Franchione left. This was even more stark, because Lincoln Riley was popular,” Finebaum said. “I mean he was beloved by Oklahoma people. He had taken the program to three playoffs and a couple of Heisman trophy winners. And he just clearly tucked and ran.

“In the parlance of college sports… running away from something is probably the worst look. And that’s how they feel about him. And this is an incredibly proud program that has been at the pinnacle of the sport for 100 years.”

Oklahoma replaced Lincoln Riley with Brent Venables, who just led the Sooners to a 10-3 record and a win over Texas in his second season.

Riley’s USC squad went 8-5 last year, despite having arguably the top quarterback in the country in Caleb Williams.

“It’s not a matter of wishing him bad luck out there – that’s already happening. And if you look at the reality, the number of players that are bailing on Lincoln Riley in Southern California is startling,” Finebaum said. “I’ve always thought he was a good coach, especially on the offensive side. But I don’t think anybody today views him in that same realm. And quite frankly, I think he’ll be out of Southern Cal at the end of the season.”

That is a bold prediction from Finebaum about a coach who a couple of years ago was being mentioned as one of the best in the nation.

However, Finebaum believes Lincoln Riley is in a downward spin now and won’t be able to recover.

“It’s a matter of whether he crashes and burns or he decides he’s got to seek elsewhere, but I don’t think there’s any way he’s going to be successful out there. I think that train has pulled out of the station,” Finebaum said. “And if indeed that happens, this is one of the most historic crash and burns in the history of college football.

“Because five years ago Lincoln Riley was literally considered among the top three or four coaches in the country. Every time the Cowboys job came along everybody feared he would leave. But he made a disastrous decision, I think, in the end.”