Lincoln Riley is the new head coach of the Oklahoma Sooners. Riley is taking over for legendary coach Bob Stoops, 56, will retire after 18 seasons. The announcement was confirmed via Fox News reporter Bruce Feldman. You can read the original tweet below.
Riley, a 33 year-old whose been the offensive coordinator for Oklahoma since 2015, will take upon the role of head coach for the first time in his career this coming season.
To learn more about Lincoln Riley, his personal life, and his coaching career, check out these five fast facts.
1. He Was a Student Assistant at Texas Tech
Lincoln Riley was born on September 5th, 1983 in Lubbock, Texas. Like most young athletes, he had aspirations of becoming a star player, and even decided to be a walk-on for the Texas Tech Red Rangers in 2002. According to Riley’s biography on the website The Football Brainiacs, however, things didn’t exactly go the way he thought they would. Texas Tech coach Mike Leach told him that he would never play quarterback, but he saw something unique in Riley, and offered him the position of student assistant instead.
He agreed, and served under Leach for the next few years. In 2007, Riley was made the receivers coach, a position he held for three additional years. During this time, he helped Michael Crabtree set countless wide receiver records and win two Fred Biletnikoff Awards in 2007 and 2008.
“Lincoln’s one of the sharpest coaches I’ve ever had the opportunity to work with,” Leach told the Charlotte Observer, “He elevated very, very quickly because of his work ethic and because of his awareness and understanding of football on offense.”
Head coach Mike Leach was fired from the Red Rangers in 2009, and Riley, while staying on to coach the offense during the Alamo Bowl, eventually moved to East Carolina to serve as an offensive coordinator under coach Ruffin McNeill, whom he would later credit as his mentor.
2. Bob Stoops Hired Him as the Sooners Offensive Coordinator in 2015
Lincoln was the offensive coordinator at ECU for five seasons, where he coach several high profile players like Shane Carden and Justin Hardy. This all changed in 2015, when Oklahoma Sooners coach Bob Stoops brought Riley onboard as the team’s offensive coordinator and quarterback coach. According to The Football Braniacs, Riley was “called in to reinvigorate the Sooners offense and bring a fresh perspective to it.” And to his credit, he did just that.
The Sooners finished fourth in scoring in 2015, and Riley played a vital coach in molding the Sporting News Player of the Year, Baker Mayfield. The following year, he and Stoops enabled the Sooners to finish first in passing and efficiency and second in total offense.
For his work, Lincoln was given the Broyles Award, which is annually given to the top assistant coach in the nation.
3. He & His Wife Caitlin Have 2 Daughters
Riley and his wife Caitlin got an early Christmas present in December 2012 when their first daughter Sloane was born. This led to Riley missing practice for ECU as they prepared for the New Orleans Bowl. “(Riley) being a dad for Sloane and a husband for Caitlin is above and beyond any of this,” said McNeill, who was Riley’s head coach at the time. “I’m not used to operating practices without him, but at the same time, his family comes first.”
McNeill added that he and Riley discussed possible approaches for the offense if in fact his daughter was born in the days leading up to the New Orleans Bowl– proving himself a savvy coach even when personal matters took precedence. “We had a plan of action in place with (outside receivers coach) Dave Nichol and (inside receivers coach/recruiting coordinator) Donnie Kirkpatrick,” McNeill said.
Sloane Riley was born at 6 pounds, 9 ounces and 18 inches long. McNeill joked that she was fortunate to get the better of her parents’ traits, saying “Thank God she looks like Caitlin, not like Lincoln! I told him that too.”
In 2016, after Riley had moved on to Oklahoma, he and Caitlin welcomed their second daughter, Stella. When asked about the prospect of raising two children, Riley told Tulsa World “You go through all that stuff with the first one, then you think you got it all figured out. Then you get the second one and realize you don’t have it all figured out!”
4. His 2017 Contract Was the Largest Ever for an Assistant Coach at Oklahoma
Given his effectiveness during his first two years in Oklahoma, the Sooners saw fit to make sure Riley stick around for the foreseeable future, and offered him a historic contract in May of 2017. “We’re hopeful he’ll be with us as long as he can,” President of the OU Board of Regents David L. Boren explained to Tulsa World, “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.”
The three-year deal, which is the longest ever for an assistant coach in Oklahoma, also came with $1.3 million salary, making Riley the highest-paid assistant in the state’s history. This was the culmination of a gradual increase in salary, as Riley earned $500,000 his first season and $900,000 in his second.
“Why not let our competitors know that?” added Boren, “They’re going around saying ‘Oh, they might not still have him if you got to OU.’ In the middle of recruiting season, why wait to let everyone know he’s coming back?”
5. Stoops Has Faith that Riley Will Continue the Sooners’ Winning Tradition
Having to contend with the rich legacy of head coach Bob Stoops is no small task. A veteran of thirty years, Stoops joined Oklahoma in 1999 and led the team to an Orange Bowl victory and a national championship in 2000. That same season, he was awarded the Paul “Bear” Bryant Award and the Walter Camp Coach of the Year Award.
Fortunately, Stoops has made it clear that he has complete faith in Riley’s abilities. In an official statement, Stoops wrote: “The time is now because Lincoln Riley will provide a seamless transition as the new head coach, capitalizing on an excellent staff that is already in place and providing familiarity and confidence for our players. Now is simply the ideal time for me and our program to make this transition.” You can read the full statement below: