Oklahoma, Riley agree on extension, raise

Kyle Phillips | The Norman TranscriptIt was reported Tuesday that Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley agreed to a contract extension and raise with the school.

Any murmurs that Lincoln Riley might jump to the NFL were quieted Tuesday.

Oklahoma came to an agreement in principle on a contract extension and raise for its second-year head coach Tuesday. The school wasted little time in doing so, announcing the news two days after OU’s loss to Alabama in the Orange Bowl.

The contract terms are still being finalized. The move is subject to OU Board of Regents approval at this month’s meeting.

Riley is 24-4 in two seasons as OU head coach and has coached the Sooners to two College Football Playoff semifinals, producing two Heisman Trophy quarterbacks and the nation’s top offense along the way.

He had been linked to several NFL coaching vacancies as a result of his rapid rise, which began when he was named the OU head coach at age 33 in 2017.

“We felt it important to extend and amend Lincoln’s contract at this time, as we want him at the University of Oklahoma for a long time,” OU President James Gallogly said. “He is a great coach and role model for our student-athletes. His record of success speaks for itself.

“Lincoln is also the right representative for our university in such a high-profile position. I am proud to work with him and anxious to support him as he takes our program into the future.”

Had Riley left OU for another job following this season, it would’ve been surprising considering recent comments. The morning after the Orange Bowl, he was emphatic about his desire to remain in Norman.

“I don’t see [the NFL] as a step up, not in this profession,” Riley said. “It’s not a burning desire of mine by any stretch right now. Not even close. It doesn’t even compare to my burning desire to win a national championship here.”

He was given a $1.7 million pay increase in June. He is due to make $4.8 million this year and $5 million over the next five. At $5 million annually, he would’ve tied for the 10th highest-paid head coach nationally, according to the 2017 figures in USA Today’s college football coaching salaries database.

That move brought Riley’s compensation closer to his Big 12 coaching peers, most of whom OU defeated last season en route to the program’s third straight conference championship. The Sooners won their fourth straight league crown this year.

Only Texas coach Tom Herman ($5.5 million) and TCU’s Gary Patterson ($5.1 million) are scheduled to make more than Riley and Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy ($5 million) over the next five seasons.

“We’re obviously appreciative of what’s already been accomplished in such a short time, but strengthening our relationship with Lincoln is also important as we collectively focus on the larger goals of our program,” OU athletic director Joe Castiglione stated in a release Tuesday.

Riley’s future as an NFL job candidate was a hot topic not just in conversation and media reports, but on the recruiting trail. He acknowledged that prospects asked questions about his interest and that other coaches used his uncertain future against OU at times.

Riley must also hire a new defensive coordinator soon, which is another reason OU moved quickly. He will also finalize the Sooners’ 2019 recruiting class in February.

“My family and I are very appreciative of the support the University of Oklahoma has shown,” Riley said in Tuesday’s release. “We’re thankful for the relationships we have with President Gallogly, Joe Castiglione, the OU Board of Regents and the entire Norman community. This has been a great home for us. We’ve had a great start, and we’re excited for many more great years in the future.”