A relaxed Jimbo Fisher sat at the podium for his weekly press conference on Monday in College Station. The Texas A&M coach rested his arms on the table and spoke candidly with reporters who were pondering if the national championship winning head coach of the Aggies had any interest in moving to Baton Rouge for his next chapter.
“I’ve told everybody I’m staying here,” Fisher said. “Everybody thinks all coaches lie, I know; y’all don’t believe us. If we’re going to recruit as good a class, because I said the other things: I plan on being here, I love the AD, I love the president, I love the chancellor, I love living here, I love being at my ranch, the family loves it here, I love Kyle Field, I love the people, I love all that stuff, and that’s obviously not good enough; I get it. I’m not mad at y’all. We’re going to recruit an unbelievable class this year. So I’m either the dumbest human being on God’s earth, to recruit all these guys to A&M so I can go across over here and play against them. If I did that, you ought to say, ‘That’s the dumbest human being, I don’t want him to be my coach.’”
Fisher had concrete and reasonable evidence to stay. Scott Woodward hired him at Texas A&M, and there’s no doubt he had interest in doing it again for his hometown Tigers. But Fisher is right; he had solid reasons for why he wouldn’t pursue LSU’s massive job opening. The Aggies are going to be a force, and win or lose, Fisher wants to see that through.
Another LSU candidate, Michigan State coach Mel Tucker, recently sat with the Spartans athletic department as they offered him a massive 10-year, $95 million contract to stay in East Lansing. What could be more concrete than the contract of a lifetime for Tucker? That’s without mentioning his team is still in the driver’s seat to win the Big 10 this year and advance to the Spartans’ second playoff berth.
So what about Lincoln Riley? What did he say or do to prove he will be at Oklahoma for the long haul?
Well, the Sooners’ playoff chances dimmed significantly with a loss to Baylor last weekend and a subsequent drop in the College Football Playoff (CFP) rankings to 13th. Unfortunately for Riley and all of Norman, despite the talent, they have been unable to win a CFP game since its inception, losing all four to SEC teams (Alabama twice, Georgia, LSU). Oklahoma is slated to join the SEC in 2025 with Texas, muddying the waters further as to how much longer the Sooners can continue to come up short.
Along the same vein as Fisher, Riley was asked about the growing rumors.
“It’s pretty easy,” Riley said. “I’m the head coach at The University of Oklahoma. You guys know me and how I feel about this place and this program. You know where I stand, and that hasn’t changed.”
Fisher hit it spot on in his answer. The words are not enough for anyone. Message boards across the internet are flooded with fans going crazy over this potential gargantuan coaching change. Riley was unable or chose not to deny the rumors with material reason. That’s something to talk about.
Reasons why Riley would come to LSU:
1. The Money
Jake Crain of the Jboy Show reported Wednesday afternoon LSU offered Riley an 8-year, $96 million contract, and that Oklahoma was unlikely to match such a massive offer. It would make him the highest paid coach in the sport, at $12 million a year. Riley will be considering that when it comes time to decide on his future. On the other side, Woodward is making a huge investment and gamble on the 38-year-old offensive titan. LSU just got out of a big contract by buying out Ed Orgeron, so they will have to be certain Riley is the man they want to invest eight years of money into.
2. The Resources
With Oklahoma’s move into the SEC looming, there will be an adjustment period where the Sooners will have to overcome adversity as they make the transition from a faster paced, offensive-minded Big 12 to the physical, defensive-minded SEC. The competition would be at a different level, and Riley would consider a move to LSU from Oklahoma not as lateral, but an upgrade to a program that is well established in the conferences in money, facilities and recruiting in the conference.
Reasons why Riley would not come to LSU:
1. The Stability
It is undeniable Riley has a good thing going. The Sooners are perennial playoff contenders without having too many challengers from the Big 12 on a year-by-year basis. He has produced some ridiculous quarterbacks lately, in three NFL starters in the Browns’ Baker Mayfield, the Cardinals’ Kyler Murray, and the Eagles’ Jalen Hurts. The talented Spencer Rattler and Caleb Williams await should he choose to stay and cultivate another Heisman candidate and first round pick. The Sooners are a college football power, and Riley will recognize that as much as everyone does. That might change when the time comes to move to the SEC, but for now, the job is stable and fruitful.
2. The Villainy
If Riley signs the dotted line on Woodward’s deal for his soul, the backlash from Oklahoma fans would be unlike anything college football has seen. The last two games LSU has played against Oklahoma have been the 2003 national championship game, a 21-14 LSU win, and the 2020 CFP semifinal, a 63-28 LSU win. The Sooners have a distaste for the Tigers. Riley’s choice will define what he wants his legacy in Norman to be. Should he choose to leave, the hatred for him throughout the city and Sooner fandom would rock the core of college football. If that sort of thing matters to Riley, he may hesitate on making the move to Baton Rouge.