USC is closing its three-month search with a bombshell hire, landing Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley to turn around the Trojans program.
USC fans have been waiting for three years for the school to bring in a coach that can restore its treasured football program to glory.
Riley has agreed to terms and will be the 30th head coach of the Trojans, ending a search characterized by its quiet with a boom that will be felt across college football, a source with knowledge of the search not authorized to speak publicly about it told The Times.
The question has lingered for three months: Would USC athletic director Mike Bohn take advantage of the long runway he gained by firing Clay Helton Sept. 13 and land a coach that could quickly rally the Trojan legions?
Chatter surrounding the USC search centered on Luke Fickell, Dave Aranda, James Franklin and Matt Campbell before Riley was linked to the job.
The Trojans have not appeared in a College Football Playoff in its eight years of existence and have won just one Pac-12 title since 2008 when the Pete Carroll era was still going strong.
It used to be a guarantee that USC, with its abundant riches to pick from across the Southland, would compile a top-five recruiting class. But it has not done so since 2018, the most glaring sign that the program had lost prestige under Helton.
Riley is the first hire that USC has made since Carroll who is nationally relevant on his own merit. Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian were Carroll proteges who were brought back to keep the good times rolling after the NCAA handed the program massive sanctions in 2010 because of the Reggie Bush scandal. Helton, hired as an assistant by Kiffin, had never been a head coach when he was promoted to the permanent role by then-athletic director Pat Haden in 2015.
Bohn, after deciding to keep Helton in place after the 2019 and 2020 seasons, fired Helton after USC was beaten soundly by Stanford 42-28 at the Coliseum in the second game of the year. His final record with the Trojans was 46-24.