The coaching carousel in the final weeks of the 2021 college football season could become one of the greatest moves of all time in college sports history.
University of Southern California head coach Lincoln Riley and Louisiana State University head coach Brian Kelly have changed the landscape of sports as we know it. Both coaches left their old teams with little warning last weekend for new jobs. Both coaches have quit some of the most pristine jobs in college football history, but the most heinous part of the whole process has been their decision to leave before their teams’ respective bowling games.
Reports first arrived on Nov. 28 that Riley, the former University of Oklahoma head coach, was leaving the Sooners for the vacant head coach position at USC.
Riley established himself as one of the best offensive players in the game when he joined the Sooners in 2015, eventually becoming a head coach in 2017. During this time, Riley coached quarterbacks Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts at the Heisman Trophy. caliber seasons, with Mayfield and Murray winning the award in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
The Sooners have made college football playoffs three times with Riley as their head coach, but never made it to the semi-finals. Riley’s move to USC is a huge surprise because Oklahoma was a powerhouse in the Big 12. Conference. The Sooners have been vying for a playoff berth almost every year since the CFP was formed in 2015. The move comes at a terrible time for Oklahoma, which in July announced plans to move to the Southeastern Conference. in 2025.
Riley reportedly ‘on board’ decision to switch to SEC, OU athletic director Joe Castiglione noted Monday at a press conference. Riley’s decision now looks even worse, as he’s committed to the program to be there for the long haul.
Kelly left the University of Notre Dame after 11 seasons, becoming the most successful head coach in program history. Kelly has never won a national championship with the Fighting Irish, but has moved closer, reaching the championship game once in 2013. The Fighting Irish entered this season after their first CFP appearance since 2018 and still have a slight chance to come back this year.
The potential to advance to the playoffs is what makes Kelly’s decision even more glaring than Riley’s. With the Sooners not playing in the Big 12 Championship Game, Oklahoma had no chance of qualifying for the CFP. Notre Dame, with an 11-1 record, has set a solid chance to advance to the playoffs and could advance if some games break down during Championship week.
Kelly’s departure practically sealed the fate of the Fighting Irish’s playoff prospects.
“Once the championship games are over… the protocol includes the possibility for the committee to consider that a player or a coach is not available,” said committee chair Gary Barta. ESPN after Tuesday night’s playoff standings were revealed. “If that has an effect on the outcome of a game, it can be considered. At this point, we’ll have to wait and see how that comes into play. “
The NCAA is also to blame for what happens to the Sooners and the Fighting Irish. With the high school recruiting period starting Jan. 1, coaches are feeling the need to start early to the detriment of the current players they coach. The NCAA must either establish guidelines for the future to block recruiting until the end of the season, or prevent coaches from leaving before a bowl game so that such situations can be avoided in the future.