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Notable Quotes From New USC Head Football Coach Lincoln Riley's Introductory Press Conference

Nov 29, 2021

On Monday, Lincoln Riley was introduced as USC's new head football coach at the top of the Scholarship Club Tower at United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. USC athletic director Mike Bohn, USC Board of Trustees chair Rick Caruso and President Carol L. Folt provided opening statements before introducing Riley.

Mike Bohn Statements

"This is an extraordinary day for USC. When we began this process, our goal was to find the right leader for USC and our football players. It was never our goal to change the landscape of college football with one of the biggest moves in the history of the game but we did exactly that! We are so thrilled to welcome Lincoln Riley, his incredible wife Caitlin and their special daughter Sloan and Stella to the Trojan Family. Today is not only about Lincoln Riley — the person and the coach — but also about the hiring of what Lincoln Riley represents. It demonstrates that we're committed to winning championships, it says that USC is the premier destination for the best and brightest, it sends a loud and powerful message to the college football world that this sleeping giant is wide awake standing up and fighting on, and it shows that even in perhaps our lesser moments and our tougher times there is no limit to what the Trojan Family can accomplish when we are united."

"I'm most excited for our current players. If you could have been in the room this afternoon when coach was in front of them it was powerful our vision is to be the most student-athlete centered program in the country and delivering to our athletes the best coaching is a vital part of that. I'm also thrilled for our former players our alumni our donors our fans our students our university and the entire Trojan Family. We felt immense pressure to deliver a coach that could unite us all in our pursuit of national championships and now it's on us to rally together and ensure that we do that and support this coach like he's never been supported with the 'Fight On' spirit of USC. We got our guy and our team is now!"

Carol L. Folt Statements

"I, too, want to thank all of our fans — the greatest fans in the country, no doubt. It's not always easy to be a fan, but our former athletes and our donors our alumni have never stopped believing in the dream and of course that too gives us wind in our sails and we want to thank you for keeping that Trojan Spirit alive."

"What [Riley] is going to do with our players is going to be amazing and he's determined to return our program to legendary status and we certainly can't wait. But honestly, what made Coach Riley stand out among all the candidates for me was the parts above him that are not really on the paper. It's who he is as a person and the inspired leadership that he brings to the team. He's going to recruit like a Trojan, he's going to fight hard for the most talented players, he'll develop our student athletes on and off the field, he'll foster a culture that promotes character and integrity and he's going to be tough. He's going to expect them to learn in practice in the classroom and as members of the Trojan community and he's going to make sure that all the successes that will happen take place in a culture that champions honor and show professional behavior."

Lincoln Riley Statements

"This is a a surreal moment to be honest. So honored to be the the next head football coach here at USC. It means a great deal to me."

"When [Folt, Caruso, Bohn and chief of staff Brandon Sosna] first came to me with interest on this position, the first thing that I noticed is they were they were about what they felt what USC Football could be, what they felt like that we needed to do to make up the gap and they were totally united on doing anything and everything possible to help get us to that point. As a football coach — to have that support behind you from some of the most influential people in this university from your bosses from people they're going to make big decisions — it said everything that I needed to hear. Thank you all for this opportunity. It means the world to me."

"We're going to put out a football team that hopefully you're proud of on the field, but you're proud of what they do in the classroom, you're proud of what they do in the community and that we represent you well and then we work incredibly well together. I cannot wait to meet all of you and be a part of your family."

"We're going to be committed to bringing the best staff in the country here to USC to help guide this team. I've been able to bring a couple of guys here this morning that are incredibly valuable to me — Clarke Stroud will be our director of football operations, Alex Grinch will be our defensive coordinator, Dennis Simmons will be our wide receivers coach and Benny Wylie will be our head strength coach. These guys got on the plane with me this morning without a contract, without anything. I called them and said, 'You want to come?' they said 'yep' and I said 'all right, plane leaves at 6 a.m.' They were there at 5:40. They have been instrumental in our in our success at Oklahoma and and I think it says a lot that they wanted to be here with all of us and I can't imagine doing it with any other guys. I cannot wait to to get the rest of this staff here and I can promise you it'll be one that you're very proud of."

"We plan on building the best roster in the country and within that locker room: the best culture in the country. It's not about the individual players here. We're not going to let it be. I told the team earlier it's amazing in this era of NIL, of all social media, all the different things going on for individuals that when you care about the team the most, it's funny how all the individual things tend to work out for you, and that's how it's going to be here. The culture will be team-first and we will have a room of great athletes, yes they will, but they're going to be people that care about winning championships, winning rings, holding up trophies, raising banners and that's what we're going to have in that locker room. And a combination of that and a great staff is how you do it, and so cannot wait to get started on that."

"I think it would not be fitting for me to recognize the University of Oklahoma, the impact it had on me, the people there. I told the team earlier it was toughest decision of my life to come here and those people there were tremendous to me. I'm grateful for them. I'm grateful for my time there. That's one of the best college football programs in the country — and has been forever — and will continue to be, so very thankful for my time there."

"It's gonna take every single one of us to do what we have to do. We all have different roles in that and I think it's important for us at this time to all pull together. I can promise you that you're going to get the best out of myself, you're going to get the best out of our staff, out of our players and we're going to put something on that field that you're proud. I agree with Chairman Caruso — this place is going to be full. This is going to be the the Mecca of college football. I'm not big on false, hollow promises. I'm not going to stand up here and talk about all the different things that I think we can do. We see the potential there we know we've got to go to work, and it's going to take every single one of us. If we all do what we can, can you imagine the scene down here?"

Lincoln Riley Media Q&A

On what happened after coaching last Saturday's game with Oklahoma
"It was, to be honest, a little bit of a blur. We got home late Saturday night/early Sunday morning and got the information from USC that there was some some real interest. Talked a little bit about it early that morning, slept for a couple hours and then had a chance to jump on the Zoom with some of our university leadership and kind of talk through what this might be. It came together quickly but, to be honest, in this day and age in college football, it kind of has to if it's going to. It's just the way of the world right now. I would say the impact of meeting with our university leadership was pretty immediate for me."

On what intrigued Riley to come to USC
"Everything intrigued me. It did. I think the location, I think the the history of the program, I think the opportunities here to recruit and build a national championship level roster, the opportunity for my family to live in a new place to experience new things. I've got two young girls, and for them to be able to experience different things in this life is very, very important for me and my wife. We're not scared to take a risk. I don't see this is a risk, but we're not scared to to take a jump. This was the right time and everything about it made sense. I love the situation we're in right now. I do. I love it. I think we're going to do nothing but grow and build. Again, we've got the support and the right people here to get it done."

On how much time Riley needs to bring USC back to national prominence
"Well I've been in L.A. for a few hours here [smiles]. In this day and age, I think it can happen quickly. I do. I think there's a lot of good things going on in this program right now that we can absolutely build on. I think in this day and age with the way college football works, you can turn over rosters in so many different ways. We'll be very deliberate and creative and intentional about that with, again, the combination of the staff, we're going to bring in the players we're going to bring in, the leadership that we have the support we have, again getting our former players so involved with this program, which is incredibly important to me. I just look at like, 'How can we not do it?' You know? 'How's it not gonna work?' No time is soon enough. We're going to fight like crazy and take advantage of every moment."

On whether the looming Early Signing Period affected his decision, and his strategy leading up to it
"I don't know if it had an impact on the timing. We had the conversation with USC and knew something we wanted to do, out of obviously respect for Oklahoma and allowing them to be able to to move on and and obviously to get here and get an opportunity not only to not only to to recruit, but to get a chance to see our future team. We want to see them practice as we see them play this weekend, what a great advantage for us to be able to get to know the roster a little bit. So no, I'm thankful that we've got two weeks here to get it done. I think we'll get a lot done in two weeks and they'll be important decisions because the decisions we make here in the next few weeks will shape the future of this roster. We are definitely going to hit the ground running."

On establishing team culture
"Everything's going to start with the team here. I mean, this is, again, no matter what all is going on in this world as this world evolves and changes — especially for young men that are 18 to 22 years old — this is still a team game. This always will be a team game and it's going to be won by the best teams, not the best individual players or the most talented individual players. I think there there are some new challenges this day and age in creating those atmospheres. All that's done is it means coaches and leaders and players have to adapt to that.I think the best teams — the teams that have the best chemistry, the best culture, maybe have more of an advantage this day and age than ever before because of all the distractions and all that can take you away from it being team first. It's certainly gonna start that way. Obviously, to build a championship caliber team, you have to be a lead on all three sides of the ball this day and age, no question about it. The combination of building a great roster and bringing in a tremendous staff I think will allow us to do that. Also going to bring in a staff that is able to adapt to our talent. Of course, we will have parameters that we set skillsets that we target, but at the same time, you better have coaches that are good enough to be flexible and and to learn and to be able to bend and adjust. So we will certainly have that and I think that will be evident on the field."

On selling USC
"[points to background at Coliseum] That's not a bad start. I just think like the way I was sold on it, honestly. I mean, I'm the head coach here now but a few days ago, I wasn't, and I'm looking at it a lot like a recruit is. I think when you see the commitment that exists in this university right now from the leadership on down, when you see the setting, when you see the history, when you see the desire that the people have here and now us to to take this place to where we all feel like it should be. I think we will have a lot of opportunities to bring the very best here to USC and I think that's that's already started. We're just doing the press conference and it's already started so it's going to be a lot of fun. Can't wait."

On whether Riley initially considered the USC job when it became available in September
"When it came open, of course everybody that follows college football is aware of this and is aware of the the potential and the history of this place. I don't know that it crossed my mind initially ever as a potential destination for me. I can't honestly say that when it came open. I was at a place where I was very happy and a place that I left still very happy. But again, as that opportunity presented itself and I learned more about it, it just became more obvious to me, my family, to several key members of our staff that that this was the right move."

On retaining and recruiting talent in southern California
"I think it's critical and that'll be honestly something that will be a little bit new for me. Obviously there were some tremendous players where I came from but it wasn't a huge area. ... this is obviously a totally different experience. We've had some success recruiting players from this area in the past. We've had a chance through the years to build some great relationships with people out here that we really trust and know. I think it'll be incredibly important. We'll certainly not just limit ourselves to that because we want to go get the best wherever they're at but I think there's also a realization that a lot of the best are right here and what a tremendous advantage for us for this program and it'll certainly be very important for every member of our staff to to make sure that, again, I go back to the great athletes. That's the easy part to see — we're going to go get the great athletes that are the right people for this program and the right people for that locker room and the right people for the culture, and I hope there's as many here as possible and of those we're going to try like crazy to go get every one of them."

On what things Riley did at Oklahoma that could translate at USC and what adjustments he must make
"That's a good question probably one that could spend a lot of time answering. I was very fortunate at Oklahoma. I walked into a phenomenal situation. Bob Stoops was a phenomenal head coach for me the first two years there and somebody I learned a lot from and and still will rely on a lot as i go forward in this job. The things I learned there, Oklahoma has phenomenal alignment from the president, the A.D. on down. It's set up for success and there's a reason why that program has been so successful for years on end and it's going to continue to be successful. I think the alignment was key. I think the investment of not just the players and the staff but everybody around to do their part everybody around to be all in and and invested in doing everything they can to help make the program better. I felt that in my time there and and we want to do everything we can to to create that here. Certainly, I mean, on a day like today, how can you not feel that? I also recognize this is a different job, this is a different challenge, it's a different setting. and so I think we have a lot of core values that we'll stick to, but we also have to be adapt, we're gonna have to adapt and be flexible to to cater to this job and to to our people our fans our players, and so that'll be our job to find that."

Mike Bohn Media Q&A

On balancing pursuit of USC's top candidate while not letting others slip away
"Well I think that's a great question because it's difficult. It's extremely difficult. As I mentioned earlier, I think that being surrounded by people that really instilled a sense of confidence that we could deliver on that. I mentioned Carol, Rick, Brandon Sosna, so many others around us. Boosters, supporters, media talking about, 'Hey, this is Los Angeles. This is the Sports Capital of the World' and we can do it. When we hear from leaders from the Lakers, the Dodgers Rams, Chargers, people that represent the heart of this city that inspires you. ... I mentioned it earlier there was always somebody that stepped in at the right time and our confidence just remained very very high. I think that was important to ensure that Lincoln — or any other coach that maybe thought this was something they would do — would see that in our eyes. I thought it was really important, so it was about the team that constantly found a way to ensure that we never wavered."

On whether Riley was always a target for the head coaching position
"Well, similar to what is going on campus associated with any leadership position, President Folt challenged me and said, 'Get the best. Get the best.' So that was Lincoln Riley, no question. So he was No. 1 when obviously that was our goal, no question."