2019-06-19 sp-emigblog Riley

Oklahoma Sooners head coach Lincoln Riley smiles with Oklahoma Sooners wide receiver Marquise Brown (5) after the Big 12 Championship game between the Oklahoma Sooners and the TCU Horned Frogs at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas on Saturday, December 2, 2017.

OU beat writer Eric Bailey got ahold of Lincoln Riley’s contract. That’s good work by him and intriguing reading for us.

Riley’s salary is no shock. We have known about his five-year, $32.5 million contract since OU regents approved that compensation last January.

What’s interesting – what’s always interesting when you review a coach’s contract – is the fine print.

Here’s what is most interesting to me...

It is easier for Riley to take another job (translation: an NFL job) with each passing year of the deal.

From Eric’s story: “What happens if Riley chooses to leave the Sooners following the 2019 season for another football job? The contract specifies the coach would be responsible to pay OU 22.5 percent (about $4.6 million) of the remaining guaranteed compensation.

“The amount drops about $1 million each year. On March 16, 2022, the amount will be waived by OU.”

The stay bonuses and benefits built into Riley’s contract are the most obvious good-faith gestures on behalf of OU. The buyout de-escalation reads like another such gesture.

This sounds like president Joe Harroz (it was James Gallogly at the time the contract was issued) and athletic director Joe Castiglione telling Riley: “Give us another few years and we’ll make it less of a hassle for you to jump to the NFL.”

If Riley wants to pursue a pro job after the 2019 season, his college contract isn’t going to stop him. For that matter, no contract has ever kept any high-profile coach from taking another higher-profile job.

But it is interesting to see good-faith contract terms like buyout waivers included just the same.


More from Eric: “Riley’s contract also includes an attachment by former OU President James Gallogly dated Feb. 21. The presidential directive focuses on NCAA compliance and specifically notes that Oklahoma head coaches are presumed responsible for all violations of NCAA rules and regulations.

“The directive states that discipline — up to and including termination — can be used against any OU head coach who fails to properly monitor assistant coaches or administrative staff.”

I assume other coaches have similar “directives” included in the language of their contract. I don’t know that, though.

I do know that under Castiglione and compliance director Jason Leonard, OU has become one of college athletics’ compliance sticklers. This dates back to the embarrassment of going before the NCAA Infractions Committee for football and men’s basketball violations in consecutive years in the mid-2000s.

Consider Gallogly’s “directive” the latest bit of fallout from that regrettable period.


A coach’s contract bonuses are always eye-opening. Riley’s football bonuses range from $400,000 for winning a national championship to $25,000 for being named Associated Press Coach of the Year.

He can meet graduation rate bonuses as well. Example: a $125,000 bonus for a 100-percent grad rate.

Academic-related bonuses for coaches and athletic directors are silly.

You want to reward staff members for high graduation rates? Fine. But give that money to counselors and advisers in the academic centers, the ones putting in the work to make sure the athletes are on course academically.


Finally, the perks.

“Riley gets 20 football tickets to each game and an additional eight tickets which allow access to a suite,” Eric reports. “He receives use of a vehicle and 35 hours of private airplane availability for personal use (which is a taxable fringe benefit) or business use (recruiting, team travel other than the team play, university activities). He also has playing privileges at two unnamed local golf courses.”

Plane/automobile/golf course usage... A coach’s contract tradition.

In Riley’s case, seeing as how he has two little daughters, I tweeted that one of the “two unnamed local golf courses” was probably the miniature course at HeyDay Entertainment north of Norman.

I was joking, but wouldn’t that be a hoot? Maybe I’ll ask Riley about it at Big 12 Media Days next month.

Guerin Emig



Twitter: @GuerinEmig



Sports Columnist

Proud father of Gretchen and Holden. Devoted husband to Christy, who has been my best friend since biology class at Booker T. Washington. I covered the Oklahoma Sooners for 15 years. That was both challenging and rewarding. Now I get to write columns.