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Amid speculation that Lincoln Riley would be headed to the NFL, Oklahoma locked down its head coach for the foreseeable future.
The team announced Tuesday that the coach agreed to a contract extension that also comes with a salary increase, although the terms are still being finalized.
Riley has a 24-4 record over his first two years as a head coach, leading the team to the College Football Playoff each season before losing in the semifinals.
Perhaps most impressively, quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray won the Heisman Trophy in consecutive years while playing for the offensive-minded coach.
While the Sooners suffered a disappointing 45-34 loss to Alabama in the Orange Bowl, it’s clear the 35-year-old was worth keeping around, and Oklahoma University President James Gallogly echoed that in the statement:
“We felt it important to extend and amend Lincoln’s contract at this time as we want him at the University of Oklahoma for a long time. He is a great coach and role model for our student-athletes. His record of success speaks for itself.
“Lincoln is also the right representative for our university in such a high-profile position. I am proud to work with him and anxious to support him as he takes our program into the future.”
This extension could be necessary with so many NFL openings this offseason.
The Cleveland Browns are one of the teams with a vacancy, and Albert Breer of The MMQB noted in October that Riley would be a “viable” candidate. It would also be a chance to reunite with Mayfield at the professional level.
Cleveland wouldn’t be the only franchise that might pursue the Oklahoma coach if he became available.
“If you’re an NFL team and you’re looking for a head coach and (Riley) says, ‘I’m out there, call me.’ …he’ll be No. 1 on their list,” an NFL scout told Jake Trotter of ESPN.com.
However, he explained Sunday that he has no interest in going to the NFL:
The morning after OU’s 45-34 loss to Alabama in the Orange Bowl, Lincoln Riley says he’s never been hungrier to stay at Oklahoma and chase a national title with the #Sooners https://t.co/B4LiJpZV4Q
The latest extension just further guarantees he will remain with the Sooners in the years ahead.