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Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley will receive many contract extensions during his career.

Oklahoma recruiting: Sooners’ commitment to Lincoln Riley silences rumors

Stay up to date with Oklahoma football recruiting with the latest news and notes and analysis in the daily edition of DieHards’ Wagon Wheels. In this edition, we look at the importance of Lincoln Riley’s contract extension in recruiting.

Oklahoma makes it hard to negative recruit against Lincoln Riley

In late spring 2017, the Sooners could see a recruiting problem on the horizon. Elite prep prospects were drawn to playing at Oklahoma. They liked the stability of Bob Stoops’ tenure. But many were more attracted to offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley.

It should have been an easy sell, but there was a problem. Riley was one of the hottest offensive minds in the game. He interviewed for head coaching positions after the 2015 and ’16 seasons. The Sooners’ rivals were telling recruits there was no way Riley would be at Oklahoma for another four years.

When Stoops stepped down in June 2017, it was because Oklahoma had Riley in place. There was no interim tag. Riley received a five-year contract when he was hired. On Tuesday, Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione upped the ante with a new five-year, $25 million extension.

Expect Lincoln Riley to get many contracts during his Oklahoma tenure

Lengthy contracts were once seen as a must for recruiting. It was much easier to convince a prospect that a head coach would be around for the player’s entire collegiate career when the contract length exceeded four years.

During the final 15 years of Stoops’ run, each new contract he received was for seven years. Castiglione and Stoops tended to hammer out a new before the current contract got under five years.

Castiglione has taken a different route with Riley. He’s received two contracts in a year, but both were for five years.

Does this mean Castiglione is done making seven-year commitments to football coaches?

“It’s too early to say whether that would have a direct effect on decisions like that,” Castiglione said. “I think each and every institution makes their own mind up as how to best handle that. I think it’s also a recognition of someone’s recognition of someone’s long-term association with the university and maybe their willingness to stay for a long time as opposed to maybe somebody’s that’s just starting. And I’m not making any inferences to our situation in any specific way.”

There is a good reason not to hand out exceedingly long contracts these days.

For one, coaches don’t seem to have a hard time breaking them if a better opportunity comes up. Once a coach reaches a certain amount of success, the contracts tend to bind the school to him more than him to the school. From the 2009 season onward, Stoops was free to leave the school without financial penalty. Firing him would have cost Oklahoma $2.5 million for every year left on the contract.

Castiglione has always believed once a coach has been at a school for a decade, ample loyalty has been displayed.

But potential changes to NCAA transfer rules could make contracts much more interesting in the coming years. Conferences can still create their own rules regarding interleague transfers, but school-imposed limits are gone. There is talk that a head coaching change should be the rationale for players to transfer without having to sit out a season.

That scenario could make things extremely interesting. What if firing a coach means a complete roster overall? Firing a head coach could do more damage than a three-year NCAA probation.

Castiglione didn’t say if more changes regarding transfer rules affected the length of Riley’s contract.

“There’s sort of more an art than a science to that at the moment,” he said. “We’ll see if when the time comes if any of that has any effect on it or not. I think it’s a whole different discussion to analyze what we might see — what we’re already seeing, even before the rules changed with lots of movement going on with student-athletes.”

Riley doesn’t seem to have any problem attracting them to play at Oklahoma. There wasn’t so much as a murmur about him looking elsewhere this offseason. The Sooners have the coach they want and are doing what they must to keep him happy.

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