Updated Nov 30, 2021 - Sports

College football gone mad

Former Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly walks in front of his players

Former Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly walks in front of his players. Photo: David Madison/Getty Images

In the span of two days, the head coaches of two of the biggest college football programs in America have jumped ship, wooed by even greater challenges — and the almighty dollar.

Driving the news: Lincoln Riley is ditching Oklahoma for USC in a deal reportedly worth $110 million. LSU poached Brian Kelly from Notre Dame with a reported 10-year, $100 million contract.

  • USC is reportedly buying Riley a $6 million home in Los Angeles and giving him 24/7 access to a private jet.
  • Kelly broke up with Notre Dame via text Monday night — a week after saying he'd never leave South Bend.

Why it matters: The college football coaching carousel has always been a theater of the absurd, from flight trackers to mysterious boosters. But there has never been a 24 hours like this one.

  • Successful coaches at powerhouses have traditionally stayed put, "lording over fiefdoms until they lost their winning magic or were undone by age or scandal," writes Yahoo Sports' Dan Wetzel. "Bear. Woody. Bo. JoePa. And so on and so on. Those guys never left."
  • "That was a quaint era. This is something different, a relentless race to the perceived top where even the bluest of blue-blood programs can get poached in the flash of a new contract [and] the churn of who is going where overshadows the actual games."
Image of Lincoln Riley on a billboard.
A display at the Los Angeles Coliseum welcomes Lincoln Riley to USC. Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Consider this: Notre Dame has a 58% chance of making the College Football Playoff for the third time in four seasons — and their coach just bolted without giving any warning.

  • If the Irish do make the final four, a bunch of unpaid student-athletes will play on their sport's biggest stage while their handsomely-paid coach settles into his new home 1,000 miles away.
  • Meanwhile, USC is reportedly buying both of Riley's Oklahoma homes for $500,000 over asking — a year after universities cut over 100 sports programs amid the pandemic.

What to watch: Just in case Riley and Kelly earning more than most NFL coaches doesn't make this look enough like a pro sport, keep an eye on the transfer portal. It's basically free agency now — and could get crazy.

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