Horning: The door's opening, Sooners might as well go through it … if they can

OU head coach Lincoln Riley before the Sooners' game against TCU, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.

Oklahoma introduced cost-cutting measures for its athletics department last week, including budget cuts of approximately $13.7 million in controllable operating expenses and 10% reductions to its largest salaries.

OU athletics department employees that make $1 million or more per year are affected by the pay decrease, prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Sooners’ head football coach, Lincoln Riley, easily falls into that category with his $6.4 million annual income.

Riley addressed the budget cuts and impact to his contract during a Zoom call with media on Friday. Oklahoma athletics director Joe Castiglione delivered the news to Riley in person, he said.

“Joe stopped by the house and told me what he was thinking,” Riley said. “It took me about two and a half seconds and I said I was good with it, that was it. We're all having to adjust ... it's unprecedented and we've all gotta do our part and it's changed things for all of us. I didn't see any reason why I should be any different.”

Second-year OU defensive coordinator Alex Grinch will also be affected. Grinch, whose contract runs through the 2021 season, made $1.4 million last year. OU men’s basketball coach Lon Kruger ($3.3 million annually) and women’s basketball coach Sherri Coale ($1.3 million) are impacted by the temporary pay cut as well.

Riley didn’t seem bothered by the change to his yearly pay, which will still exceed $5 million. The fourth-year OU football coach said he sees it as another way to assist the university.

“In this time, it's just another way that I can do my job,” Riley said. “That's my job is to make it successful. Whatever I've gotta do to do that, then that's why it certainly wasn't a hard decision for me …when Joe asked me, it didn't feel like that big a deal. It was like, of course I will.”

OU isn’t alone in its money-saving efforts.

In late April, both Kansas head football coach Les Miles and Kansas athletics director Jeff Long announced they agreed to 10% salary reductions for the next six months. More salary reductions and furloughs were introduced by KU in May.

Kansas State’s head football coach Chris Klieman and men’s basketball coach Bruce Weber accepted a 13% salary reduction to their respective contracts, while Texas Tech reduced its athletics department budget by nearly $7 million, according to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal’s Don Williams.

The likes of Arizona, Colorado, South Carolina, Connecticut, Nebraska, Iowa and Boise State have introduced cost-cutting measures in some form, ranging from salary reductions to budget cuts to eliminating specific sports at their schools.

OU did not rule out last week’s announcement as the final action it will implement in regards to its financial situation.

The department expressed optimism, however, as it heads into an uncertain time.

"Our goal is to have all activities operate as safely and efficiently as possible," Castiglione said in a statement. "That said, we are planning on a number of contingencies and protocols that will leave us prepared for any number of scenarios."

Joe Buettner


Follow me @ByJoeBuettner


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