Days after interviewing for North Texas’ vacant head coaching position, Oklahoma offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley issued a statement Friday evening saying he is not a candidate.
“I am absolutely not a candidate for that position,” Riley said through a release issued through the OU communications staff. “I am focused on one thing — helping the OU Sooners win a national championship.”
Other North Texas candidates are believed to include Arizona State offensive line coach Chris Thomsen, a former head coach at Abilene Christian, and Texas A&M offensive coordinator Jake Spavital.
North Texas athletic director Rick Villarreal interviewed Riley earlier in the week, according to a university official.
It’s unclear whether Riley was the first candidate to be interviewed, but he was the most recent from a list of candidates that is believed to include Arizona State offensive line coach Chris Thomsen, a former head coach at Abilene Christian, and Texas A&M offensive coordinator Jake Spavital.
Villarreal is also expected to inquire about the interest of TCU co-offensive coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie.
The 32-year-old Riley is in his first season with Oklahoma after spending five seasons as East Carolina’s offensive coordinator. Prior to that, Riley was an offensive assistant at Texas Tech.
Speculation is that the new pay scale for a North Texas head coach would be between $900,000 and $1.5 million a season.
He is considered one of college football’s bright, young offensive minds.
In Riley’s up-tempo spread scheme, the Sooners are averaging more than 530 yards a game and 45 points, including 55 or more the past three games.
The job at North Texas would represent a raise for Riley, who reportedly earns $500,000 a year at Oklahoma. Villarreal said last week that he expected the salary for the new UNT coach to increase from the $600,000 base earned by former coach Dan McCarney, who was fired after opening the season 0-5.
Many have speculated that the new pay scale would be between $900,000 and $1.5 million a season.
While Villarreal continues the search for the program’s new leader, the Mean Green has hit the road for a Conference USA game Saturday with West Division co-leader Louisiana Tech, 6-3 and 4-1 under coach Skip Holtz.
North Texas (1-7, 1-4) picked up its first victory of the season last week against UT San Antonio.
North Texas is riding a 10-game road losing streak. A victory would be the Mean Green’s first on the road since defeating Tulsa 42-10 on Nov. 30, 2013.
We’re not satisfied. Let’s go get two. It’s all about getting the next one.
UNT interim head coach Mike Canales
A victory would also mark the first consecutive wins since the end of the 2013 season, which included a triumph at the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
“Getting the monkey off our back” with the victory was a big deal for the Mean Green, interim head coach Mike Canales said. “Now they can feel confident that they can play with anybody. It’s 0-0 when you step on the field. Anybody can beat anybody. Why not us?
“We’re not satisfied. Let’s go get two. It’s all about getting the next one.”
A prerequisite for hope continues to lie with the play-making ability of quarterback DaMarcus Smith and running back Jeffrey Wilson. The duo became the first quarterback-running back combination in school history to each rush for 100 yards in the same game.
Last week’s game also was the first all season North Texas hasn’t faced a negative turnover margin and, in fact, scored off a fumble return.
“We were determined as a team to make sure we came away with a win,” Canales said of last week. “I’m proud of our staff and players for the resilience and resolve they’ve shown throughout this to keep fighting and playing.
“Now let’s see if we can get No. 2.”
UNT at Louisiana Tech
2:30 p.m. Saturday, FCS