GREENVILLE – Lincoln Riley is staying put.
East Carolina’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach spent the first part of this week reportedly being linked to the likes of Notre Dame for its quarterback coach vacancy and also to North Carolina for its offensive coordinator job.
But as of Thursday morning those talks were over and Riley, who helped steer the Pirates to a 10-3 season in his fourth year in Greenville, was excited about next season and logging some serious recruiting miles.
“Absolutely, yes, it certainly looks that way,” Riley said by telephone Thursday afternoon of whether he would return to head coach Ruffin McNeill and the Pirates. “There are just so many special things going on right here right now. This is a very special place to me and my family.”
Riley confirmed there was interest from other schools, but was unable to comment specifically on which schools might have courted him or the institutions with which he might have interviewed earlier this week.
Numerous media outlets, including the South Bend (Ind.) Tribune, reported on Tuesday that Riley was one of three candidates along with a pair of NFL quarterback coaches interviewed by Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly. According to a source at the Tribune, Kelly was trekking back and forth between the American Football Coaches Association Convention in Indianapolis and South Bend on Tuesday to attend to staff matters, though it appears Riley and the Fighting Irish are no longer linked.
Despite another report that Riley was interviewed by UNC head coach Larry Fedora, Riley said he is gearing up for his fifth season in Greenville.
“This place has given us great opportunities,” Riley said of ECU. “We feel like part of the community and we feel home here. We’re looking forward to being here and I’m looking forward to getting back to what we do – recruiting and getting ready for spring ball and all those things that will be around the corner. That’s where our focus is right now.”
Riley, 30, has overseen an offensive explosion since joining head coach Ruffin McNeill’s staff in 2010.
That culminated last season, as the Pirates rewrote the team’s record book by running up more total yards and scoring more points than any previous Pirate team.
Riley helped to guide passer Shane Carden to a 4,000-yard junior season, while fellow junior Justin Hardy exploded for his second straight 1,000-yard receiving campaign and became ECU’s alltime leader in receiving yards and touchdowns.
Riley credits the success of this year’s team as a whole for the attention he’s received.
“When you are part of a successful program, things like that do happen,” Riley said. “They are part of the business, but we’re thrilled to be here. There are other opportunities out there, but what we have here is too special.”
Though he ultimately wants to be a head coach, Riley said he wants to continue the learning process at ECU.
“There are a lot of challenges in this game, and I think at some point yes I do (want to be a head coach),” he said.
Riley lauded the ECU coaching staff for its impact on his career to this point.
The Lubbock, Texas, native and former Texas Tech assistant said he has leaned heavily on his fellow ECU coaches, many of whom are also former TTU staffers.
“One of the biggest things that I love about this place is the guys I work with,” Riley said. “I’ve got (running backs coach/special teams coordinator) Kirk Doll who’s coached everywhere at every level, (inside receivers coach/recruiting coordinator) Donnie Kirkpatrick who’s been a head coach and offensive coordinator, (outside receivers coach) Dave Nichol, who taught me the offense at Texas Tech, (offensive line coach) Brandon Jones who played the the position of offensive lineman, the toughest position there is, and obviously Ruff and learning from him on a day-to-day basis.
“I’m in an environment where I feel like we can do really special things, and those guys are a huge part of why we’ve been successful here and why I want to be here.”