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Lincoln Riley on Pat Narduzzi’s tampering accusations: I take it personally

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LOS ANGELES, CA - July 29, 2022 - USC Head Coach Lincoln Riley gives an interview.
USC coach Lincoln Riley speaks during Pac-12 Media Day on LA Live on Friday afternoon. Riley says he “absolutely” took it personally when Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi accused him of interfering. (Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

Three months after a fellow coach accused him of spoofing the top of college football, Lincoln Riley finally got the opportunity to publicly defend himself against these allegations on Friday.

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On his first Pac-12 media day as USC coachRiley dismissed allegations that Trojans tampered with Biletnikoff Award winner Jordan Addison by offering a passionate defense of his own integrity when asked about lawsuits filed by Pat Narduzzi of Pittsburgh last April.

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“When someone disputes it without facts and only on emotions, do you take it personally? Absolutely right,” Riley said. “I understand that this is an emotional time. This is an emotional game with a lot of emotional people. We hired Jordan just like any other transfer. Jordan got into the transfer portal. Jordan came to visit USC. Despite all the negative things that have been magically removed by someone, he is a kid who is all about the ball.”

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An ESPN report claimed that Narduzzi called Riley several times in late April to express his dissatisfaction with a coach he believed was recruiting Addison to USC before he officially appeared on the NCAA transfer portal on May 3.

The accusations followed Addison amid rumors swirling of multimillion-dollar NIL deals awaiting wide circulation at USC. Addison visited Texas and USC and on May 19, as many expected, took part in the Trojans.

“All he wanted to do during his visit was gossip,” Riley said. “We literally skipped a few scheduled dinners and activities in order to watch more movies and chat more. That’s all he is about. I think he was very, very distorted throughout this.”

Many suspected that his arrival was accompanied by a promised salary. But USC quarterback Caleb WilliamsAnother transfer, whose arrival sparked his own share of wild NIL rumors, joined his coach on Friday in vehemently denying that was the case with Addison, with whom he already had a relationship by virtue of their upbringing in the DC area.

They even joked about Addison’s $3 million salary rumors.

“It wasn’t about the NIL for Jordan,” Williams said. “It was one of the most important things. People thought it was NIL. The guys inside knew it wasn’t true. Jordan wants to win. Jordan wants to be the best receiver – no offense to any other school.”

Williams did admit that he was on Addison’s ear throughout the process, trying to convince him to join USC.

He wasn’t the only one.

“It was like 15 of my teammates when I sent a message to Jordan,” Williams said. “I thought, ‘Guys, we’re going to need him to win some big games.’ That’s how important Jordan was.”

Important enough to merit a mention by Pac-12 commissioner George Klaukoff, who declined to name any of the USC players by name but pointed to the arrival of college football’s top wide receiver as a sign of the conference’s viability.

This arrival in the spring caused more controversy than certainty. But as USC looks ahead, it’s already becoming clear what impact Addison can have on a completely rebuilt Trojan offensive.

Williams called him “the fastest wide receiver on the team”. Riley called him a “proven playmaker”.

Midfielder Shane Lee received even more enthusiastic praise.

“I’ve had great receivers,” Lee said. “He’s great”.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.


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