Each week I talk to South Alabama basketball coach Richie Riley for a radio segment called “Life of Riley.”
Most of the time the topic centers around sports, but it sometimes ventures into other facets of life. If you’ve met the dynamic Riley, you know he can be entertaining and engaging about just about any topic. That was the genesis for the weekly segment.
Last week, I posed the following question: What are you sure you’re right about even if the rest of the world isn’t so sure?
Riley responded with what he called his “Certain Six.” His responses included his opinion on the greatest sports figure of all time, his ability as a 37-year-old former college intramural league star to quarterback Alabama to success on the field, the greatest pro basketball team ever assembled, his belief that top athletes could succeed at other sports, his unique perspective on the importance of the color of a player’s shoes, and his own ability to compete in a fringe sport.
Riley’s responses were enlightening and certainly fodder for a great sports debate.
The conversation got me thinking about the truths I hold to be self-evident, as Thomas Jefferson would say, even if other people may not be so sure. So, here are a few.
* The practice of redshirting college athletes benefits neither the players, the school, the coaches nor the fans. The current college rule allows for athletes to play four seasons in a five-year window. If they play every season, their eligibility runs out after four years. But if they don’t compete in games during one of those years, then that year doesn’t count against their eligibility.
This practice leads to many great players not participating as freshmen while they get even stronger and more mature as they prepare for their next four years of competition. This results in players sitting out when they would rather be playing and they may be better than the player who is playing.
My solution is simple: Every player should have five years to play five seasons. If they still decide to sit out one of those seasons, that player’s career would be identical to a current player who redshirts. This rule change would help the players; it would help the coaches, who would be free to always play their best players or get their younger players valuable game experience as they developed; it would help the fans see the best possible version of their team; and it would do no harm to colleges.
Under the current system, all scholarships have to be renewed annually. The same would be true under the new system.
* People who eat certain foods at only certain times of day need to open their minds. At what time of day does a cheeseburger not taste good?
* Within a decade, every football fan will be shocked that coaches once embraced a statistically inferior strategy called punting. The math is so overwhelmingly clear. Even on fourth-and-five from your own 20 on the first possession of the game, the right strategy is to go for it.
As soon as a few respected coaches embrace “advanced metrics” the way everyone in baseball now does, then all the others will follow.
* Using chopsticks at a Chinese restaurant is a ridiculous stunt. If chopsticks are the superior utensil, then use them to eat a steak and baked potato. Otherwise, a fork and a spoon will do the trick nicely.
* The early signing period for football recruits is a disaster for everyone involved. The problem with the concept from the beginning is that there was never a signing day during the first week of February. That was simply the first day recruits were allowed to sign. The end result is that was the day they signed.
The same thing predictably happened when the opportunity to sign 10 weeks earlier was presented. The end result was not that players were recruited for 10 weeks less — they are now simply recruited at a younger age.
Yes, a player might sign with South Alabama because he didn’t show himself to be good enough to play in the SEC at the end of his sophomore year in high school. In that regard, the December signing period works out well for South Alabama.
But that advantage is more than offset by colleges committing to players who would not have been qualified for that scholarship if the signing process was delayed a little longer.
To hear the complete Life of Riley interview that details his Certain Six, go to sportstalk995.iheart.com/featured/randy-kennedy/content/2020-05-21-life-of-riley-the-certain-6-topics-richie-riley-is-sure-hes-right-about.
Randy Kennedy, who has been a leading voice on the Gulf Coast sports scene for 18 years, writes a weekly column for Lagniappe. His sports talk show airs weekdays on the new Sports Talk 99.5 from 7-10 a.m.
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