Lincoln Riley: No update on suspended trio, other than 'agonizing...level of frustration'

Oklahoma's head football coach used to condemn marijuana usage too, but has come around "180 degrees in the other direction"
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Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley had no update on his three suspended players during a brief Zoom call on Thursday afternoon.

That didn’t stop him from expounding on his frustration with the NCAA, or from describing how he himself has experienced a revelation on the topic of marijuana.

“Sheesh,” Riley said. “It’s been really, really hard on those three kids. I gotta watch what I say. But I mean, it’s been agonizing for those three kids. It’s not right.”

Trejan Bridges, Ronnie Perkins and Rhamondre Stevenson were all suspended before last year’s College Football Playoff game after failing a routine, random drug test. Now, five games into the 2020 season, and two days before the Sooners play at Texas Tech, Riley still has no clarity from the NCAA on their availability. A positive test is supposed to trigger suspension for half a season, but there is apparently no definition of what half a season actually covers. Riley and OU haven't officially said the suspensions are marijuana-related, but Thursday, he addressed the topic specifically.

“It’s tough to describe the level of frustration,” Riley said. “I mean, listen, there’s gonna be decisions; things don’t always work out your way. But being able to communicate with somebody that you’re supposed to work hand-in-hand with is a key part of it, and clearly there’s some issues there.”

The Oklahoman’s Ryan Aber asked Riley how his own views on marijuana have evolved over the years. Riley grew up in rural Texas and chose to work in an industry that has historically scorned marijuana use.

Riley’s opinion on the matter isn’t what it used to be.

“Yeah, it’s changed a ton,” Riley said. “I mean, probably 180 degrees in other direction. I grew up, and even as a young coach, looking at it like this is just a lazy, dumb that thing people do, and if they do, they should get punished. I mean, that’s kind of how I was raised. That’s how I was raised as a coach.

“And then, until I started really learning (that) for a lot of people – not saying everybody, but for a lot of people – this isn’t performance-enhancing, this isn’t a party deal. For lot of people, it’s a major mental health issue. Major. And as I finally woke up and paid attention, with that realization in me finally being able to learn that and understand that, which took me too long, honestly, it shifted everything about how we handle that issue in our program.

“I’m very convinced we were totally handling it the wrong way. I’m not gonna get too much into the details, but we totally shifted our way of thinking. We’ve had just a remarkable turnaround in a short time in our program on that whole issue. And the NCAA needs to wake up and figure that out too.

“Unfortunately, they haven’t yet for these kids. Now, it’ll get changed soon, but not soon enough for these three guys.”

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