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Guerin Emig mailbag: Playoff expansion is good, the softball Sooners were great, and is it time for a Maggie Nichols statue?
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Guerin Emig mailbag: Playoff expansion is good, the softball Sooners were great, and is it time for a Maggie Nichols statue?

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061821-tul-spt-emigblog mailbag

Oklahoma utility Jocelyn Alo high fives Oklahoma head coach Patty Gasso after hitting a home run during game two of the NCAA Women's College World Series Championship Series in Oklahoma City on Wednesday, June 9, 2021.

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You have reached out. The least I can do is reach back.

To the mailbag we go...

From Bob: “Thank you for your column on the expansion of the playoff being good for college football rather than harmful. I would have been happy if it went from four to eight participants, but 12 gets us even closer to what many of us have been clamoring for all along when it comes to the playoff: objectivity.

“Remember a few years ago when Baylor and TCU were effectively shut out from the CFP? Even though Baylor beat TCU to ice TCU’s exclusion, I felt that TCU’s defensive dominance would have served them well that year and that they would have had a legitimate chance of taking home the crown.

“I’m really curious what the expansion naysayers are truly upset about? My beef has always been with the several-week lull between the end of the regular season and bowl/playoff games, where certain teams’ timing gets totally thrown off and we sometimes witness less-than-desirable versions of them.”

To Bob’s final point, the playoff committee could give teams a week off after conference title games and still fill December with the first round, quarterfinals and semifinals of the 12-team playoff before staging the championship a week into January. That would keep the regular-season versions of CFP qualifiers intact.

According to the expansion proposal, however: “First-round games would take place on campus sometime during the two-week period after conference championship games. Quarterfinals would be played on January 1, or January 2 when New Year’s Day falls on a Sunday, and on an adjacent day.”

So they’re going to draw it out. I get it. More recovery time for young players with lots of wear and tear from a long season. More study time for final exams.

The December calendar won’t be playoff-packed with an expansion. But at least it will be better filled, meaning the football will look more familiar.

Consider that among the many steps in the right direction with expansion from four to 12.

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From Rodger: “Female National Players of the Year need statues on campus. Y’know, similar to the Heisman winners getting a statue.”

I assume Rodger is referencing Oklahoma softball star Jocelyn Alo here. Very interesting idea.

At the very least, Joe Castiglione and OU decision-makers ought to consider a statue of any female Sooner legend. That feels a little overdue, don’t you think?

How about Stacey Dales if they ever decide to bronze Wayman Tisdale outside the Lloyd Noble Center? Both carry program-launching legacies. Twin towers. That would be really cool.

Alo still has another year of eligibility. Let’s allow her to finish her OU career before immortalizing her.

My two softball statue ideas – maybe dedicate one whenever they christen a renovated Marita Hynes Field – are Keilani Ricketts for individual excellence and Lisa Carey homering off UCLA in the 2000 national championship game. The moment that announced OU as a national power.

My best suggestion regardless of sport: Maggie Nichols. A dominant athlete on national championship gymnastics teams. Equally impactful away from the mat as Athlete A in the Larry Nassar scandal.

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From Larry: “Loved these girls. Loved the ’13 bunch. Loved the ’00 team. But I think my favorite is the ’16 team because they were just children. Three rookies and a sophomore in the infield. Freshman, sophomore and a lone senior (a great one, Erin Miller) in the outfield. The battery was two sophomores. Only reason they won was nobody remembered to tell them they couldn’t.”

More OU softball here. I imagine numerous Sooner fans feel as Larry does. The best championships are the ones you never see coming.

I have a soft spot for the Sooners’ 2016 champions, too, because I have a soft spot for coach Patty Gasso and Gasso has never been better than down the stretch of that ’16 season.

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From Pete: “It was hard to telling whether the Sooners fed off the crowd or the crowd fed off them. Whichever, it was awesome.”

My takeaway from experiencing a Women’s College World Series in the expanded USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium: What was already a decisive homefield advantage for OU just doubled.

They didn’t double the capacity – it’s an extra 4,000 seats to a new capacity of 13,000 – but goodness it feels like they did. The new park feels like Owen Field when the Sooners are rallying.

I can’t imagine SEC, ACC, Pac-12 or even Big 12 competitors are thrilled about that. Maybe they can live with it knowing the surge in attendance coincides with the surge in popularity for their buzzing sport.

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From another Bob: “Too bad about Arkansas baseball. They used their star relief pitcher to start and he makes 118 pitches and gives up the game-winning home run in the ninth. Ridiculous, even more so since he pitched the previous day.”

Felt terrible for Kevin Kopps, the Razorbacks’ splendid pitcher who met that cruel fate in the top of the ninth against North Carolina State.

Felt terrible for my pal Will Lambley, the biggest Arkansas superfan I know. He was all set to Call the Hogs at the College World Series in Omaha. Damn.

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From Brian: “ESPN just did a program on NFL brain injury settlements. Black players are measured on a lower scale, making it harder for them to prove damage. Hard to believe that kind of science is being used today. And much harder to believe it’s being accepted.”

The key passage from the ESPN.com story posted last February: “At issue is a process called ‘race-norming,’ which has been used by scientists for decades as a way to correct for the lower levels of education often found in minority communities. It was designed to prevent the overdiagnosis of cognitive impairment in these communities, but according to former players Kevin Henry and Najeh Davenport’s lawsuit, when applied to the NFL concussion settlement, it is having the opposite effect -- making it more difficult for players to show cognitive decline.”

For what it’s worth the NFL recently declared it would stop its use of race-norming. That doesn’t detract from Brian’s point.

Nor does it detract from how callous the NFL has been in general over the years toward its former players and their litany of health issues.

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From Alon: “Whether you write about an individual or a group, I always feel like I know the individual well enough to meet them for coffee. Or, as in today’s World, the bicyclists in ‘Team Suicide Prevention,’ a group I knew nothing about. They certainly have a good purpose and I’m glad you’re getting the word out about an important topic.”

Thank you so much, Alon. Getting the word out about meaningful people and subjects is one of my favorite parts about a job I love.

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From Paul: “Excellent column about the cross country ride (Team Suicide Prevention is doing Race Across America next week to raise awareness for mental health issues including suicide). Do you know about the annual ride along the route of the Cherokee Trail of Tears?”

I do now, Paul. Thank you so much for the heads up.

From the Remember the Removal Bike Ride website: “The Remember the Removal Bike Ride was started by the Cherokee Nation in 1984 for Cherokee youth to retrace the Trail of Tears and get a glimpse of the hardships their ancestors faced when they made the same trek on foot years before. That year about 20 students, ride coordinators and two consultants from Boston College set out on bicycles followed by vans and a school bus of supplies, including tents and food.

“The ride became an annual event starting in 2009 and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians joined the ride in 2011. Today, the riders are selected based on an interview process. Then, the riders will complete a physical test and train for six months.

“During the bike ride, cyclists visit the Kituwah Mound in the original Cherokee homeland. They stop at unmarked graves of their ancestors; visit New Echota, the former Cherokee capital in Georgia; stop at Blythe Ferry along the Tennessee River, where Cherokees gathered during their forced removal; and take time to reflect on their ancestors at Mantle Rock and other historic sites historic to the Cherokee people.”

Cherokee Nation cyclists on this year’s three-week ride that began May 31, according to the Cherokee Phoenix, are Shace and Ronnie Duncan of Stilwell, Melanie Giang of Claremore and Tracie Asbill, Kaylee Smith and Whitney Roach of Tahlequah.

Something else I love about my job: when readers get the word out to me.

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Sports Columnist

I'm the proud father of Gretchen and Holden. Devoted husband to Christy, who has been my best friend since biology class at Booker T. Washington. I covered the OU Sooners for 15 years. That was both challenging and rewarding. Now I get to write columns.

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