Connect with us

Pitt Football

Louis Riddick Talks College Sports Landscape, Path Ahead for Pitt



Pitt alum Louis Riddick.

Pitt football alumnus Louis Riddick has been around the game for decades, spending seven years in the NFL as a player before serving as a scout, a member of the Philadelphia Eagles’ front office and later as an announcer for ESPN’s Monday Night Football and college football broadcast. 

As such, he can break down the paradigm shift taking place across college football better than just about everyone—a shift that began with the implementation of Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) deals allowing student athletes to receive indirect compensation for their play via endorsement deals—fundamentally changing the way that teams can recruit and compete. 

Although he admitted that he isn’t “intimately familiar” with Pitt’s NIL capabilities, Riddick described the wide gulf between the haves and the have nots: ‘superteams’ like Alabama, Michigan and the University of Southern California with vast alumni bases and financial resources at their disposal, and the comparatively modest assets of programs like the Panthers.

“I’ve seen them, I’ve been all over the country, seen how some of these programs are operating. It’s amazing. It’s amazing what some of these schools have at their disposal. It put many NFL teams to shame,” Riddick said. “Some of these teams have multiple donors and people who can own NFL teams themselves, and they are heavily involved in the recruitment and procurement of kids 18, 19 years old coming to play for their school.”

Free Agency Every Year

Louis Riddick highlighted the way that the transfer portal currently operates, with most players able to jump from school to school without dealing with any eligibility concerns as a double-edged sword that could help Pitt football compete… or cut their chance of fielding a respectable team out from under them.

“It’s free agency every year, right? You get a couple key players at key positions and yeah, you can flip things around in a hurry. You target the right people at the right positions who are true game changers, it can absolutely change things,” Riddick said. 

“There’s an avenue for you to really be able to flip your fortunes one to ten in a hurry: both ways. You can wind up going into the summer thinking ‘I’ve got a squad. We’re set,’ and next thing you know, seven, eight starters are gone. You didn’t even know that those kids were talking to anybody. They could’ve been on the phone behind your back being recruited… The NFL’s not even like that.”

Of course, the nature of the portal will disproportionately improve the prospects of blue blood programs—USC sniping Jordan Addison away from Pitt following spring practices, for example. While Riddick acknowledged that ever-present disparity, he also mentioned cause for hope: the expanded 12 team playoff that will give more teams a chance at a championship.

Now that the CFP has been expanded, it gives a lot more teams hope. That’s what people want. They want a chance to get into the mix, get into the tournament,” Riddick said. “Just get in, because once you get in it’s just one-offs, single elimination, anything can happen. Now that there’s more opportunities for teams to get in, yeah, you should be fired up about that.”

Path Forward for Pitt

Each college football program has a different pool of resources to draw on, a different coaching staff with different strategies to key success. In an era with an emphasis on spread offenses and scoring explosions, Pitt remains a holdout, emphasizing the importance of defense and time of possession.

It’s a tendency that burned the Panthers in 2023, with stagnant offensive gameplans part of the cascade of woes that led to a 3-9 season. Louis Riddick—himself a former safety and self-described lover of defensive football—said in no uncertain terms that as college football currently stands, success begins on the offensive side of the ball.

“I think the number one thing that you have to do in college football right now is you have to make sure on the offensive side of the ball you’ve got a quarterback and you’ve got skill players who can light it up and put points on the board. Now, that sounds easy, that sounds ‘well yeah, no kidding,’ but it’s a fact,” Riddick said. “Kids wanna be associated with teams that score points, score touchdowns, are on SportsCenter, they’re on TV, people are kinda like looking through their Instagram [and seeing them].”

Louis Riddick went on to describe how a revamped, exciting offense makes the rest of the team better.

“That will bring not only more offensive recruits in, it’ll bring defensive recruits in too, because they’re gonna see a team that just looks exciting… it has a snowball effect,” Riddick said. “You know what else it does? It puts people in the stands… people want to see excitement, they want to come to the stadium and go ‘you’re gonna light up that scoreboard’… It just has a trickle down effect on everything else regarding the program. Everything.”

Recruiting in the NIL Era

Although he discussed the social media-attentive tendencies of modern collegiate recruits and the allure of massive NIL contracts—which can range up to seven figures for some of the biggest names in the sport—Louis Riddick also talked about how Pitt football can make waves when recruiting.

One advantage is Pitt’s rich history, with 10 Pro Football Hall of Famers (fourth-most of any college program) and dozens of collegiate All-Americans turned NFL Pro Bowlers. Riddick said that that history serves not only as an inspiration, but as a call to action for the next generation of Pitt stars.

“We have a great history. Some people really want to be a part of history; some people want to make new history,” Riddick said. “Some kids go ‘hey, you know what, I want to be a part of turning that around and getting back to that…’ there will always be some, though, who are willing to accept the challenge.”

Riddick said he’s had that discussion with his teenage son Darren, a budding basketball star in his own right.

“We talk about where he wants to go to school, and when I bring up Pitt he’s like ‘Dad, they didn’t make it to the tournament.’ I’m like ‘But what if you were the reason why they did? What if you kinda started changing that trajectory because you were a top five recruit and you went there?’” Riddick said. “There are people maybe out there who would want to do that for Pitt, and who would want that kind of challenge.”

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
Click to comment
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Get PSN in your inbox!

Enter your email and get all of our posts delivered straight to your inbox.

Like Pittsburgh Sports Now on Facebook!
Send this to a friend