Backlash against Rice appointment on football committee sexist, stupid

Tuesday October 8th, 2013

Condoleezza Rice helped lead the United States into one of the most controversial wars in our nation's history, but we can't let her participate in serious business like planning a college football playoff. THAT would be OUTRAGEOUS. After all, Rice lacks the proper qualifications, and by "qualifications," I mean "a penis".

That seems to be the big complaint about Rice. I don't know how many people are making it, but a few is too many. So before this becomes the dumbest movement in sports, let's squash it.

Rice was selected to be on the committee to select four team's for the first-ever College Football Playoff next year, and ESPN's David Pollack and former Auburn coach Pay Dye are not happy.

Pollack: "I want people on this committee that can watch tape, that have played football, that are around football, that can tell you different teams on tape, not on paper."

So no women?


Pollack later tweeted that this wasn't about male or female. Of course it isn't. It's about whether Rice might have the cooties.

Dye told WJOX radio in Birmingham, Ala.: "All she knows about football is what somebody told her. Or what she read in a book, or what she saw on television. To understand football, you've got to play with your hand in the dirt. ... I love Condoleezza Rice and she's probably a good statesman and all of that but how in the hell does she know what it's like out there when you can't get your breath and it's 110 degrees and the coach asks you to go some more?"

Dye also pointed out that, "the game is played on the field," a helpful tip for anybody who wonders why there are no yard lines in the parking lot.

Hey, if trying to catch your breath in 110-degree heat is an important qualification, the committee should include anybody who has ever tried to walk to lunch in Phoenix. The criticism of Rice is silly and sexist, and it shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what she is expected to do.

The playoff committee is supposed to determine which four teams are most qualified to play for the national title. That is it. Rice is smart enough and diligent enough to do that. The task has nothing to do with putting your hand in the dirt.

Pete Rozelle, the greatest commissioner in NFL history, never played football. Mike Leach, one of the great coaching minds in college football, never played college football. Charlie Weis never ... well, OK, bad example.

As with most sexism, the backlash against Rice is not about a hatred of women. It's about protecting turf. It's about insiders trying to keep outsiders out.

I'm sure that Pollack and Dye believe they are not speaking from a sexist place. They think they are protecting the game. But why did they feel the urge to do it? Because Rice is a woman, that's why.

Quick: Name the members of the NCAA men's basketball tournament selection committee. You can't, can you? As my colleague Seth Davis pointed out on Twitter, Texas-San Antonio athletic director Lynn Hickey served a five-year term on that committee. She was the second woman to do so.

I bet Pollack and Dye don't even know who is supposed to join Rice on the football committee. One of the people is longtime sportswriter Steve Wieberg, who is built like a kicker's little brother. Where is the outrage about Wieberg? (And I'm not trying to start any -- he will be great.)

But then, most people have no idea who has been determining the Bowl Championship Series title-game matchup for the last decade and a half. Who did you think was behind all those computer rankings, folks? Mean Joe Greene?

Rice served as the provost of Stanford, she is a huge college football fan, and she has dealt with much more complicated problems than this. She is one of many people on the committee. Unlike college coaches, athletic directors or conference commissioners, she has no financial stake in the selections.

And if she brings the perspective of somebody who didn't have a hand in the dirt, that is actually wonderful. She can bring a more detached and reasoned perspective than the "eye test" or conventional wisdom. That's what analytics experts have brought to every sport, and they have made teams and leagues smarter.

The college football committee needs outsiders. It should not be made up entirely of outsiders, and it won't be, but adding somebody like Rice is helpful.

This silliness is reminiscent of Augusta National's longtime determination to be an all-male golf club. That club's unofficial policy, like this resistance to Rice, was about power. Augusta National's members kept women out because they could, and they wouldn't cave to anybody. Last year, they finally realized that the gender of your playing partner doesn't make a damn bit of difference when you hit a fat eight-iron into Rae's Creek. Fittingly, one of the women they invited to join was Rice.

College football has many problems. Condoleezza Rice's place on the selection committee is not one of them.

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