Condoleezza Rice has quite the resumé. Put down Provost of Stanford University, United States National Security Advisor and even United State Secretary of State for former president George W. Bush. But college football guru? Believe it or not, it’s true.
The first African-American woman to be named the Secretary of State isn’t the only pioneering mark in her illustrious career; she was named to the 13-member selection committee for the new college football playoff. She is the only woman on the committee.
This decision to allow Rice on the committee was met with a lot of criticism, as well as praise. The criticism mostly comes from those who don’t believe that football is ready for a woman or that women may not have the knowledge to be able to make the right decisions. Even former Auburn coach Pat Dyer chimed in, saying, “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.”
Now, for most of its history, the entirety of the sport was reserved for the athletic men. Women have had to make strides over the years to get on the field and on the court. But there is still a long way to go.
In 2000, Charlotte athletic director Judy Rose was the first woman to serve on the selection committee for NCAA men’s basketball. Rose was the first woman in the first sixty years of the committee even though there has been women’s basketball for eons. But, with football, there is no equivalent for women. It has always been coached by men. It has, for the most part, always been played by men. So, I can see that it would be easy to say that the fate of football’s best college teams should remain in the hands of men only. But just because it’s easy, doesn’t mean that it’s the best.
First, there is the argument that one must have been a former player to truly understand the game and make decisions. Here’s the big flaw: Mike Tranghese, the former commissioner of the Big East, who is also on the football committee, never played football, yet there’s no criticism about his place in the sport.
On top of that, I played football for one year as a sophomore in high school (junior varsity tight end, ladies) and I feel like I could serve on this committee. Who says that what you find out about football in a book or on television is a bad thing?
Just because I watched a special on World War II on the History Channel doesn’t mean that, just because I wasn’t there, I didn’t learn anything.
But here’s where the move to put Rice on the committee really makes sense: the evolution of the game of football.
Football is the most popular sport in America. It’s been played so long by men that dads, sons and grandsons can all share stories of playing on the gridiron. It’s almost become a right of passage for men. But football is a business, and, like all businesses, it has to evolve. Football is expanding to a large and consistently growing base of female fans. The game has to embrace its new fans and continue to grow in popularity, otherwise it will shrivel up and die because it failed to change.
So that, I think, is the real reason why Rice is on the committee. She knows a ton (and I do mean a ton) about football, but she facilitates a change in culture in college football. And I think that the sport will be better for it.