There’s been some grumbling, and outright criticism, of the choice of Condoleezza Rice as one of the 13 members of the College Football Playoff Committee. Starting next year, the committee will pick the top four teams to play for the national championship.
Some question how Rice, who has never played or coached football, can make informed decisions about the best football teams. Others wonder whether Rice’s appointment rings of political correctness.
A few of the critics are more direct.
ESPN college football analyst David Pollack said, “I want people on this committee that can watch tape, that have played football, that are around football, that can tell you the different teams on tape, not on paper.”
Former Auburn Coach Pat Dye was even more blunt during an interview with radio station WJOX-FM in Birmingham, Alabama, Rice’s hometown. “All she knows about football is what somebody told her, or what she read in a book or what she saw on television,” Dye said. “To understand football, you’ve got to play with your hand in the dirt.”
That’s an interesting turn of phrase by Dye, who landed Auburn on NCAA probation for six major violations, including paying players and lack of institutional control. But I digress.
One might be able to make an argument against Rice if the good ol’ boy network that has run college football had a stellar record; it does not. Consider the following:
–The primary reason a special committee is being put in place is that even after 130 years, the sport still has not figured out a credible way to decide a national champion.
–Most college football teams lose money on what should be their most valuable product, a post season appearance in a bowl game.
–Helter-skelter conference shuffling and reshuffling has destroyed regional rivalries and created horrendous travel schedules, especially for non-revenue sports.
–Penn State, once one of the most respected college football programs in the country, was revealed as a dysfunctional oligarchy that protected a pedophile.
–A Sports Illustrated investigation produced an unflattering report on Oklahoma State football, including cash payments to players, academic cheating, drug problems and sexual favors for recruits.
–The New York Times described college football as a professional sport that happens to be in an academic setting.
This is what the “hands in the dirt” crowd has presided over.
Frankly, college football could use more people like Condoleezza Rice. She has myriad life and professional experiences, including tenures as Secretary of State and National Security Adviser. She understands critical thinking and decision making.
This new panel’s job is not to run the Oklahoma drill, but rather to use the best available information to reach consensus, which Rice is imminently qualified to do.