Rumors and controversy abound or are simply underfoot about Condoleezza Rice and college football.
Citing anonymous sources, AP writer Ralph D. Russo in the Huffington Post reports, “Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to be part of the selection committee that will pick the teams for the College Football Playoff next year ...” Russo writes Rice would join “former Mississippi and New Orleans Saints quarterback Archie Manning, former Big East Commissioner Mike Tranghese, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Gould, the former Air Force Academy superintendent and former NCAA executive Tom Jernstedt” in a committee of 12-18 to decide who would play in the four-team National College Football Championship next year.
The comments on the Huffington Post were much like this from Spudito47: “Tell that to 100,000 dead Iraqis, one million refugees and 4,000 dead young Americans.” Some comments were like ravatar252’s: “She'd be better in the White house.” Political comments like these are what you’d expect on a political website about the political equivalent of the Tennessee Titans’ Ryan Fitzpatrick.
OTHER WORK FROM GUILE: Why Isiah Thomas is stitching mad at Karl Malone
“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. ... 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 do some more?”
Also on WJOX, on Oct. 9, Hall of Famer Fran Tarkinton said:
"She’s as qualified to be on that committee as I am qualified to be on the Russian strategy and Mid-East strategy. ... It’s become a star thing. ... You want the most impartial, the most knowledgeable football people to make the decision to decide who goes where. ... It's ridiculous to put her on this committee, she is not qualified."
David Pollack on ESPN’s “College GameDay” said he only wants committee members “who have played football” and emphasized he did not want women on the committee. According to CBSSports.com's Jerry Hinnen, Pollack has since backtracked, tweeting, "I want people on the committee who eat, sleep and breathe college football during the season. It has nothing to do with male or female."
As a former Secretary of State and National Security Adviser for President George W. Bush, Rice will have to live with the legacy of two wars and animus from the political left. This animus, however, did not stop left-leaning Stanford University from welcoming her back as the Denning Professor in its graduate school of business. The biggest problem is with sports fans.
Condoleezza Rice, though a woman, is not like my mom. My mom watches every football game my dad does. She’s been watching dad’s football games for as long as I can remember, but my mom is not a football expert. Mom doesn’t know the teams very well. She doesn’t wait for the commercials to go to the kitchen for chips and soda. She’ll even — gasp! — take a phone call during a game. My mom likes football because my dad does. Rice likes football more than my mom since she is reportedly a Cleveland Browns fan.
Rice is also not like Annabelle Farrell (played by Brooke Langton) in "The Replacements," who is a cheerleader and football expert. Annabelle is any football fan’s dreamgirl, because not only is she knowledgeable and an uber-fan, she is a football dirt insider and she drives a Jeep. Women like Annabelle do exist. One of daughter’s church friends, whose dad used to play for BYU, not only loves football, she knows more about the game than most men I know.
Rice is not only a former Secretary of State, she is the former Provost of Stanford University where she was the first female, the first minority and the youngest provost in the history of the school. Rice knows the political ins and outs of college football from the dirty underside of a football stadium, the budget. She knows Stanford football from an angle the football fans never see.
Because her Ph.D. is in Soviet Block politics, Rice is a perfect fit for the College Football Playoff Selection Committee. Like Soviet era politicians, college football executives are not elected by their most important constituents, the fans. College football execs — appointed by power-hungry stakeholders — dictate football culture, dictate football science, dictate football fashion, dictate media reporting, eat borscht and wear funny hats. It takes a special mind to work with these folks, and Condoleezza Rice is that special mind.
During the Iraq and Afghan Wars, Rice worked the diplomatic angles behind the scenes. She negotiated with some of the hardest heads in the world. She knows war and battlefield necessities from the perspective of a civilian executive. No, she did not shoot an M-16, but probably understood the dirty underside of war better than the soldiers on the ground. Football needs a person like Rice more than it needs a concussion-addled former player who can’t see straight.
There is no way Rice, at five-foot-eight and maybe a hundred pounds soaking wet, could play football. Rice’s petite frame couldn’t even play women’s football. She doesn’t need to. Right now, six computer algorithms decide who plays in the BCS championship games. Except on a game console, computer algorithms do not play football. According to Cork Gaines at Business Insider, Rice’s co-nominee Tranghese, formerly of the Big East, never played college football.
Maybe what upsets football commentators about Rice is not only is she a former political appointee and brainy professor type, Rice is — according to Wikipedia and her Stanford University profile — a Brahms-loving concert pianist, business executive, author, ice-skater and golfer. That is simply too much diversity for some football insiders.
Rice is not my mom, a cheerleader, a former head football coach, a linebacker, a nose-guard, "Sports Center" pundit or Madden NFL Grand Champion. So are there other examples of football executives who never played the game? The best example I could find is Charlie Weis at University of Kansas. As far as I can tell, Weis has never played a down of organized football. Weis’ head-coaching record isn’t the greatest, at 38-40. He did earn his coaching job, however, without ever cramming his giant head into a helmet.
The same is true for BYU alum and Washington State head coach Mike Leach (91-54). Obviously, wearing shoulder pads not sewn into a dress suit, a jersey, a turf-stained helmet or a cup is not important enough to wear a head coach's head set.
The same is true for a committee membership. Condoleezza Rice will be great.
Aaron Guile lives in Provo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at @AaronGuile.
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company