The only reasonable excuse for ESPN commentator David Pollack’s disparaging remarks regarding the selection of former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for the College Football Playoff selection committee is that someone had spiked his drink before he went on air.
“I’m going to stick my foot in my mouth probably. … I want people on this committee that can watch tape, that have played football, that are around football,” Pollack said.
When asked if he meant that women shouldn’t be in the selection committee, he agreed.
“You said that. … I’ll say it, yeah,” he responded, forgetting that he works for the Disney-owned company that is an equal-opportunity employer. (He backtracked and apologized later on Twitter, like every other person who has ever made a public mistake.)
College football is ready to go to a four-team playoff format, after finally having enough of a decade’s worth of criticism of the current format — using computers to choose who will play for the BCS championship. Next year, a selection committee of 12 to 18 of the best college football aficionados will determine the future of the playoffs.
But in the male-dominated sports industry, there is much public criticism of including Rice on the committee. Former Auburn coach Pat Dye told a morning radio show based out of Alabama that Rice’s knowledge of football barely scratches the surface, as just someone who watches football or read a book about it.
Sources about Rice’s background on football and athletics don’t go in depth enough to satisfy every hardcore sports fan. As an alumna of the University of Denver and Notre Dame and as former Provost at Stanford, she has been seen frequently at Cardinal football games, has been in talks with recruits who visit the campus and is a volunteer golf coach. She also comes from a family with a strong background in sports.
But there is no relationship of success between being an athlete in a sport and making decisions in sports. Look at Michael Jordan’s transition from the greatest on the basketball court to owning the Charlotte Bobcats — who finished last season as the NBA’s worst team.
Compare that to Jerry “The Logo” West’s career on the NBA court and his transition to championship dynasties for the Los Angeles Lakers.
It is a completely uncorrelated situation. Playing experience doesn’t always translate into expertise in other areas.
If Rice has been interviewed and possesses enough football knowledge to be selected for the playoff selection committee, then she has every right to have a seat with the “boys,” without any criticism as why she is there.
We may not hear the details of the decision to choose her, whether it’s about having diversity or fulfilling a quota. But Rice presents valuable assets to the NCAA based on her diverse expertise. Choosing four teams to play in a playoff should be a less stressful job for her after spending time on the National Security Council during wartime.
I don’t know the correct solution for women to be completely accepted in workplaces that are seen as strictly masculine, other than waiting out the older and sometimes ignorant generation — a changing of the guard. As time goes by, we will no longer see many of the people who compound social problems, such as issues women face in the “male workplace.”
But for the inaugural season of this new playoff selection committee, the NCAA is starting off right by knocking down a “barrier” and giving Condoleezza Rice an opportunity. It should continue to do so as time passes.
Nowhere in the working industry should it be a man’s world or a woman’s world. This world is for anybody.
If you have what it takes and can prove it when the time comes, the world is yours.
Reach the columnist at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @taequangdoh