Last I looked, ESPN was paying $7.3 billion over 12 years for what will be called The (Naming Rights Here) College Football Playoff. This has a very good chance of gaining two immediate distinctions: It will be the second-biggest event in American sports, and it will earn Nobel Peace Prize consideration for helping purge the Bowl Championship Series. Having endured the chaotic BCS pigslop for much too long, we demand that the new system be administered with meticulous care.
Meaning: no politics, no favoritism, no bribes, no good old boys.
And no charlatans.
That was the word David Pollack should have used and didn’t. The ESPN analyst was trying to make an excellent point that the playoff selection committee should be represented by experienced, wired-in experts — and not a political mannequin such as former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. With controversy still possible every year — only four teams qualify, which will require a savvy panel to explain precisely why the fifth and sixth teams fell short — there is no room for committee people who don’t have an elaborate history of working in college football.
It has nothing to do with Rice being a woman. It has to do with the College Football Playoff not being a company that summarily gives Rice, say, a spot on the board of directors because it looks cool.
But Pollack, egged on by host Chris Fowler during ESPN’s wildly popular “College GameDay” show, let a relevance issue become a sexism explosion. He made the mistake of emphasizing the word “guys,” a reference to the show’s male panelists and to the sport’s participants, when he first stated, “Now I’m going to stick my foot in my mouth, probably. I want people on this committee, guys, that can watch tape. … Yes, that have played football, that are around football, that can tell you different teams, on tape, not on paper …”
Fowler: “So no woman belongs on the committee, then?”
Pollack: “You said that. … I’ll say it, yeah. Yeah.”
Why go there? All Pollack did was guarantee that Rice — who once was a volunteer coach for the Stanford golf team, happens to be one of the first two women members at Augusta National and has nothing on her resume about college football beyond being a fan — will have a spot on the committee. Now that he has opened up this crazy mess, there’s no way Rice will be omitted, lest anyone want to be accused of following and agreeing with Pollack. Sure, it’s difficult finding women who have been directly involved in an almost exclusively male sport, but I can think of women in national sports media — columnist Christine Brennan of USA Today, or a TV reporter who covers college football exclusively such as ESPN’s Samantha Ponder — who would be more immersed in the entire four-month drama and better trained to pick the final four teams.
But it appears College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock, working with commissioners from the sport’s five power conferences, is trying to be cute instead of keeping his eye on the ball. Almost every other name on the panel works for me, including coaching legend Tom Osborne and First Family of Football patriarch Archie Manning. I’m fine with athletic directors such as USC’s Pat Haden, Wisconsin’s Barry Alvarez, West Virginia’s Oliver Luck, Arkansas’ Jeff Long and Clemson’s Dan Radakovich. I’m fine with a former coach, Ty Willingham. I’m fine with a former conference commissioner, Mike Tranghese. I’m fine with a former NCAA executive, Tom Jernstedt. I’m fine with a former sportswriter, Steve Wieberg. I’m fine with a retired Air Force Academy superintendent, Lt. Gen. Michael Gould.
I don’t care if they’re men, women or aliens. Those people would be able to tell me, without a blink, why Alabama, Oregon, Ohio State and Clemson would be the final four teams this season — hypothetically — and why Stanford and Florida State would be the first two teams left out. Christine Brennan would be able to tell me. Samantha Ponder would be able to tell me.
I’m not sure if Condi Rice, a professor of political economy in the Stanford graduate business school, would be able to tell me.
That’s what Pollack was trying to say. Eventually, he corrected his opinion to mean he wants committee members who “eat, sleep and breathe college football. It has nothing to do with male or female.” Too late, pal. The damage is done. You have been deemed a sexist pig.
Said Fox college football host Erin Andrews, in wryly reporting the day’s top headlines: “Besides my real one, my second headline is going to be `I’m a female, thanks for having me in college football.’ ”
Tweeted Ponder: “Verbally destroying @davidpollack47 on the bus for his comments about Condi. Next, he makes me a sandwich.”
Tweeted Ponder again: “For those asking, I’m glad @davidpollack47 gave his honest opinion. I respect his right to be wrong. :)”
Tweeted veteran sportscaster Bonnie Bernstein: “@davidpollack47 Hearing you don’t think women should be on CFB Playoff Selection Comm bc they didn’t play. You & I should chat…”
Any of those three would be a better idea on the panel than Rice. Quick, Condi, name me the starting quarterback at Florida State.
If she doesn’t immediately say Jameis Winston, without consulting the Internet or a lifeline, bounce her ass.