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Jacobsen: Breaking in to the Boys Club (Oct. 8)

Vicky Jacobsen | Tuesday, October 8, 2013


I’ll give David Pollack this: maybe Erin Andrews shouldn’t be added to the new college football playoff committee.

For those of you who weren’t watching “College GameDay” on Saturday morning, Pollack, a Georgia linebacker-turned-ESPN-commentator, took issue with the news that former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will likely be one of the people charged with selecting the four teams that will play for the national championship in the College Football Playoff.

When Pollack’s fellow anchors asked him if his insistence that committee members be former college football players meant that no women could sit on the committee, he told the national audience, “You said that. … I’ll say it.”

Unfortunately for Andrews, her pointed retort on Fox Sports’ pregame show (“I’m female; thanks for having me in college football”) was undercut by her prediction of a Maryland win over Florida State. (The Seminoles went on to thrash the Terps, 63-0. Prognostication is a tricky business.)

But even if Andrews couldn’t pick an ACC game to save her life, she is correct on one count: there are people who have never played a down of college football who can correctly identify a good football team. And some of those people are female.

Pollack is far from the only one who has said otherwise. Former Auburn coach Pat Dye also says Rice couldn’t possibly be up to the job, telling a Birmingham morning radio show, “All she knows about football is what somebody told her, or what she read in a book, or what she saw on television.” He then went on to suggest that her background in politics (and, we all know it, her gender) means that she’ll likely rely on “personal relationships” when rating teams. Sure, Rice has been the provost of a major American university (Stanford). The second President Bush thought she was capable of mastering the nuances of conflict in the Middle East. But we’re supposed to believe she can’t spot a strong offensive line when she sees one? Please.

Dye went on to say Rice (or any other non-football player) can’t possibly 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 some more.” Well, that’s true. But members of the committee aren’t being asked to identify the team that tried the hardest or huffed-and-puffed its way to the most victories. They are charged with deciding which teams accomplished the most during the regular season. That’s not always an easy call, but I somehow doubt that it’s harder than negotiating with Vladimir Putin and North Korea.

Besides, I’m not sure the guys “in the trenches” are always the ones with the best understanding of the nationwide picture. I love Lou Holtz, and I fully recognize that he forgot more about football this morning than I will ever know. But do we trust him to provide objective analysis, especially when it comes to a certain school in Northern Indiana?

A week before Notre Dame’s game against Oklahoma, a prominent member of the Irish defense (who will remain nameless) asked me who the Sooners’ quarterback is. I was taken aback – shouldn’t he have known everything there was to know about Blake Bell? But the truth is, there was no point to worrying about Bell during Michigan State week. Fans (and, apparently, David Pollack) might not like to admit it, but a lot of those people who “eat, sleep and breathe football” have to be myopic. They can’t worry about any team other than the one directly in front of them. Les Miles doesn’t have time to watch every Pac-12 game. I’m guessing Urban Meyer isn’t combing film from across the country, looking for a sleeper-Heisman pick.

This intense focus is great for winning games, but it’s not great for evaluating the entirety of college football. I’m sure there are plenty of ex-football players who could easily switch to “the big picture” mode of analysis. But there are plenty of fans, writers, coaches’ daughters, administrators and, yes, diplomats, who could surely do likewise.

Contact Vicky Jacobsen at vjacobse@nd.edu

The views expressed in this Sports Authority are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.