The NCAA Playoff selection committee has tapped Condoleezza Rice
to serve on its 13 member board that will be tasked with selecting four teams from the 2014 regular season to advance to next year's playoffs.
The 58-year-old Rice, who had previously served as secretary of state and national security advisor under President George W. Bush, described herself as a "rabid college football fan" in an interview with Sports Illustrated
, telling the magazine that she grew up in a household with a father who coached football.
"I'm someone who is a student of the game and loves the game, and I'm so excited to be a part of college football," Rice said. "I'll do everything I can to put in the work to be as fair as humanly possible."
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The selection of Rice, who is the only woman on the committee, did not come without criticism from some in the male-dominated game.
"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," former Auburn coach Pat Dye said last week reacting to the news that Rice was being considered for the NCAA Playoff selection committee, ESPN reported
ESPN's Andrea Adelson pointed out that such criticisms toward women in sports are often "conveniently ignored about men who never played football," she writes.
Rice is one of three members of the committee who did not play college football, USA Today noted
Rice laughed off the criticisms, telling Sports Illustrated, "I'm no stranger to controversy," a not so subtle reference to her years as part of the Bush administration.
"Of course, I knew there would be people that said, 'Well, you didn't play football.' That would be true, but not everybody that's been associated with this game played football," Rice told Sports Illustrated. "With all due respect to my good friend Roger Goodell, and Paul Tagliabue, I think the most influential commissioner in the history of the NFL was Pete Rozelle. He never played football. And so you can be a student of the game, you can love the game and never have experienced playing the game."
Rice, who presently works as a political science professor at Stanford University, had formerly been the school's provost where she was oversaw decisions for Stanford's athletics department, including the hiring of coach Tyrone Willingham, ESPN noted.
As for whether she sees herself as a pioneer in the male-dominated sport, Rice told USA Today, "I don't feel like I'm carrying a banner for anyone, except those who love college football. That includes women."
"What's important is that you have a committee that is going to be responsible and dedicated to make the very best set of decisions possible and that they come from a diversity of backgrounds," Rice told Sports Illustrated. "I think my diversity in athletics is an important experience to add to that committee. I'm delighted to be a part of the committee, and I'm female, and if people want to take note of that, that's great."
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Rice said she was courted by Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott, who told her that "a number of commissioners would like you to serve."
After making sure the committee would not conflict with preexisting commitments, Rice says she enthusiastically accepted the offer.
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