Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, a Stanford Graduate School of Business professor and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, was officially named a member of the College Football Playoff selection committee on Wednesday. She later defended her spot in the 13-person group — comprised otherwise of former coaches, football administrators and sports journalists — in a Wednesday afternoon teleconference.
The 13-member committee will be tasked with determining the four participants in the new playoff system, which will replace the controversial BCS beginning with the 2014 season. Other members with notable Stanford affiliations are former coach Tyrone Willingham, who led the Cardinal to the 2000 Rose Bowl and is now a volunteer assistant coach for the Stanford women’s golf team, and West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck, the father of quarterback Andrew Luck ‘12.
Rice’s inclusion in the selection committee has come under fire since it was reported by the Associated Press on Oct. 4. Most notably, ESPN analyst David Pollack said on College GameDay that he thought the committee members should have played football or been around the sport and should be able to judge teams on tape, implying that Rice was not qualified.
The former Stanford provost addressed those concerns on Wednesday, noting that she has not only been a lifetime college football fan — she mentioned a 1966 game between Michigan State and Notre Dame twice during the teleconference — but that she has also served an important administrative role for Cardinal athletics.
“As provost at Stanford, athletics reported to me for six years,” Rice said. “So I understand the game from the administrative side too, facilities and compliance issues. I hired Ty Willingham when I was provost, and indeed, all the way back in 1988, served on the committee that brought Denny Green to Stanford as coach.”
Asked whether she was leading the way for other women in football — Pollack’s comments have been interpreted by many as sexist — Rice downplayed her role.
“I don’t feel that I’m carrying a banner for anyone, except those of us who love college football,” she said. “And by the way, that includes a lot of women too.”
Rice said that she was originally approached by Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott about the position, and that Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby, Stanford’s athletic director from 2006-12, also convinced her to join the committee.
“People thought that it was important to have diversity of experience,” Rice said. “There’s a reason that, for instance, corporate boards are not all CEOs. You want people who have diversity of experience. Secondly, they said we want people who will make critical judgments and can do so under pressure, and I think that’s going to describe this committee.
“But they also said we want people who love college football, and I absolutely fit into that category.”
Rice’s involvement with Stanford football has outlived her time as provost (1993-99). As The Daily reported in March, she often meets with Cardinal recruits to introduce them to the Farm. Head coach David Shaw has praised her knowledge of the game, and though Rice admitted Wednesday that she is “a student of the game,” she said she would review as much game film as possible to make the right decisions — another apparent response to Pollack’s remarks.
Committee members, of course, are expected to excuse themselves from any vote that relates to a school they are affiliated with. Shaw said on Tuesday that he wasn’t expecting any help from Rice and Willingham, anyway.
“If I was going to pack the jury, I wouldn’t pick them, because they’re going to be unbelievably unbiased,” Shaw said. “I don’t think you can question their integrity. They’re going to do and fight for what they believe is right.”
For Rice, that means two things: ensuring the fairness of the new playoff system and safeguarding the student-athlete experience.
“It’s a special thing to be a student-athlete,” she said, “and I think we have to protect that.”
Contact Joseph Beyda at jbeyda ‘at’ stanford.edu.