Condoleezza Rice will help select football's final four


By Mark Soltau

Stanford Athletics/

Stanford professor Condoleezza Rice knew college football needed a playoff system in 1966, when as a little girl, she and her late father John listened to a Michigan State-Notre Dame game on the radio. The contest ended in a 10-10 tie, both teams finished 9-0-1, and shared a controversial national title.

"We've been trying to get this right for a long time," Rice said Wednesday during a national conference call with reporters.

While some have questioned why the former Secretary of State was named to the 13-member College Football Playoff selection committee, a group that includes former Stanford head coach Tyrone Willingham, and Oliver Luck, the athletic director at West Virginia, and father of former Cardinal All-American Andrew Luck, Professor Rice is more than up for the challenge.

"I've been a college football fan all my life," she said. "I think the opportunity for a college football playoff that properly balances all of the factors, including academic schedule, the need for head-to-head competition, and the bowl traditions is exactly the right step, and I'm just delighted to try and make it work."

Willingham coached at Stanford from 1995-2001 and compiled a 44-36-1 record. He was a two-time Pac-10 Conference Coach of the Year, and led the Cardinal to the Rose Bowl in 1999, its first appearance since 1971.

The selection committee will pick four teams to compete in the College Football Playoff following the 2014 regular season.

Rice was first approached about serving on the committee by Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott. Later, she had a conversation with Bob Bowlsby, the Big 12 Commissioner and former athletic director at Stanford.

"When I was approached, I said, 'Well, tell me what you think I can bring to this committee?' '' Rice said. "First of all, people thought that it was important to have diversity of experience. There's a reason that 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 do that under pressure. But they also said they want people who love college football, and I absolutely fit into that category.

"As Provost at Stanford, athletics reported to me for six years, so I understand the game from the administrative side, too. I hired Ty Willingham, and indeed, all the way back in 1988, served on the committee that brought Denny Green to Stanford as coach. So I've been in and around the game quite a lot. But I think what I can hopefully bring to this committee is critical judgment, a willingness to work hard with some very fine people to put the best four teams on the playing field to try and decide the national champion."

Rice knows some have questioned her credentials to serve on the committee, but is unfazed.

"I've been in enough positions to respect people who have different views," she said. "You could say, 'You should have played football to be on this committee.' But of course, not everyone on this committee, including me, played football. I'm a student of the game and I believe I will work very, very hard reviewing as much film as I possibly can to try and make a good judgment."

Rice was also asked if she was selected to give women a voice.

"I don't feel that I'm carrying a banner for anyone except those of us who love college football," said Rice. "And by the way, that includes a lot of women, too. But for me, this is trying to get the college football playoff system right."

Not that she will need a sounding board, but Rice can always consult with close friend Gene Washington, a standout wide receiver at Stanford (1966-68) and with the San Francisco 49ers. When he was enshrined in the 2012 Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame, she was his presenter.

One thing seems certain: If the committee has to make tough choices narrowing the College Football Playoff to four teams, she can handle the pressure.

"I think I've experienced plenty of heat in my life," she said.

And her father would be proud.

"I suspect that my father would be awfully glad that this college playoff system is going to head-to-head competition," said Rice. "He was always frustrated as a fan that we didn't have head-to-head competition. I think a lot of fans have felt that way. And now, through a semifinal and ultimately a final, you enhance the possibility for the best teams selected to go head-to-head. That's gotta be good for college football and I think he would have appreciated that."


Like this comment
Posted by Joe Baldwin
a resident of University South
on Oct 17, 2013 at 11:03 am

Kudos to those who had the wisdom and insight to name Condi Rice to The College Football Playoff selection committee. There may be no other college football fan in America better qualified to help select the four teams.

Like this comment
Posted by Jeffrey
a resident of Stanford
on Oct 17, 2013 at 11:58 am

Condi's an excellent choice. After all, she rode the coattails of her USSR expertise all the way to a job as National Security Advisor. Didn't that turn out well? Now she gets to decide truly important stuff, like football.

Plus, when asked about the document used to deliberate the playoffs, Rice can testify (again): "I believe the title was, Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States."

Web Link

And when the inevitable kerfuffle arises about a bad playoff choice, she can reply that the documents "contained historical information based on old reporting".


Like this comment
Posted by Que Pasa
a resident of Stanford
on Oct 17, 2013 at 4:53 pm

[Post removed.]

Like this comment
Posted by Brian Good
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 19, 2013 at 6:56 pm

Brian Good is a registered user.

Bill Hancock, executive director of the College Football Playoff, said "We wanted people of the highest integrity for this committee." It's important that athletic institutions maintain scrupulously the image of of ethical and honest conduct. Any appearances furthering cynicism damage public confidence in the honesty of the sport.

Dr. Rice approved torture, telling the CIA "It's your baby, go do it!" and chairing the Principals Committee that authorized torture policies in the spring of 2002 before the memos providing the pretense of legal cover had been written. Torture is prohibited by treaties the USA signed which, under article VI of the Constitution, are the supreme law of the land. Torture is cheating.

Dr. Rice testified under oath to the 9/11 Commission, lying about the contents of the "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US" memo, lying to the faces of the 9/11 widows, when she claimed that the memo was "not a warning". Anyone who bothers to read it can see that it warns of preparations for hijackings and planned attacks inside the USA. Perjury is cheating.

Spencer Hall wrote in Sports Blog Nation that Rice's appointment was against the rules of "human decency, the Geneva Convention, and every tenet of even the loosest definition of human rights. I hate it when the stink of politics wafts over into college football, but some stenches should follow you wherever you go for the rest of your life, if only to warn others."

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