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Football fan & female

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By Stephen Lega

As a college football fan, I welcome the mini-playoff that will be used to decide the champion at the end of the 2014 season.

Better yet, once the television networks realize how much money they can make, I fully expect the powers-that-be in college football to expand the playoff to include more teams. 

A selection committee -- similar to the ones that pick the teams for the NCAA basketball tournaments -- will pick the four teams that will be included in the 2014 mini-playoff.

ESPN reported on Oct. 10 that the 13-member committee would include former college football coaches and players, Big East conference Commissioner Michael Tranghese, and Condelezza Rice, the former U.S. Secretary of State.

Rice’s inclusion prompted this comment from former Auburn football coach Pat Dye.

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,” Dye was quoted as saying (see here: http://goo.gl/xsyAtR).

Clearly, Dye would prefer to have people who understand football on the committee, but his comments were focused on Rice exclusively. 

As Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports pointed out (http://goo.gl/ikGwkH), she’s not the only committee member with limited first-hand knowledge of the college game. 

Tranghese was a golfer in college. One of the former players on the committee hasn’t played since 1976. Another was a quarterback who played for Oregon in the 1960s. It’s no stretch to say that offenses have evolved a lot since he was last under center.

Dye’s presumption that Rice doesn’t understand the game enough to help pick the four best teams is, frankly, sexist.

Saying a woman isn’t capable of evaluating football teams is like saying a woman can’t be a doctor or a judge or a CEO. I hope we can all agree that kind of thinking is ludicrous.

I would venture to say that the average fan thinks he or she understands the game of football, but most fans (including me) don’t understand the ins and outs of the game as well as we think we do. That doesn’t mean we don’t try to size up how good different teams are. After all, we all want to know where our favorite teams stack up, right?

That said, Rice’s knowledge of football probably does exceed that of the average fan. Rice has said for years that her dream job is to serve as the commissioner of the NFL, and an ESPN story from 2007 might explain why she was seen as a good fit for the committee (http://goo.gl/8ZgVEv).

According to that story, Rice’s father was a high school coach and the athletic director at a Birmingham, Ala., high school. By the time she was 3, she was sitting by her father’s side watching games. 

When her family moved to Denver, apparently several Broncos players visited their house -- and this is the part Dye should note -- they were amazed at how well she understood the game.

If there’s still any doubts about Rice’s interest in and knowledge of football, I’d suggest reading this story from The Stanford Daily (http://goo.gl/gDTfY8), which describes her involvement with the Cardinal football program.

I look forward to seeing which teams Rice and the other committee members select at the end of the 2014 season. 

The only change I would make would be to expand the playoff to include eight or, better yet, 16 teams.

But that’s another column.