Penn State AD is battle-tested
NC State AD has seen it all
When the next open spot on the College Football Playoff selection committee comes up, it should go to the most qualified person. Whether that's a man or a woman shouldn't matter, but of course it does.
When the eminently qualified Condoleezza Rice was named to the committee last year, there was grumbling from the peanut gallery about whether she'd had her "hand in the dirt," as though that were the determining factor when evaluating teams based on statistics and other information.
It's attitudes like that which have made it more difficult for women to even get into positions where they could be seen as qualified for these jobs. Take Penn State AD Sandy Barbour. She was named the University of California's athletic director in 2004 and has been on the NCAA's Division I leadership council.
These kinds of committees, like power structures all over the world and from the dawn of time, are more often about who you know rather than what you know. It's harder for women to break into those clubs, just as it has been challenging for them to crack glass ceilings. The kind of attitudes women such as Barbour or NC State athletic director Debbie Yow or former Miami president (and Secretary of Health and Human Services under President Bill Clinton) Donna Shalala have to fight against have little to do with objective qualifications.
If anything, Rice is overqualified. She was the Secretary of State under George W. Bush and knows about the real pressures of decision-making in war and battle, words that are only used as analogies when it comes to a football game.
Of course a woman should be considered. Barbour would be my top pick. She has negotiated the Pac-12, not without criticism, and now will get started in the Big Ten. There are those who question what she did at Cal, but she has the familiarity needed at a high level to be able to determine which teams should play in the NCAA's nascent football tournament.
Let's not make that out to be more complicated than it really is.
Debbie Yow. No question. The next open spot should be hers.
The current committee is composed of men (and one woman: Condoleezza Rice) with varying backgrounds, including former players and coaches, as well as current and former athletic directors. So Yow would fit in perfectly, especially given her vast experience running big-time college programs.
The 63-year-old, who is currently in her fifth year as the athletic director at North Carolina State, previously spent 16 seasons in the same position at Maryland. She was the first female athletic director of an ACC school, so you can be certain that Yow knows a thing or two about successfully navigating an all-male world.
In fact, here is what Yow had to say about being a woman in charge of an FBS-level college football program: "Football is a visceral environment," Yow once told USA Today. "Whoever the AD, the person does best if he/she has a propensity to be direct and open -- that is, right up front with ideas and thoughts. Football coaches are usually highly organized and have excellent leadership skills. They are extremely busy and want to get to the point in a conversation. For me, that fits nicely, and I am comfortable with that type of dialogue -- actually prefer it."
That's just what the College Football Playoff selection committee needs: someone who knows exactly what she's talking about and will tell it like it is. (Yow has likely watched, with a discerning eye, more football games than almost anyone else in the country.)
Another thing about Yow: Her teams at Maryland won 20 national championships. Also, before she moved into administration, she spent eight years as a women's college basketball head coach, averaging about 20 wins a season.
Bottom line: Yow has seen college sports from many different angles. And that kind of experience and expertise would make her an ideal candidate to join one of the most high-profile committees in sports.