Last Saturday, Sarah Fuller became the first woman to play for a “Power 5” college football team when she kicked off the second half for the Vanderbilt Commodores in an SEC conference game against the Missouri Tigers in Columbia. According to ESPN she was added to the roster earlier in the week when Vanderbilt “lost their specialists due to coronavirus testing and needed a kicker.” Fuller’s breaking of the “gender barrier” was hyped and celebrated by virtually every outlet of local, regional, and national media.
The crescendo of praise reached it’s zenith when SEC Network studio analyst Gene Chizik described the “courage” it took to “walk into a room of a hundred Alpha males… and say, ‘I belong here…’” Chizik was reacting to and building on remarks made by Missouri’s head coach, Eli Drinkwitz, during his post-game press conference. Also on the receiving end of praise and honor was Vanderbilt’s head coach, Derek Mason, who reportedly made the call to Ms. Fuller to recruit her services.
As with most Woke morality tales, this one began to unravel even as it was unfolding. The addition of Fuller was the seventh Kicker/Punter on Vanderbilt’s roster and according to the announcers of the game telecast, there were at least two other Kickers that joined Fuller on the trip to Columbia. So, contrary to the media spin, Mason’s decision was not the desperate, corona-induced restocking of a depleted kicking staff as was implied.
The hapless Commodores were held scoreless in the first half and, apparently, Mason had no confidence that they would approach scoring distance during the remainder of the game so he dispatched Miss Fuller to kick off the second half, lest she/he lose her/his opportunity for fame and glory. It was reported that Fuller was given specific coaching instructions to “squib” the kick, which is football parlance for a low, short kick designed to negate a return at the expense of field position. It is highly unusual to call for a squib kick to begin the second half. Given the kickoff rules of today, this was a humiliating acknowledgment that Fuller does not have the ability to kick a ball the sixty or seventy yards needed to induce a “touchback.” It is also a likely admission that Mason could not tolerate a circumstance where Miss Fuller would be subjected to a “live ball” play where she may have come into physical contact with an opposing player. Where is the heroism or courage in putting on a costume, bunting the ball 30 yards, and prancing back to the sideline without the jeopardy of suffering a hangnail?
This was no “desperate times call for desperate measures” episode for Vanderbilt, this was a publicity stunt cloaked in wokeness as evidenced by the “Play Like a Girl” phrase inscribed on the back of her helmet. It has the telltale signs of a failed diversionary tactic on the part of Mason as, despite being heralded as a crusader of justice for women, he was summarily sacked as the Commodore coach the following day.
What is galling about this episode is the exact wrong message it delivers to our culture. This is the merit-less participation trophy on steroids. What about the two male kickers who made the trip and have been on the team all year, possibly several years, why should Miss Fuller merit playing over them? Are there no members of Vanderbilt’s men’s soccer team who can kick a football better than Miss Fuller and who could withstand the physical rigors of a “live ball” play? Are there not dozens of former high school kickers in frat houses all over campus who would not have jumped at a “call to duty”? If Miss Fuller won a campus-wide kicking competition earlier in the week it was not discussed by Coach Mason nor reported by the media.
Miss Fuller’s complicity in the farce is more complicated. If, indeed, she was sitting in her dorm room planning on going home for the Thanksgiving holidays when, out of the blue, she gets the call from Coach Mason then she should not be faulted for responding to duty. At what point, though, did she realize that she was being used to propagate a narrative of ulterior motives?
To say that Miss Fuller has played in a Power 5 college football game has as much credence as being an extra in Gone With the Wind, technically she was in the movie but that’s about it. How is this inspirational for young girls? To know that one day, they too might be chosen to do something for which they are unqualified and unable in order to deflect attention from the failure of others?
The buried lead in this story is that Derek Mason inherited a vibrant, up and coming football program from James Franklin and in seven years compiled a record of 27-55. He was not successful at Vanderbilt and they terminated his employment yesterday. What were the true motives that led to the “squib kick heard ‘round the world”? We will never know because the Woke Media has the headline they wanted and now they are off to find another straw-person to slay. The only question left… will she letter?