The Vanderbilt Female Kicker Ethics Mess


I’m not even sure what to call the display of dishonesty and posturing that unfolded over the weekend at Vanderbilt. Disrespect for the game and intelligence of fans? Lack of integrity? Incompetence? Dishonesty? Shameless exploitation? Patronizing and insulting women? I’m not sure, but whatever it is, it was all unethical.

Let’s look at the components of this ethics mess (it’s not coherent enough or significant enough to qualify as an ethics train wreck):

1. Derek Miller, the coach of Vanderbilt’s football team, had all of his kickers turn up positive for the Wuhan virus, on game week, so allegedly in desperation, he made Vanderbilt women’s soccer goalie Sarah Fuller the first woman to play in a Power Five conference football game by handing her the job of kicker. She had never kicked a football in a game in her life.

Nobody, literally nobody, believes that there weren’t many members of the team, and maybe all of them, that would have been a better bet to rely upon than Fuller. The team was 0-7 before the game against Missouri—and 0-8 after it, by the humiliating score of 41-0—and the attempt to appeal to campus feminists and woke alumni seems like a desperation move by Coach Miller to save his job. Of course, that meant sacrificing the team’s interests for his own, which is unethical management. Whatever hismotive, it didn’t work: he was fired the next day. In his farewell statement, Miller referenced coaching and mentoring “hundreds” of young men and “one courageous female.” From Tuesday through Saturday afternoon.

2. Sure enough, the coach’s cynical use of Fuller got massive publicity, all positive. Since the team never scored or got within range of a field goal, Fuller got to kick the ball exactly once, to begin the second half. She delivered a 30 yard squibber that gave Missouri the ball on its 35 yard line. The pathetic kick went only 20 yards in the air and rolled another ten before the Missouri team saved face for her by jumping on the ball before it went out of bounds and drew a penalty.

For that performance, the SEC named Fuller the special teams “Player of the Week.” As Kamala Harris has proved, in 2020 a woman can be regarded as a standout by simply showing up. Performance doesn’t matter, just chromosomes.

3. Then Fuller revealed that she had the audacity and bad taste to lecture her team mates for a day on the right way to play football.

Following the game, as she was interviewed by ESPN reporter Courtney Cronin, she explained,

“If I’m going to be honest, I was a little pissed off at how quiet everybody was on the sideline. We made a first down, and I was the only one cheering and I was like – what the heck? What’s going on? And I tried to get them pumped up, and I was like, ‘You guys need to start [cheering] your team on. My main thing was during the SEC tournament, my entire team was cheering the entire time. It didn’t matter if we were in the locker room or if they were on the sidelines, I think that’s what won it for us. Everybody was cheering non-stop. I just went in there, and I said exactly what I was thinking. I was like, ‘We need to be cheering each other on. This is how you win games. This is how you get better, by calling each other out for stuff, and I’m going to call you guys out.’”

I’m pretty sure I know what they were thinking: “How the hell does this soccer player who is only here as a publicity stunt think that its her place to tell us how to behave during a game?” And that’s what some member of the team should have told her after stopping the presumptuous pep talk. None of the men had the guts; I assume they were afraid of being “cancelled.” No wonder the team is 0-8.

Spat a disgusted Joe Kinsey at Outkick,

As for this speech, you mean to tell me that a kicker who was pulled off the women’s soccer team and who started practicing with the football team on Tuesday was given the floor to lecture teammates on Saturday?…Do you think freshman players on the women’s soccer team who’ve never seen the field get up and give speeches to players who’ve given four years to a program? Nope. Not happening. There’s no further debate about this. Fuller was used as a publicity stunt, and it is clear as day ESPN had its hands in it. Don’t be shocked if we find out soon that ESPN had cameras rolling during Fuller’s hero speech.

A kicker giving a halftime speech. Think about this for a minute. Those of you who thought this was a sincere act from a Vandy program desperate to field a team during uncertain COVID times have been had. This is all nonsense.

4. The whole episode turned out to be another example of 2020’s Rationalization of The Year, 64. Yoo’s Rationalization or “It isn’t what it is.” Fuller was being used as a prop, agreed to be responsible for a job that she wasn’t competent to perform, botched it, and then was smug anyway, apparently believing the media’s spin. The SEC, in its announcement of Fuller’s honor as “Player of the Week,” called her botched kick-off a “perfectly executed kick.” Hillary Clinton actually said that Fuller proved “women and girls belong on every playing field—quite literally.” How did fuller prove that? If a junior high school male player was tapped to be kicker-for- day and produced the dying quail that Fuller did, would that prove 13-year-old boys should be playing Power Five conference college football?

Columnist Michael Walsh nailed it:

All of this patronizing nonsense surrounding a bad kick from a woman whose ego perhaps exceeds her abilities on the football field is merely annoying for me as a man. For women, though, it is much worse than annoying. It is patronizing, degrading, and insulting.  Are women really so unimpressive and bereft of achievement that we have to treat them like we would a small child who draws a bunch of scribbles on a sheet of construction paper and claims that it’s a picture of a tree? We congratulate the small child for his bad drawing because we do not expect children to do any better than that, and because they are emotionally fragile and in need of constant positive affirmation. Is this the case for grown women? Must we stand and applaud and shout “great kick” when, in truth, it was a very bad kick? Are women so pathetic that we have to call even their failures achievements? Not just achievements — but historic achievements? Is that how sad and mediocre women are, that we must stoop to this?

Answer: no. That’s how sad and mediocre feminists think women are, and perhaps are themselves. But it’s not the reality, and it’s not what I think or what any rational person thinks. Women are capable of extraordinary things in many facets of life. They also are capable of extraordinary things in the realm of athletics. Simone Biles comes immediately to mind. But women cannot compete with men in sports designed by and for men. They cannot do anything they set their mind to. Nobody can. They can do quite a lot within the bounds of possibility, but competing against and with men in a Division 1 football game is outside of those bounds. Contra Hillary Clinton, Fuller did not prove that women belong on every field. She proved the opposite. They don’t belong on a football field with men. And that’s okay. That doesn’t make them less than men. It just makes them not men. And there is dignity and beauty in accepting that.


40 thoughts on “The Vanderbilt Female Kicker Ethics Mess

  1. What a goat rodeo. Another reason I’m glad I’m not watching TV sports.

    And not a good look for women’s college soccer. The EPL soccer goalies and their peers routinely kick the ball upwards of seventy-five yards. Off the ground. To within a few yards of where they intend the ball to go. This woman should have been able to get a teed up American football at least forty or fifty yards in the air if she’s at all competent as a goalie.

  2. Disagree somewhere around 1000% about the Vandy kicker. Oh wait, claiming 1000% is hyperbole. 91.3%. She is an able field goal kicker from all reports. She was instructed to make a line drive kick on her kickoff to avoid a return. There is zero reason that a young woman cannot be a kicker, as many soccer players become good field goal kickers. My position is that someone has to break the alleged “barrier” at some point, and I really don’t care what the motivation of the decision maker was. Unethical, perhaps, but it’s also about damn time.

        • We know biology. An NCAA male athelete will always be stronger than a female one.

          If Vandy’s game actually meant something, this virtual signalling event would never have happened.

        • Really? Is that because it’s unknowable, or because you haven’t made the effort to look?

          Because I’m pretty sure that has never played a game in her life, and was playing a completely different sport until the week before, with a completely different ball could not possibly be the best option as a replacement kicker. I’m having a real hard time digesting these comments…. Could a woman play and compete in five star football? Absolutely. Undoubtedly. Could this one? Maybe if all the stars aligned. As it stands, she was basically set up to fail, fulfilled the prophecy by failing the one time she went up to kick, and then accepted accolades like she singlehandedly won the game. It’s terminally stupid.

    • Michael, given that this is about sports, I believe that you can disagree up to 110%, and still be within sports-talk parameters.

    • How can she be an able field goal kicker from all reports if she hasn’t kicked field goals in a football game? I have no doubt that a woman could be an effective field goal kicker, but not with four days of practice. She was instructed to make a line drive kick because she couldn’t kick a real kick-off—the team was way behind already: that strategy makes no sense except in a close game.

      • AND—you really disagree that it’s ridiculous to call a player with that game performance a “Player of the Week”? Or that it’s outrageously presumptuous for such a sub to tell the team what’s proper game deportment? If not, I don’t see hpw you can get past 50% disagreement at most….

      • “She was instructed to make a line drive kick because she couldn’t kick a real kick-off”

        Exactly! you make a squib kick when you’re on last down at the end of the clock and you don’t want your opponents to be able to return it. You don’t make that kick at the open of the second half and dump the ball on your own 35 yard line. If she had been told to make that kick, it was because her coach didn’t think she was capable of anything better.

    • She was obviously not a competent field goal kicker. By all reports, she had only practiced for 4 days in her life. I’m sure she’s able to kick a soccer ball much farther than she kicked the football. But because of the shape of the football, it takes much more than 4 days of practice before a kicker can be expected strike it square with reasonable consistency. She didn’t kick the ball square and squibbed it.

  3. ” “women and girls belong on every playing field—quite literally.’ ”

    Had this come from ANYONE but someone claiming to be, and heralded as, a Feminist, after allowing herself to be continuously humiliated, on a Galactic Scale, by the Former Serial Sexual Predator In Chief, they’d have a point.

    But HRC? Sheesh! That’s leaving aside the testosterone-infused coattails upon which she’s glided.

    You’d think that “belonging on every playing field” might just mean that “Playing Field” ought be equal, right?

    Not exactly.

    Just spitballin’ here, but wouldn’t an equal playing field require using the same size shot put (men 7.26kg/16lb–women 4kg/8.8lb), the same size basketball (men’s 29.5-30 inch/74.93-76.2 cms–women’s 28.5-29 inch/72.39-73.66 cms), and you know, like, hitting from the same tees?

    Tees are color-coded; I’m not a golfer, you do the math.

    Anywho, women have slobbered endlessly about how Y-Chromosomal Units shouldn’t participate in Women’s Sports because it eliminates “opportunities for women.”

    You going to believe that Sarah Fuller eliminated an opportunity for an EVIL MALE…or your lyin’ eyes.

  4. According to researchers in Japan, female soccer players can kick a ball an average of 5 m/s (15 ft/s) slower than a male player. The error ranges are such that the top level females can exceed the lower level males.

    Assuming the basic physics translate to American football, she was at best an OK choice, presuming she were a top notch college soccer player. With proper practice in the techniques of football kicking, she might do better than the other male players, as they rarely kick during practice. Still, to be the pioneering women requires actually putting that effort in to achieve a audible (or at not embarrassing) result; the same or worse performance from a male player would be pitied and mocked, but it wouldn’t indict an entire gender.

  5. My wife alerted me to this unfolding fiasco when the game was being played Saturday, and I told her it would probably turn up on Ethics Alarms! The Player of the Week designation was just the unprincipled icing on the unscrupulous cake.

  6. A Catholic boarding school in my area had a German student attending. Now, the school is small enough that if you want to be on the football team you can. You may be Rudy for 4 years, but you’re part of the team. The German student was a strong kicker from his years of soccer. They still had him at practice camp that summer and practices during the week before he was the official kicker. Four days? Too short.

  7. Several years ago I watched a high school football team from Lodi WI field a female kick off and field goal specialist.
    She did not do the punting, as someone in authority had wanted to avoid her being subject to getting tackled.
    Her presence on the field did not cause any uproar and added some interest I thought. It was said that she earned her position fairly as should be the case.

  8. By all accounts, Vanderbilt is a very fine school. Why do they even field a football team? In the God damned SEC, for God’s sake? The most brutal, white field boss, plantation-running conference in the entire United States of America? Why don’t they just grow up and scrap big times sports and continue being a pretty darned good school? Certainly the rest of the SEC can find teams to get a guaranteed win for Homecoming. They can all beat up on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. They’ll all sacrifice their teams for a good paycheck. Disgusting.

    • To be in NCAA Division II or I, you have to field a football team. You don’t need any other sport, but football is required. Division III doesn’t allow scholarships, but you can’t compete in Dvision III without giving scholarships to field your teams. You do this by giving ‘Leadership Scholarships’ to all the athletes and 3 student government members. This is how you build character with sports.

      • Colleges and universities need to ” just say no” to organized athletics. Flag football, softball and intramural basketball are all that’s needed. All the rest has nothing whatsoever to do with higher education. Nothing at all.

  9. Brings to mind the blernsball episode of Futurama, where Leela beans every pitch she throws. She’s inspiring young women to be athletes by making them determined to show that women can actually do more than suck at sports!

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