With Ari Fleischer on the College Football Playoff payroll, the team never has to wait long for the next burst of negative feedback. They have a journalist consultant who specializes in creating negative publicity. Almost the opposite of what it should be.
Fleischer’s appearance as moderator at the Saudi-backed LIV Golf press conference on Tuesday was just the latest touching moment from a guy who never failed to fail while working for the CFP. He has also made regular appearances as a political commentator on Fox News, which has caused some inconvenience to a college track and field organization trying to remain apolitical. And then, there is almost everything he has touched on in his role as a college football propagandist.
Fleischer was part of the doomed public relations effort to save the Bowl Championship Series and prevent the playoffs – that should have been enough to exclude him from any role in the sport’s next run, but no. Fleischer remained on board as a consultant for the CFP, proving magically flexible on its subject after the sport season.
(It seems very difficult to get fired from the Old Boys Club that runs college football.)
Whatever the impact of the former White House press secretary under George W. Bush in the first seven years of the playoffs, it seemed insignificant. Only after the failed presentation of the plans to expand the playoffs from four to 12 teams last year, when the June leak caught many conference commissioners unhappy, and one remembered that the CFP had a media consultant. The chaos surrounding this expansion plan was enough to derail the expansion for the foreseeable future.
The CFP is inherently quite controversial – four teams subjectively selected by a selection committee of 130 have the chance to win the national championship. The playoffs make things worse for themselves with a weekly TV show that publishes its rankings as it progresses into its second or third season, with its work being subject to light bulbs every Tuesday night. The list of affected parties is long and vocal every season.
Why add to the accumulated criticism by creating an internal problem for yourself with a consultant like Fleischer? Why should I this guy in the room with the most powerful people in college football when they make big decisions?
This was confirmed by CFP CEO Bill Hancock Sports Illustrated Tuesday that Fleischer is still the team’s advisor. Hancock noted that Fleischer consults with a number of entities other than CFP and is not required to notify him of any concerts he undertakes. Neither Hancock nor several other CFP leaders seemed to have any idea about Fleischer’s work.
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Receiving money from the government of Saudi Arabia has led to a major blow to a number of the most prominent golfers in the world, from the big winners Phil Mickelson to Dustin Johnson to Graeme McDowell to Sergio Garcia to Martin Kaymer and more. They are willing to accept criticism for linking weapons to a brutal repressive regime in exchange for huge rewards, and at a press conference led by Fleischer on Tuesday, they did their best to pretend there was no conflict.
When LIV golfer Talor Gooch was asked about Saudi Arabia “washing away” its unacceptable global image of human rights abuses, he replied: “I do not think this claim is fair.” He then tried to escape this political sand trap by describing himself as, in essence, just a silly golfer. “I’m not that smart,” Guth said. “I’m trying to hit a golf ball in a small hole. Golf is quite tough. “I try to worry about golf and I’m excited about the game this week.”
Fleischer apparently did his part to cover up the poor millionaires who were asked questions about something other than hitting a golf ball in a small hole. Associated Press reporter Rob Harris was reportedly cut off from the press conference after trying to ask a further question about reconciling Saudi sports laundering efforts to buy favorable impressions through the golfers’ market. He was later allowed to return.
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It’s all good business. Just good people trying to “develop the game” of golf.
Like golfers, Fleischer seems to have a price to pay for his beliefs. According to ESPN’s Kevin Van Valkenberg, Fleischer was asked at the LIV press conference, “how did he end his current relationship with LIV Golf with his previous tweets claiming that Saudi Arabia was spending billions to ensure that Mohammed bin Salman would not be overthrown and this was an example of that. Fleisher said the tweet was “a long time ago”. “
And many dollars before, you guessed it.
The combination of Ari Fleischer and sport seemed to yield little beyond embarrassment, mistakes and slaps on the forehead. Why the College Football Playoff wants to keep paying this nincompoop to help it formulate a strategy is as shocking as the reluctance to extend the playoffs.
More games are better. Less Ari is also better. No Ari is better.
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