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Vandy’s Sarah Fuller: We’re Probably Going to PC Hell For This One.

This past weekend, the sports world was abuzz as Sarah Fuller became the first female to play in a Power 5 football game.

Fuller, who is the goal keeper for the University of Vanderbilt’s womens soccer team was asked by the football staff to come and try out for the placekicking position after the regular kickers for the team were ineligible to play due to COVID-19 protocols.

The coaches did not ask the men’s goalie to try out, and did not put out a general call for kickers. They went to Fuller for what would be touted as an “historical event.”

Vandy needed something or someone like Fuller to try and distract from their miserable season and being 0 – 7 for the year before entering Saturday’s game against Missouri.

They left that game with an 0 – 8 record after being blitzed by Missouri 44-0.

Fuller’s only play was a kickoff to start the third quarter:

In the video above, you can hear the breathless and giddy announcers talking about the “historic moment” of Fuller’s kickoff.

There are a couple of things to notice, however. First is the Fuller is not using a kicking tee. Assuming all things physically are equal, she is not going to get the distance a regular D1 kicker will get. In fact, there is no Missouri receiver past the 15 yard line. Secondly, the kick is a “squib kick” which doesn’t allow for a return. Her coach later said that the kick was executed to perfection, but was it? Generally speaking you want squib kicks to be bouncing all over the place so your team has a chance to recover the ball. Fuller’s kick went right to a Missouri player who fell on the ball at the 35 yard line. If Fuller had the leg and ability to kick the ball into the endzone, the ball would have been placed on the 25 yard line. Her kickoff gave Missouri an additional 10 yards and after thanking her for the gift, the Tigers marched on down the field and kicked a field goal.

Our point is that Fuller did not compete to get this job. The coaches only looked at her and the whole mess comes off as a publicity stunt. There are high school kickers that can and do kick the ball farther and better than Fuller. If you have a team that you want to win, you don’t stock it with players when there are other, better players out there.

Fuller also claimed this:

With Vanderbilt trailing 21-0 at halftime, Fuller decided she wanted to address the team.

“If I’m going to be honest, I was a little pissed off at how quiet everybody was on the sideline,” she said. “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.”

She said she compared it to Vanderbilt soccer’s SEC tournament-winning run, when the team was “cheering the entire time.”

“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 is by calling each other out for stuff, and I’m going to call you guys out. We need to be supporting one another. We need to be lifting each other up. That’s what a team’s about,'” Fuller said. “I think this team has struggled, and that’s been part of it.

“We really just need to build that team camaraderie where they can all lean on one another. It was an adjustment going from that team mentality where — hey, we’re all here supporting one another — and I just wanted to bring that to this team.”

Afterward, Fuller said she had coaches come up to her and say, “‘I’ve been wanting to say that for a while now.’ And I had guys come up to me. I hope I gained their respect. It wasn’t ill-intentioned at all. I just want this team to succeed and do well.”

First, let’s be honest. Fuller is addressing a team that has been pounding on other teams in games, each other in practice, and have been leaving blood, sweat and tears on the field. If she thinks that her words resonated with the players, we guarantee they do not. A person who was brought in 5 days before a game, is getting a lot of attention for not having done anything, and hasn’t even stepped onto the field yet, is going to be ignored.

As they should be.

As for the statement that they coaches came up to her and said they had been wanting to say that all year, we find that statement to lack credibility as well. Coaches constantly preach unity and team spirit.

Speeches are great if they produce results. After her supposed halftime speech to fire up the team, they went out and let Missouri’s second and third teams drop another 21 points on them.

In total, the Tigers had more offensive yards than Vandy, (603 to 185,) more passing yards (380 to 103,) more rushing yards (223 to 82,) and greater time of possession (32:50 to 27:10.) Missouri had few turnovers and penalties as well.

No wonder Vanderbilt wanted to talk about Fuller.

But even Fuller’s “historic moment” could not save Coach Derek Mason’s job, as he was fired the next day.

We do not fault Fuller for taking advantage of the opportunity to kick in a game. We take issue with people saying how “historic” this is as Fuller did not compete for the job as it was handed to her, how “great” she did (which is debatable) and how wonderful it was that she spoke up in the locker room at half time after not even being in the game yet.

Fuller doesn’t seem to understand the reasons why people may think this moment is being overblown:

Fuller said she has not been able to keep up with the congratulatory texts and notifications on her phone since Saturday. She was especially blown away when LeBron James and Hope Solo tweeted about her. Yet as she scrolled through social media, she could not help but see some of the criticism aimed her way, especially those who questioned why Vanderbilt would turn to a woman to kick.

“I’ve been trying not to look at the comments, but it’s hard not to see them sometimes when they’re talking crap about you, and I’m just like, at this point, what are you doing?” she said. “I am a D-I soccer player, I go to Vanderbilt University, I am going to get my degree from here, I’ve done amazing things I’ve set out to do, and so they can talk crap all they want. This is something I believe I’ve earned, and I was at the right place at the right time, so yeah, I’ll take on the hate.”

We are at a loss as to how not practicing with a team for 10 weeks means you have “earned” a spot.

We are not trying to dismiss women’s sports. Far from it. We have long been a supported of equal opportunities for women at every level.

This was not an “equal opportunity.” That’s the point. Fuller was appointed to kick. Nothing more, nothing less.

If people truly see this as some sort of breaking of a sport’s barrier of some type, they have never played a sport. This publicity stunt is the equivalent of trying out for a job, and losing that job to the boss’ kid who works half days. People don’t like that in real life, and they shouldn’t like it in sports.

Teams have what most people consider to be a duty to put the best people on the field in order to win the game. They should not be putting out lesser qualified players as the message it sends to the team and to others is the wrong one.



10 Responses to “Vandy’s Sarah Fuller: We’re Probably Going to PC Hell For This One.”

  1. Carla says:

    Agreed.

  2. […] Raised On Hoecakes may be going to hell for the take on kicker Sarah Fuller (probably not) […]

  3. John says:

    A squib kick has 2 purposes
    1 to stop any chance of a return (this was accomplished)
    2 and more important to increase the possibility of a fumble

    Vanderbilt was already losing badly their only slim chance to get back into the game was to hope for fumbles

    • AAfterwit says:

      John,

      Thank you for your comment.

      The squib kick is sometimes effective when the receiving team does not know it is coming. If you manage to watch the play, Fuller is not kicking from a tee and so Missouri knew the distance would not be great. As we noted, if Fuller had kicked the ball into the endzone, the ball would have been spotted at the 25. As it was, Missouri got the ball without any issues on the 35. Fuller gave Missouri 10 yards.

      Secondly, in case you missed it, Vandy cancelled their game against Georgia yesterday. The official reason was for COVID, but Vandy had no new positive tests and no new tracing protocols. In fact, several players that were on the COVID protocol list were coming off the list. However, team members opted out of the game. Some said it was because of Fuller, the attention she was given, her statements that the team wasn’t supporting each other, etc., without ever playing a down on the field.

      Clearly you do not understand team sports and the dynamics of a team.

      Vandy decided to put a publicity stunt over the players and over the team, and the team reacted and the coach was fired.

      In addition, Vandy is trying to bring back their kicker from last year who has a year of eligibility and is attending grad school. They seem to realize what a farce this was.

      A. Afterwit.

  4. Greg Donnelly says:

    Not to be critical of Raised on Hoecakes, but football strategy is not your thing. Your quote “the kick is a “squib kick” which doesn’t allow for a return. Her coach later said that the kick was executed to perfection, but was it?

    In your statement, you answered the strategy of the coaching staff without knowing it when you said “squib kick which doesn’t allow for a return.

    That is exactly what the coaches wanted. This is simple math, a deep kill would have allowed for a return. This would have put Vandy at a disadvantage with 11 players against 10. Fuller would not have been able to participate in the return scrimmage.

    Her coach later said that the kick was executed to perfection, but was it? YES, they in no way wanted a return with 1 less player.

    • AAfterwit says:

      Greg Donnelly,

      Thanks for the comment.

      You are missing our point. The “squib kick” was the only option available to Vandy as Fuller didn’t have the leg to do anything else. Yes, Missouri fell on the ball, which is sound strategy for them, leading 22-0 at the time. The fact of the matter is that instead of trusting your return team, Vandy gave Missouri at least 10 more yards because of Fuller’s inability to kick the ball deep, and not because of her “perfect execution.”

      Yes, Mason said the kick was executed to “perfection,” but saying anything else would highlight his ridiculous choice of putting Fuller in the game to begin with.

      As to your point that Vandy was playing 10 vs. 11 men, it is worse than that. The holder won’t get a great start as well, so it is more like 9 and a half players on the kickoff team vs. 11. Once again, most of the time kickers don’t have to tackle, but they have the ability. You have basically admitted that Fuller couldn’t do that as well.

      To quote Herm Edwards, “you play to win the game.”

      For Vandy, they played to make a PC statement which was the final straw in the coach’s job. In addition, after the game players opted out of the program citing the circus surrounding Fuller. Vandy said they had to cancel their game Georgia because of COVID, but Vandy reported no new cases on the team in the week following the Missouri game. What took them below the threshold of having enough people to play was the players who had walked off the team.

      Great plan.

      As for squib kicks not being returned, see here.

      Thanks again.

      A. Afterwit.

      • Greg Donnelly says:

        You are making assumptions without knowing the facts. First, you know nothing about her kicking ability. Second, you apparently are not aware of the Vanderbilt team situation during the game. You have demonstrated this with your comments.

        • AAfterwit says:

          Greg Donnelly,

          Thanks for the comment.

          We do know quite a bit. There are videos and reports from people on the scene saying that before the game Fuller was struggling to make field goals of 25-30 yards (no rush, only holder.) The issue was distance. We actually went and watched Vandy soccer games and compared the distance Fuller gets on her goal kicks to that of the men’s goalie. She is far behind in distance there as well. If you watch her one and only kickoff, there is not a Missouri player deeper than the 15 yard line. They knew she did not have the leg to get it to the endzone.

          You play to win the game.

          You don’t play to make some sort of faux social statement.

          A. Afterwit.

          • Gogolak says:

            Vanderbilt has not had a men’s soccer team since 2006.

            How did you watch the Vandy men’s team goalie kick?

            • AAfterwit says:

              Gogolak,

              Thanks for the comment.

              We watched Vandy soccer and did not check the years.

              Thanks.

              A. Afterwit.

  5. scott ellis says:

    Can we get a posthumous award for Bill Veeck’s Eddie Gaedel? At least back then they knew when things were in jest.

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