Ben Frederickson and I discussed this at length on the podcast this week. Here's my take on what shouldn't be but inevitably became a polarizing story. Great moment of Fuller. Credit to Mason for being willing to think outside the box. I don't think he planned to let her kick a deep field goal. I watched her pretty closely before the game and at halftime and she made some, missed some - but they were all short, mostly PAT range.
I'll be the first to admit Some of the coverage has gone way over the top. I had the TV broadcast on in the press box on Saturday and I thought the announcers got overly transfixed with the angle and missed other parts of the game. I'm guilty of this in some of my writing, but I regret pushing hard on the "making history" phrase considering other women have kicked in Division I games - just not for a Power 5 team. I think we error sometimes in the media when we differentiate Power 5 from non-Power 5 with stories like this - and it does a disservice to the women who kicked for New Mexico and Kent State.
Two more things few people have mentioned in the coverage:
1. Derek Mason wanted to have an open tryout for a kicker last week, which would have likely produced a Vandy student who could kick a football. Students were home for the Thanksgiving break, so that wasn't an option. Sarah Fuller was his Hail Mary.
2. Last Wednesday Mason called Fuller "an option." In the meantime, Vandy's social media accounts all but turned her into the face of the program. Then the SEC got invested in the narrative - to the point Mason might have felt obligated to make her his kicker instead of other options. Not sure many people realize this - or understand the mechanics - but Vanderbilt fired its athletics PR staff this summer and absorbed all those jobs under the umbrella of the university's PR wing. I'm not sure a staff accustomed to promoting athletics would have gone with the full-court press on the Fuller story ... but the university pushed it hard.
All of that being said, she deserves credit for volunteering to help another team on her campus. Give her credit for speaking up in the locker room at halftime when she realized things were so grim. She comes from a winning program and a winning culture. If girls and women - or men for that matter - took away some inspiration from what Fuller did on Saturday and the way Vandy approached it, that's a good thing.