"Look, we've been trying to get this right for a long time," Rice said Wednesday on a conference call introducing the 13-member selection committee. "I fully remember being a little girl when Notre Dame played Michigan State in 1966. "Ara Parseghian went for a tie and there were all kinds of issues about Notre Dame being crowned as champion."
In that famous 10-10 game, Parseghian played for the tie to preserve his team's chance for the national title. Dan Jenkins' story in Sports Illustrated led with the line "Tie one for the Gipper!"
But it worked. Notre Dame finished 9-0-1 and claimed the wire poll titles instead of 11-0 Alabama. It denied the Crimson Tide a third straight championship.
The memory has stayed with Rice all these years. She grew up in Birmingham before moving to Denver and then received a graduate degree at Notre Dame.
Rice remembers listening to the 1966 game on the radio with her father, John, a high school football coach and athletic director.
"I suspect my father would be awfully glad this college playoff is going to head-to-head competition," she said of her dad, who died in 2000. "He was always frustrated as a fan that we didn't have head-to-head competition. I think a lot of fans felt that way."
Starting next year, the selection committee will pick the top four teams to compete in two semifinals and a championship game.
"That's going to be good for college football and I think he would have appreciated that," Rice said.
Rice said she was asked to be on the committee by Pac 12 Commissioner Larry Scott.
As Stanford provost, Rice hired former Stanford Coach Tyrone Willingham, who is also on the selection panel.
"People thought it was important to have diversity of experience," Rice said of her selection. "Secondly they said we want people who will make critical judgments, and can do it under pressure."