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The Inspirational Women of the College Football Playoff

College Football Playoff COO Andrea Williams delivered the quote of the night during a panel discussion hosted by the Bay Area Chapter of WISE (Women in Sports and Events) at Avaya Stadium.

“I’m honored to be up here with these other female ass kickers,” remarked Williams about halfway through the discussion.

Joining Williams on stage were CFP Sr. Director of External Relations and Branding Gina Lehe, CFP Sr. Director of Operations and Logistics Laila Brock, Executive Director of the Bay Area Host Committee Patricia Ernstrom, and CFP Director of Stadium and Game Operations Nikki Epley. The event was moderated by Hannah Gordon, the Chief Administrative Officer and General Counsel for the 49ers.


At the end of this year’s college football season, the College Football Playoff Championship Game will be played at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara on Jan. 7, 2019. A lot of behind the scenes work goes into preparing for such a massive event. The women behind said work were kind enough to join the women from the Bay Area’s WISE chapter to talk about the various challenges of planning the big game.

“We have such an incredible staff and they have been working on this event, two, three, four years ago in the making,” said Williams, who, at nine weeks, is actually the newest College Football Playoff staff member. “They have done so much over a long period of time, so I’m trying to learn as much as I can, but also stay out of the way.”

Perhaps the most noteworthy takeaway from this particular panel, is the amount of athletes among the group. Each of the panelists had some form of playing background, while Williams, Epley and Brock were all collegiate level athletes. Lehe would have also been a collegiate volleyball player until a knee injury prevented her from playing.

Brock and Lehe spoke exclusively with the Weekly after the discussion about how playing sports as young girls has helped mold them into the “female ass kickers” they are today.

“For me it helped me with my confidence and learning how to work within a team and to be a leader,” said Brock. “It’s just so important for young girls to be involved no matter what. Whether you are on the bench or a starter, it is just a matter of understanding how to work with other people. Learning how to win with people and lose with people, I think it’s an invaluable lesson girls can take with them into the workforce and throughout life.”

“When Laila and I were growing up, there were not girls teams,” said Lehe “I was playing with the boys and my father actually paid me to go to practices because I was the only girl and I was terrified and embarrassed. Every lesson that I learned being part of a sports team growing up, are things I remember to this day. Things like time management, or just competition in general and teammates pushing you to be better or try harder. All of these things I learned outside of the classroom through sports. You can’t duplicate that anywhere else. I think it’s so important for young girls for their self confidence that they be part of that team experience and be a part of something bigger than themselves.”


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