FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long isn’t simply a member of the College Football Playoff’s selection committee.
He has been elected as its first chairman.
Long’s appointment was announced Monday, two days before the entire committee is revealed at a press conference in Irving, Texas. Long said in a video statement he was “proud and humbled to serve” as the first chairman of the committee, which will select the four teams who will play for the 2014 national title. The committee also will rank and place teams appearing in the Cotton, Fiesta and Chick-fil-A bowls.
“While our committee’s charge is simple - to select and seed the best teams - admittedly our work will not be easy,” said Long, who was not available for further comment. “We will have very important decisions to make throughout the process.”
Long, who is in his sixth year as athletic director at Arkansas, has logged 35 years of experience in college football beginning with a playing career at Ohio Wesleyan.
He had previous stints as an athletic director at Eastern Kentucky and Pittsburgh, while also working as either an administrator or assistant coach at Miami (Ohio), North Carolina State, Duke, Michigan, Rice, Virginia Tech and Oklahoma.
“Jeff has vast experience in college football,” said Bill Hancock, who is the College Football Playoff’s Executive Director. “People in intercollegiate athletics hold him in high regard. He is known for his insight, intelligence, wisdom, wit, judgment and calm demeanor. He’ll make a great chairman.”
The appointment is an honor for Long, who gained national notoriety primarily for his handling of former coach Bobby Petrino’s firing in April 2012. He was named one of four Under Armor athletic directors of the Year in June and was a finalist for SportsBusiness Journal athletic director of the year in 2012.
Arkansas chancellor David Gearhart said Long’s selection as Playoff committee chairman was a “clear indication of his leadership role in intercollegiate athletics.”
“Jeff is nationally respected for his integrity and his work on behalf of student-athletes at the University of Arkansas and within the Southeastern Conference,” Gearhart said in a statement. “I am appreciative of his tremendous leadership of our program and am confident he represent our institution and all of intercollegiate athletics with great distinction in this very important position.”
Long will join Hancock at the press conference in Irving, Texas, on Wednesday.
Numerous national media reports have identified everyone expected to join him on the committee. The reports indicate it will be comprised of athletic directors Barry Alvarez (Wisconsin), Pat Haden (Southern California), Oliver Luck (West Virginia) and Dan Radakovich (Clemson). They’ll be joined by former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former NCAA executive vice president Tom Jernstedt, former NFL and Ole Miss quarterback Archie Manning, former Stanford/Notre Dame/Washington coach Tyrone Willingham, retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Michael Gould, former Nebraska athletic director/coach Tom Osborne, former Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese and former USA Today reporter Steve Wieberg.
Long will be in charge of setting the committee’s agenda and running its meetings.
“Because of their knowledge of the game, extensive experience and deep-rooted passion for college football, I’m confident the members who will be appointed to this committee will work tirelessly to make the best decisions for college football,” Long said in the video statement Monday. “That’s what this great game deserves. And most importantly, it’s what we owe the student athletes from across the country who take the field each weekend in the fall. Even though our first selections are more than a year away, we have a lot of work to do and I’m eager to begin.”
Long stressed in a statement released by Arkansas that his duties as the Playoff committee chairman will not interfere in his work with the Razorbacks. Long said “nothing is more important” than his work with the Arkansas athletic program and thanked the athletic department and Gearhart for the support.
Arkansas football coach Bret Bielema said he sent a congratulatory text to Long on Monday, asking if he could refer to him as “Mr. Chairman” from now on.
“It’s obviously a tremendous honor for him,” Bielema said. “It’s obviously great for Arkansas. It shows a lot of respect for what he has in the world of college athletics and college football. I don’t mind if the chair of that committee is a little bit biased.”