Jeff Long took another step onto the national stage this week when he was appointed chairman of the inaugural committee to determine the teams for a college football playoff beginning in 2014.
Long, who is in his sixth year as the Arkansas athletics director, is one of 13 members on the committee and is the representative for the Southeastern Conference. Other notable names on the list include Tom Osborne, Barry Alvarez, Archie Manning, Condoleezza Rice, Pat Haden and Tyrone Willingham.
"We already have a great game, but we're getting ready to make the postseason even better and I could not be more pleased and excited to be participating on this committee," Long said. "For me, personally being named chairman of the selection committee is certainly an unparalleled honor. And again I want to thank the commissioners for placing their trust and faith in me and it's a pleasure for me to serve a game that has meant so much to me and has given so much to me in the game of football."
Long's term as chairman of the committee is unknown and he said his commitment is only for the first year of the playoffs. Each member of the committee is slated to serve at least three years, though the terms will be staggered at the beginning of the process to avoid all 13 members rolling off the committee at the same time.
They will determine the four teams who will play in the Sugar Bowl and Rose Bowl next season, with the winners advancing to play in a national championship game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Bill Hancock, who has served as the executive director of the Bowl Championship Series since its inception in 1998, will supervise the sport's first playoff system as executive director. The playoffs' headquarters are located in Irving, Texas.
"The management committee unanimously selected Jeff for this position because of his intellect, judgement, integrity, sheer talent and the deep respect that everyone in college football holds for him," Hancock said. "And he is fixing to become one of the best-known people in college football.
"He was an option quarterback (in college) so he knows when to keep and when to pitch."
Long said he was "honored, humbled, all those things" when asked to serve on the committee. He was asked to chair the committee by the college football playoffs management committee - 10 commissioners of the Football Bowl Subdivision, who selected the 13 members of the playoffs committee.
"It's an exciting time for college football and college football fans," Long said. "My take is this is the best solution to be able to incorporate the bowl games, because I have always been a proponent of bowl games and think that's a great piece of our history and tradition that I'm glad we've been able to keep. But this gives us a truer national championship by having four teams seeded to compete in semifinals and of course in the national championship game."
The college football playoffs committee will draw from the NCAA men's basketball tournament selection committee, Long said. One of the new committee's members is Tom Jernstedt, a former NCAA vice president who oversaw the men's basketball Final Four and selection committee.
Long said he was unanimously selected by the management committee to be a member in July and was asked earlier this month to chair the committee. He said he spoke to his wife, Fanny, and university chancellor G. David Gearhart after extensive questioning of the playoffs management committee about the time commitment the position would involve, stating that it was his only apprehension about accepting the post.
"The first question I had was: will my serving on the committee have a negative impact on the University of Arkansas when we are playing our way into that position?" Long said. "The answer to that was no, that I would be recused from those discussions. For example, if it took 10 votes to move onto the next round or be in the top four, Arkansas would only need nine.
"Secondly, it's a time commitment and we tried to get an idea of what that time commitment would be. That was a personal decision that I had to talk about with my wife. I knew I was going to commit the time to Razorback athletics. It may cut into it some, but I have a very strong staff and they will be able to pick up anything I have to step away from. There's no concern there."
The appointment is the latest national recognition for Long since he gained widespread notoriety for firing Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino for misconduct in April 2012. Earlier this year he was named one of four national athletics directors of the year by his peers.
He is also serving a term on the NCAA Championships Cabinet through July 2014 and is a member of the Division 1-A Athletics Directors Executive Committee.
"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. "I am appreciative of his tremendous leadership of our program and am confident he will represent our institution and all of intercollegiate athletics with great distinction in this very important position."
Long's name has been mentioned in association with an opening for the athletics director positions nationally and is likely to do so again with his newest post. But Long, who all but publicly removed his name from consideration for the Stanford athletics director position last year, said he has no intention of leaving the Razorbacks.
"I love the University of Arkansas," Long said. "The University of Arkansas is really the reason I get to serve on this committee. If I hadn't been at an institution like this, I wouldn't have been asked to do that. Arkansas is a great place and a great program. I am privileged and honored to lead it.
"I'm not interested in listening to anyone. This is a job I am excited to lead and a program I'm excited to lead. Looking back at what we've done over the last five years, I'm very proud of that and looking forward to continuing it."
Long excited about chairman post
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