Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum was recently appointed to the College Football Playoff (CFP) Board of Managers. The CFP Board of Managers is the governing board of CFP Administration, LLC, the company that manages the administrative operations of the College Football Playoff. Members of the company are the 10 Football Bowl Subdivision conferences (American Athletic, Atlantic Coast, Big Ten, Big 12, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West, Pac-12, Southeastern and Sun Belt) and the University of Notre Dame.
Dr. Keenum explained the Board of Managers role in the College Football Playoff process.
"When the College Football Playoff Committee was established there needed to be an infrastructure that could provide the support, the oversight of the committee and also involved in exactly what the playoff would look like," said Keenum. "All the conferences and Notre Dame formulated the concept of the playoff we currently have.
"The board also had to hire staff. You have to have a director for the committee , staff to support it, and a budget. The governing board oversees the staff, finances the budget, and all the operations of the playoff committee.
"This was the inaugural season and I thought it worked very well. I was pleased and thought the committee got it right.
"Of course, I was very proud that the very first College Football Playoff ranking had Mississippi State ranked number one."
During the initial year of the College Football Playoff the SEC representative was the University of Florida President Bernie Machen. Machen recently retired. Due to that, the SEC had to decide on a new representative for the conference. They chose Dr. Keenum.
"SEC Commissioner Michael Slive, in consultation with Dr. Nicholas Zeppos, the Vanderbilt University Chancellor who is president of our league right now, thought that I would be a good replacement for Dr. Machen," said Keenum.
Keenum explained why he felt he was chosen to the prestigious post.
"Like all the presidents and chancellors in the SEC, I am very active in our athletic programs and very committed to our student-athletes," said Keenum. "And I am now gaining some seniority among that group. I have now served six years at Mississippi State and six years in the SEC on the Board of Presidents and Chancellors. And I am currently serving on the Executive Committee of the SEC. The more seniority you have, the more you move up."
Unlike many boards that have a certain timeframe of service, the Board of Managers doesn't have specific terms.
"I believe once you are on the board you serve as long as you want to," said Keenum. "At least that is my understanding."
Although Dr. Keenum feels like the CFP process worked great during the initial year, there could always be changes to the process in the future. The Board of Managers will be involved in those.
"The managers board would be very involved in any structural change of the playoff system," said Keenum. "I am the voice of the SEC at the table. I would consult with all of the other presidents and chancellors, as well as the SEC commissioner. I would be the SEC's voice at the board table if any changes are recommended to the system.
"But like I said, I thought the first year was a huge success. But you are still hearing people talk about expanding the playoff games from four to eight. I have even heard of a sixteen game playoff. But I think that is far down the road, if we ever even get to that point. I think we need to see if this current four-game playoff will continue to be a success. Time will tell."
Something very important to Dr. Keenum is how the bowl games are handled in the current CFP system.
"I think there is a real desire to maintain the pageantry and tradition of the bowl games," he said. "You want to have the bowl games and a meaningful way to arrive at a true national champion. You want it to be perceived to be very fair on a competitive standpoint."
Closer to home, Dr. Keenum is very proud that the university that he is president of was the first-ever number 1 ranked team in the College Football Playoff ranking.
"I saw the impact that type ranking has on a school," said Keenum. "The exposure was tremendous for our university. Just being nationally ranked brings attention to your university as well as your football program. To be ranked number 1 for five straight weeks was very prestigious not only for our team but for our university. People learned so much about our university, many of whom had no clue about our university before the ranking.
"It was a wonderful experience for me to witness this not only as the president of Mississippi State University but also as a fan. I grew up as a Mississippi State fan. I grew up loving this university. And I had a real passion for football when I was a little boy. And that hasn't changed."
Dr. Keenum's passion extends to helping all of the sports as much as he can, even to the point of helping all the head coaches when it comes to recruiting.
"Since I have been president of Mississippi State, I have met with every football recruit who visits Mississippi State," said Keenum. "I speak to them and the family members who come with them. We host them in our home. I'll go to the football complex and meet with them. I basically talk to them about their life and their commitment to Mississippi State if they choose to come here and earn their degree.
"And I don't just meet with football players. I meet with other recruits from other sports. I've hosted basketball recruits, volleyball recruits, baseball players. I am available to any of our coaches at any time to sit down and talk to any recruit for all of our teams at Mississippi State.
"I even meet with the (regular) students who are interested in attending our university. I enjoy doing that. I think that it is very important to talk with them even if they may not wind up attending Mississippi State University. I want them to achieve all that they can achieve through education.