Photo: Walt Beazley, UA Athletics
Jeff Long will no longer be known most prominently as the suit who fired Bobby Petrino.
Word of his appointment as the first chair of the College Playoff Selection Committee on Monday made sure of that.
Long, who was hired as Arkansas’ vice chancellor and director of athletics in the fall of 2007, will officially be introduced in his chair’s role along with the other members of the committee in a news conference Wednesday in Irving, Texas, home of the College Football Playoffs new offices.
The Associated Press has reported the committee will be composed of 13 members including Long, West Virginia’s Oliver Luck, Wisconsin’s Barry Alvarez, Clemson’s Dan Radakovich, Southern California’s Pat Haden, Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, retired Lt. Gen Michael Gould, former Big East Commissioner Mike Tranghese, former Nebraska coach Tom Osborne, former Notre Dame, Stanford and Washington coach Tyrone Willingham, former NFL and Ole Miss quarterback Archie Manning, former NCAA vice president Tom Jernstedt, and former college sports writer Steve Wieberg.
In a similar fashion in which the NCAA Basketball Selection Committees choose the teams that compete in the men’s and women’s NCAA Basketball Tournaments, the panel will decide the four teams that will play in the three-game football playoff as well as place the teams that will compete in the New Year’s Day bowls.
His appointment is indeed an honor and one that not only brings a measure of personal prestige to Long but also prestige to the University of Arkansas. And let’s face it, with the Razorbacks in the throes of a four-game losing streak, Arkansas’ program can use any boost it can get.
While Long was far from a no-name in the world of college athletics administration before Petrino’s fateful motorcycle wreck forced his hand, the leadership and integrity he showed in dismissing a highly successful coach like Petrino, who is acknowledged as one of the best play-callers in the game, certainly pushed Long to the forefront of his profession.
While boosters, fans and pundits can reasonably grouse and grumble about various aspects of Long’s regime, there is no denying that his position as chair of the committee is a feather in Arkansas’ cap.
While there are far better known former players, coaches and politicians on the committee, nearly every story about the interworking of the committee will mention Long and his position at Arkansas. He will be the spokesman for the group, and no doubt he will garner plenty of face time on ESPN at least for the next year and a half.
Arkansas head football coach Bret Bielema and his staff will use it as a talking point in recruiting, and no doubt Arkansas’ PR department is already mapping out a strategy to maximize the situation for the program and university.
Long’s appointment as chair is also a coup for the SEC, and it’s perhaps even better for the league than if Long were at the controls of one of the league’s perennial football powers.
How much will Long’s appointment actually help the Razorbacks? It’s hard to tell. Again the newness of the committee makes it more newsworthy in the first year than it will ever be in the future as the playoff system establishes itself. Don’t expect five-star recruits to begin flocking to Fayetteville just because of it.
But in a week when Arkansas’ football program could use some positive news, the announcement of Long’s appointment couldn’t have come at a better time.
Reaction to Long’s Appointment
Here is a collection of quotes concerning Long’s appointment as chair of the Football Playoff Selection Committee provided by the University of Arkansas Athletic Public Relations Office.
“Jeff Long’s selection as the first chairman of the College Playoff Selection Committee is 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. 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.” ?Dave Gearhart, University of Arkansas Chancellor
“In my initial meetings with Jeff Long it was apparent he is very engaging, very intelligent and he is always ahead of the curve with a plan that never yields. Obviously, this is a tremendous honor for him and great exposure for Arkansas. Looking at the list of prospective names for the committee, I know some of them personally and it is great to have the man I work for in a position to lead a group that has great balance and that is charged with making the decisions about the playoff system. This shows a lot of respect for what Jeff has done in the world of college athletics and college football.” Bret Bielema, University of Arkansas Head Football Coach
“Congratulations to Jeff on his appointment as chairman of the College Football Playoff Selection Committee. It is a tremendous honor to be chosen for such an important leadership position by your colleagues from around the country. Jeff will do a wonderful job and act in the best interests of college football. His appointment is also a significant moment in the history of our University and the Razorback program. I wish him all the best as he serves as chairman.”? Frank Broyles, Former University of Arkansas Athletic Director and Head Football Coach
“Jeff has vast experience in college football. 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.”? Bill Hancock, College Football Playoff Executive Director
“I don’t believe that a better selection could have been made. Jeff is a forward thinker who has a successful track record of innovative thinking and getting results. He has great leadership instincts and ability, qualities will be critical to the direction of this committee. Jeff Long brings so much to the table on many levels at a very exciting time in the history of college football.”? Jerry Jones, Owner and General Manager, Dallas Cowboys and Board Member of the National Football Foundation
“Jeff will do a terrific job serving as the first Chairman of the College Football Playoff Selection Committee. He brings a wealth of experience and is known for his high standard of integrity. This is an exciting time in college football and it’s great to have his leadership as Chairman as we look to the future of postseason football.”? John Swofford, Commissioner, ACC
“Jeff Long is a tremendous choice to lead the Selection Committee. Jeff possesses impeccable integrity and a wealth of experience at several excellent football institutions. Jeff played the game and has participated in college football at the highest levels. The Selection Committee is in very capable and steady hands.” Bob Bowlsby, Commissioner, Big 12 Conference
“Jeff’s selection as chairman of the College Football Playoff committee is well deserved. I’ve known Jeff for a long time, and he represents the highest standard of integrity. He has a long and storied background in college football and athletic administration, and I know he will represent all of those involved on the committee very well.”? Brady Hoke, Head Football Coach, University of Michigan
“Congratulations to Jeff on this well-deserved honor. I can’t think of anyone who could have been named Chairman of the College Football Playoffs who has more integrity, more ethics and more knowledge of football. It is the fair and correct choice for the chairman. He has outstanding values and is the perfect choice. When you narrow the field down, there is no one better to be put in that position.”? Mark May, College Football Analyst, ESPN
“Jeff is a longtime friend, who cares deeply about the game and its future. He is a true consensus builder and the perfect leader for the College Football Playoff Selection Committee.”? Steve Hatchell, President and CEO of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame
“Congratulations to Bill Hancock and the selection committee on naming Jeff Long, Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics at the University of Arkansas, as Chair of the College Football Playoff Selection Committee. It speaks volumes that the inaugural chair of the College Football Playoff Selection Committee is himself a former football student-athlete from Ohio Wesleyan University. He has paid his dues along the way and risen up the collegiate coaching and administrative ladder to reach this latest pinnacle of his career. Jeff is the perfect choice to lead this prestigious committee into the inaugural College Football Playoffs and we look forward to having one of the preeminent athletics directors in the country at the helm.” ?Bob Vecchione, Executive Director, National Association of Directors of Athletics (NACDA)
“I have known Jeff for nearly 15 years. He has always possessed those special leadership and interpersonal qualities that will make him the perfect person to lead us and the Committee into the new playoff era. As a former player, coach, and now as an administrator, he knows the game of college football from every possible angle. It’s a challenging position, but Jeff is very analytical. He and the entire committee will work hard to guide college football to new heights in the years ahead. I’m excited about this appointment and everyone that cares about college football should be as well. Jeff is going to do a tremendous job.”?Rick Baker, President, AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic
“In my more than 39 years of coaching and having been associated with numerous administrators from general managers in the NFL to athletic directors in college, the unique perspective that I always felt Jeff Long had was his experience coming from a coaching perspective to an administrative perspective. Jeff has always been able to see the big picture when making decisions involving collegiate athletics.” ?Dave Wannstedt, Former NFL Head Coach (Chicago Bears and Miami Dolphins), Former Pitt Head Coach and current Special Teams Coordinator Tampa Bay Buccaneers