FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long has a prestigious new position as the chairman of the College Football Playoff selection committee.
Long stressed Thursday he won’t let the opportunity interfere with his responsibilities at Arkansas.
Long, one day after being introduced as the Playoff’s first selection committee chairman, acknowledged his duties with the 13-member panel in charge of determining the four teams to play for the 2014 national championship will be time consuming. But he said during a press conference in the Broyles Center it won’t take away from his commitment to the Razorbacks, which remains his “No. 1 goal.”
“I’m not going to change that,” Long said. “It might cut into it some, but I have a very strong staff and they’ll be able to pick up anything that I may have to step away from. So I have no concerns there. But it’s really personal time. That’s where the impact is going to be is in personal time with my wife and my daughters.”
Long was first asked if he would be willing to serve in June or July and offered a “preliminary yes.” He was contacted a little later in the summer and informed he had been unanimously selected by the management committee to serve.
Long explored the time commitment before accepting. He also wanted to make sure working on the committee wouldn’t be detrimental to Arkansas’ chances if it were in consideration for the four-team playoff. Everything checked out and he agreed.
“Then it wasn’t until the last week and a half or two weeks they came back and approached me - Bill Hancock called me about serving as the chair,” Long said.
Long admitted timing was important. For instance, he said it might not have been feasible last year as he conducted a coaching search, hired Bret Bielema, and helped the new coach settle into his position with the Razorbacks.
The length of his term as committee chairman and member has not been determined, but members will generally have three-year tenures.
Long said the committee will likely meet four or five times during the 2014 season and release a cumulative top 25. There also will be organizational meetings before then as the group establishes guidelines to prepare for the first selection season.
Long said he’s honored to be in his role as the process begins.
But he also credited his tenure at Arkansas for making it possible.
“If I hadn’t been at an institution like this, I wouldn’t have been asked to do that,” Long said. “Arkansas is a great place. It’s a great program. I am privileged and honored to lead it. … I owe a lot to the University of Arkansas in putting me in position to accept this. I hope that our fans take great pride in — not with me being selected — but the athletic director at the University of Arkansas being selected to chair this committee. I think it’s a huge honor for our program, our university.”
Long is in his sixth year with the Razorbacks and has overseen an athletic department whose budget has grown to project $80.6 million in revenues for the 2013-14 fiscal year. It also has undertaken several construction projects recently, beginning with the completion of the football operations center over the summer.
The program is now in the midst of its “Never Yield” campaign, raising funds for a basketball practice facility, baseball/track indoor facility and student-athlete success center. The projects are estimated to cost between $45 and $57.5 million.
Personally, Long gained national notoriety for his handling of the Bobby Petrino scandal 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.
But Bill Hancock, who is the executive director of the College Football Playoffs, said Wednesday that Long is about to become one of the college football’s most “well-known” individuals in his new role. It’s likely the high-profile position could lead Long to bigger opportunities elsewhere in college athletics if he were interested.
But Long — whose contract at Arkansas runs through June 30, 2017 — said that’s not his objective as he continues to lead the Razorbacks.
“I’m not interested in listening to anybody about anything,” Long said. “This is my job. This is a job that I’m excited to lead and a program I’m excited to lead. And you know what, looking at what we’ve done the last five years, I’m very proud of that. I’m looking forward to continuing.”