The only Big 12 representative on the new College Football Playoff committee is 1,000 miles away from most of the conference’s campus. West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck will be a Big 12 loyalist, I’m sure, but it’s sort of strange to have as the conference rep someone whose football team still hasn’t even played on three Big 12 campuses.
But OU, at least, should never fear. The Sooners have a friend in high places. The chairman of the 13-person committee, Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long, has solid Sooner ties. Long spent 28 months, January 2001 through May 2003, as OU’s senior associate athletic director. Pitt hired away Long to be AD, then Arkansas hired away Long in 2007.
I wrote about the Football Four committee for the Wednesday Oklahoman. You can read that column here.
Long and OU athletic director Joe Castiglione were close colleagues, and Joe C. fully supported Long’s candidacy at Pitt 10 years ago.
In almost six years in Arkansas, Long has built a solid reputation as a leader willing to make tough decisions. That befits a guy who was willing to step into the shoes of Frank Broyles. The icon of Razorback athletics, Broyles retired as the Hog AD after xx years on the job. Among Long’s first steps were hiring a football coach, Bobby Petrino, and merging the Razorback men’s and women’s athletic departments from separate entities into one.
Long’s most high-profile move was the April 2012 firing of Petrino, who had been involved in an extramarital affair with a former Arkansas volleyball player, had hired the woman to a staff position within the football program and crashed a motorcycle with her aboard, an incident that Petrino tried to cover up. Long fired Petrino within days. After a disastrous 2012 season with interim coach John L. Smith — a poor hire by Long; Smith had left Arkansas a few months earlier to be head coach at Weber State — Long recovered with the quality hire of Wisconsin’s Bret Bielema. Ironically, Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez joins Long on the football committee.
Long came to OU from Eastern Kentucky, where he was athletic director and where he hired Travis Ford as basketball coach.
Long attended Ohio Wesleyan, where he played football and baseball, and then went into coaching. He coached at Rice, Duke, North Carolina State and Michigan, where he went into administration and was hired by Bo Schembechler. Long worked briefly at Virginia Tech before getting hired by Eastern Kentucky.
I don’t believe the Football Four committee will be subject to much bias. I believe the committee members will act honorably, without strings attached. But if the Sooners ever need a friend in the room, they’ve got one.