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    SEC Traditions: Hancock Takes Questions

    By: Ron Higgins
    SEC Digital Network

    Bill Hancock didn’t realize he was such a popular guy.

    It was lunchtime last week at the Sandestin Beach Hilton during the annual SEC spring business meetings when Hancock found himself surrounded by a growing crowd of reporters.

    They all wanted to know the same thing from Hancock, executive director of the new College Football Playoff coming in the 2014 season.

    Who’s going to be on the team selection committee and what are the qualifications? And who’s going to choose the selection committee?

    “It’s a working concept and working concepts can change,” Bill said.

    Full disclosure here: I’ve known Bill Hancock since 1987 when he ran the baseball media venue at the Pan American Games in Indianapolis.

    Since then, he’s had a few jobs, and it hasn’t been because he’s a job hopper. It’s because he’s always the calm among chaos.

    He was the first full-time director of the NCAA Final Four, serving for 13 years. He was the first executive director of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS), named to that post in 2009.

    While critics have fired a hailstorm of bullets at the BCS, Bill’s the guy who has tap-danced smiling through it all. So it’s natural that he’s the executive director of the new college football playoff.

    We’ve got a million questions for him, and there’s going to be a lot more once it gets closer to the 2014 season. But Bill’s first order of business is gathering names of possible candidates for the selection committee who will choose the four teams for the playoffs.

    Schools in major conferences are submitting names to their league commissioners. The commissioners, known as the management committee, will eventually choose the selection committee.

    “We’ll probably get at least 100 names recommended, and I’m thinking there will be between 12 and 20 members,” Bill said. “We’re looking for people with the courage to make difficult decisions. They will be deliberate. They will be thorough. They will leave their hats at the door. They are there to represent college football.”

    Some people likely not to be on the committee are any current media members and current commissioners. Current athletic directors are still being considered. Former players and coaches are attractive options, but they still need to be in touch with today’s game.

    “You want somebody with unquestioned integrity, someone who knows the game of football in a significant way, somebody who can watch a team play and really understand if that’s a good football team or not,” SEC commissioner Mike Slive said. “Objectivity is important.”

    Bill said the group will meet 4 to 5 times during the season.

    “This will not be 15 people coming in on a Saturday night and averaging this and that,” Bill says. “It will start with a preseason meeting, like the NCAA basketball tournament selection committee, to review the procedures.”

    There are some coaches, like LSU’s Les Miles, who believe that committee members should be full-time salaried employees.

    “I don’t think you can do it with good old boys,” Les said. “These guys should be reviewing films week after week. They should be going to games and watching teams play.

    “They should get a sideline pass, to see how guys hit, to see how big they really are and not what a program says. I want them to say they know that this team might be undefeated, but it’s not better than this other one-loss team. I want to see committee work like dogs. They will be personally responsible and be able to take some heat.”

    Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin agrees the oven will be turned up to broil.

    “Based on the decisions they’re going to have to make,” Kevin said, “and the heat they’ll get from the teams who are No. 5 and No. 6, if it was me (on the committee) they would have to pay me to do it.

    “You’re not going to make everybody happy, but it’s going to create a lot of excitement. I don’t think there’s a shortage of people who are really good and would want to serve on the selection committee.”

    Bill said though the committee will be regarded as national in scope, there will be a conscious effort to make sure the committee is geographically balanced.

    “I’m sure the people that will be chosen for the committee will be known,” Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley said. “They will have the credentials, the integrity and the respect of the general public.”

    Some of the best committee members might be recently retired coaches. So, say if South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier retired in the next five years, how about him being on the committee?

    “I don’t know if they would want me on that committee,” Spurrier said. “I may have too many loyalties.”

    Bill says there’s no hurry to name a committee. In the meantime, coming up with 12 to 20 should make for great sports talk show and blogs discussion.

    “Whoever is going to be on the committee will be criticized,” Bill says. “It’s going to be hard to be on this committee. But the event is so strong, people want to be on this committee. They will be proud to be on the committee.”


    Ron Higgins Bio

    •  Ron Higgins of The Commercial Appeal in Memphis has covered the SEC for more than 30 years.
    •  He’s a 1979 graduate of LSU and son of former LSU sports information director Ace Higgins.

    •  He is a past president of the Football Writers Association of America and an eight-time honoree as the Tennessee Sports Writers Association Writer of the Year.

    •  Working for The Commercial Appeal, Tiger Rag Magazine, the Shreveport Times, the Shreveport Journal, the Morning Advocate in Baton Rouge and the Mobile Register, he has won more than 150 national, regional and state writing awards. He has also written and co-written two books.
    •  Higgins is married to the former Paige Blanchard, also an LSU graduate, and has two sons, Carl, a Southeastern Louisiana University graduate who is serving in the military, and Jack, a high school student.