College Football Playoff adds Robert Morris president Chris Howard to selection committee
January 17, 2017 11:52 PM
Robert Morris president Chris Howard will have a high-profile position in college football.
By Brian Batko / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Chris Howard already has instructed his assistant to hold all calls from any college football coaches — for the next three years.
Around the country Dec. 4, fans, players, media — pretty much anyone associated with college football — knew what they would do if they were in charge of selecting which four teams would play for the national title, and it was no different for Howard. But that will now become a reality for the Robert Morris president, who Tuesday afternoon was one of three new members appointed to the College Football Playoff committee.
“I was surprised,” said Howard, 47, who’s in his second year as Robert Morris president. “You kind of sit there and you’re watching the events unfold that select those four teams that are fortunate enough to play for a championship, you keep an eye on the process, and all of us that love college sports think, ‘How would I go about that?’ So for someone to really call you and say, ‘Hey, we would love to have you be a part of this,’ as corny as it sounds, it’s really humbling. … It’s kind of a magical moment.”
For Howard, the only current college president on the committee, joining the 13-member panel responsible for the biggest decisions each year in college football was almost like being invited into a secret society. The Robert Morris football team plays in the Football Championship Subdivision, a level below the Football Bowl Subdivision teams that compete for the national championship, and Howard is the only committee member from an FCS-level school. But as he often tells students, it was a classic case of what you know, who you know and who knows you.
A first-team academic All-American running back at Air Force, a Rhodes Scholar and a Harvard Business School graduate who earned a Bronze Star Medal in Afghanistan, Howard left quite the impression on those he has met in college athletics.
“It was a neat process. I was sort of tapped on the shoulder by a handful of leaders around the process. My name had come up in a couple different circles and a couple sources close to the Playoff, then they collaborated and, in a moment of weakness, reached out to me,” he joked.
In all seriousness, Howard is honored to take the position. Heck, the other two new members are legendary former Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer and Gene Smith, the athletic director at perennial powerhouse Ohio State. That trio replaces a College Football Hall of Famer in Barry Alvarez and a one-time U.S. Secretary of State in Condoleezza Rice, whose initial three-year contracts expired, as well as former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr, who stepped down.
“I’ve got two sons, and one of them played college football and one runs college track, so they’re pretty fired up,” Howard said. “I think I might be getting the ‘Cool Dad Award.’ ”
Certainly, Howard’s kids are two that won’t mind their father watching a lot more football now — and neither will he.
“It’s a wonderful pastime that’s meant a lot to me personally, professionally,” he said. “If you call me, I’m probably watching a football game.”
And if you’re Nick Saban, Jim Harbaugh or Urban Meyer lobbying for a spot, he’s not answering.
NOTE — Jimmy Walker, a quarterback from Redlands, Calif., will transfer from San Diego State to Robert Morris and have two years of eligibility remaining. He previously played two seasons at Cerritos College in California.
Brian Batko: email@example.com and Twitter @BrianBatko.
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