Former Razorbacks player, coach gets say in College Football Playoff final four

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Thursday, January 18, 2018
Ken Hatfield, former player and Arkansas football caoch, speaks Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, during a celebration in Bud Walton Arena on the University of Arkansas campus in Fayetteville for the life of Frank Broyles, the former coach and athletics director.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Ken Hatfield, former player and Arkansas football caoch, speaks Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, during a celebration in Bud Walton Arena on the University of Arkansas campus in Fayetteville for the life of Frank Broyles, the former coach and athletics director.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Former Arkansas Razorbacks standout football player and coach Ken Hatfield was named one of six incoming members to the College Football Playoff selection committee Wednesday.

Hatfield, 74, joins new members Paola Boivin of the Arizona State University journalism school and a former columnist for the Arizona Republic; Oklahoma Athletic Director Joe Castiglione; Pro Football Hall of Famer and former consensus All-American safety Ronnie Lott; Georgia Tech Athletic Director Todd Stansbury; and Florida Athletic Director Scott Stricklin.

Ken Hatfield glance

Position College Football Playoff selection committee

Term 2018-2020

Age 74 (June 6, 1943)

Hometown Helena

Alma mater Arkansas 1965

Playing career Arkansas defensive back and punt returner 1961-1964

Head coaching record 168-140-4 (.545): Air Force 26-32-1 from 1979-83; Arkansas 55-17-1 from 1984-89; Clemson 32-13-1 from 1990-1993; Rice 55-78-1 from 1994-2005

Assistant coaching career: Tennessee freshmen 1968-1969; Tennessee receivers 1970; Florida assistant 1971-1977; Air Force offensive coordinator 1978

Bio Senior All-Southwest Conference defensive back and punt returner on Arkansas’ 1964 team, which went 11-0 and was awarded the national championship by the Football Writers Association of America. … Started coaching career in 1968 at Tennessee under Doug Dickey. … Won two Southwest Conference titles at Arkansas (1988, 1989) and one Atlantic Coast Conference title at Clemson (1991). … Won American Football Coaches Association Coach of the Year and Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year awards in 1983 at Air Force. … Recipient of Amos Alonzo Stagg Award (2015).

"I'm thrilled as I can be," Hatfield told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. "At the same time, I always want to be sure that I do a good job of it and do a thorough job. That's the main thing."

Hatfield, who compiled a 168-140-4 record in 27 years as a head coach at Air Force, Arkansas, Clemson and Rice, describes himself as a lifelong, big-time football fan.

"I always have been," said Hatfield, who lives in Fayetteville. "The game of football just has so much to offer besides the thrill and excitement, which is always there. There are just so many other values and everything that go with it, that it means so much to people who have been involved."

Former University of Arkansas, Fayetteville athletic director Jeff Long completed his four-year term on the committee, the first two as the initial chairman, this year.

The CFP committee meets every week late in the season and produces the College Football Playoff top 25 rankings. After conference championship games, the committee selects the four teams for the CFP and also determines the remaining matchups in the remaining New Year's Six bowls.

Hatfield said he had discussions with Long and CFP Executive Director Bill Hancock over the past few years, some of them to gauge his interest in joining the committee at some point.

"When Bill mentioned it, I thought, well, I watch a lot of football on Saturday anyway," Hatfield said. "The beauty of today is you can tape them and go back and watch them during the week. And I've been doing that for several years anyway. Just so I could sit down and watch and enjoy two real good teams playing each other with a great environment.

"I just enjoyed what was going on. This will give me a chance to look at a lot more football games, but without all the commercials."

The group of Hatfield, Boivin, Castiglione, Lott, Stansbury and Stricklin -- who will all serve three-year terms through the 2020 season -- will replace Long, Kirby Hocutt, Dan Radakovich, Steve Wieberg, Tom Jernstedt and Ty Willingham. Long, Jernstedt, Radakovich, Wieberg and Willingham were the last of the original 13-member selection committee formed in 2013 to begin work in 2014.

"These are high integrity people who know and love college football," Hancock said in a statement. "Each one of them has built a distinguished career based on diligence and doing things the right way. We're delighted that they will be joining the committee."

Hatfield, a native of Helena, has the best winning percentage in Arkansas football history at .760, averaging more than nine victories per season from 1984-1989. He led the Razorbacks to bowl games in each of six seasons, including two Cotton Bowls and an Orange Bowl.

Hatfield made one of the most iconic plays in Arkansas football history, an 81-yard punt return in the first half of the No. 8 Razorbacks' 14-13 victory at No. 1 Texas on Oct. 17, 1964. Arkansas would go on to complete an 11-0 season with a 10-7 victory over Nebraska in the Cotton Bowl and was crowned national champion by the Football Writers Association of America and the Helms Athletic Foundation.

Hatfield led the nation in punt return yardage in 1964 for the second consecutive season with 518 yards. His career average of 16.01 yards per punt return is a school record.

He led Arkansas in interceptions in 1962 and 1963, and in kickoff returns in 1962 and 1964.

Hatfield was the recipient in 2015 of the Amos Alonzo Stagg Award, which is given each year to the "individual, group or institution whose services have been outstanding in the advancement of the best interests of football."

Hatfield noted that the University of Arkansas will have direct involvement in each of the first seven years of the CFP, which was formed to replace the Bowl Championship Series at the advent of the four-team playoff.

"That's good and that's neat," Hatfield said. "I think it speaks a lot for the University of Arkansas."

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