FAYETTEVILLE Ken Hatfield has been out of coaching for more than a dozen years, but the former Arkansas coach has tried to stay close to the college game.
Now Hatfield, 74, has been made one of the game's stewards as a member of the College Football Playoff selection committee.
Hatfield was appointed to the 12-member committee Wednesday - one of six new appointees who will serve three-year terms through the 2020 season. Joining Hatfield as newcomers to the committee are Pro Football Hall of Fame safety Ronnie Lott, Arizona State professor and former college football reporter Paola Boivin, and athletic directors Joe Castiglione of Oklahoma, Scott Stricklin of Florida and Todd Stansbury of Georgia Tech.
Hatfield said former Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long had spoken to him about being on the committee in the past. Long, who was fired without cause by Arkansas in November, spent four years on the committee until his term expired following the 2017 season.
"Jeff had said something to me about it and (CFP executive director) Bill Hancock had mentioned something about in the future if I would be interested in it, and I said I would be interested in learning more about it - what it required and how really could I help," Hatfield said. "It has been lingering out there for a while. When they had a changeover this year they called and asked if I was interested, and I said yes.
"It worked out and here we are."
The rest of the selection committee includes former college head coaches Frank Beamer, Jeff Bower and Herb Deromedi; Robert Morris University president Chris Howard; and athletic directors Gene Smith of Ohio State and Rob Mullens of Oregon, who will be the committee's chairman in 2018.
The selection committee meets several times in October, November and December to determine the four participants in the College Football Playoff. The committee also releases a weekly top 25 beginning in late October and creates the matchups for affiliated playoff bowl games.
Hatfield has not coached since he resigned at Rice following the 2005 season, but said he has made it a habit to watch the top games each week, either live or on a delayed basis.
"A lot of times I've been at a Hogs game, but I'll tape the games I want to see," Hatfield said. "Then during the week, many times I'll sit down in the middle of the day if I want to and watch a game....I enjoy seeing a good game and the atmosphere of a good game.
"The beauty of what we'll do is to see a lot more football in a shorter period of time. That will be the fun part of is to see different styles of ball and different people playing, and be able to evaluate a lot better than just sitting there and changing the channels like we do on Saturdays now."
Hatfield spent 27 seasons as a college head coach at Air Force, Arkansas, Clemson and Rice. He compiled a career record of 168-140-4 and won four conference championships - three in the Southwest Conference and one in the ACC.
It was at Arkansas that Hatfield found his most success, coaching his alma mater to a 55-17-1 record from 1984-89. The Razorbacks won SWC championships in each of Hatfield's final two seasons in 1988-89 and his .753 win percentage is a record for Arkansas coaches.
Hatfield, who grew up in Helena and lives in Northwest Arkansas, played for the Razorbacks from 1962-64. He led the nation in punt returns with an average of 16.7 yards per return as a junior and senior, and was an all-SWC defensive back in 1964 when he helped lead Arkansas to an undefeated national championship season.
Asked if he would need to recuse himself from future conversations concerning Arkansas, Hatfield said he was unsure.
"I think Bill would have to answer that," Hatfield said. "...At this point there is no recusal because I don't work for anybody. I think the only ones who would be suspect, naturally, are the ADs who are already at a school."