Sports Executive of the Year: Jeff Long

I groaned and looked over at the girl in the lounge decked out in a red-and-gray sweatshirt, a creepily cartoonish Brutus the Buckeye staring at me.

Marcus Mariota — still with the Oregon Ducks then — picked himself up off the ground and futilely tried to get his Ducks to move forward, to pretend they still had a shot at the National Championship. They didn’t, as the Toledo, Ohio native and avid Buckeyes fan next to me in the lounge shouted. It was all Ohio State.

My freshman year, sitting in the Flint 3A lounge, seems forever ago and yesterday simultaneously. But whether it was yesterday or a million years ago, I will never forget the admiration for Cardale Jones and the Ohio State Buckeyes as the team toppled Oregon, forecasted to beat the snot out of OSU days before. I remember sitting at home with my mother, watching Ohio State-Alabama the week before as the Buckeyes — who barely made the playoffs as a controversial No. 4 team — neutralize the nation’s No. 1 squad. I remember the Bourbon Street Snapchats (OSU-Alabama was played in New Orleans) from a celebrating fan I knew from school.

That excitement and near-unbelievable storyline would have never been possible if it hadn’t been for the newly-instituted College Football Playoff. Instead of Ohio State sweeping in to take No. 4 from Texas Christian and Baylor, neither of which had lost a game or a player to merit moving them down after a win, there’d be a computer saying that (yawn) Alabama would play Oregon in the National Championship. I suppose I’m being unfair. The game wouldn’t have been a yawn, but in retrospect it would’ve because the best team in all of college football, the team on its third quarterback of the season after two Heisman hopefuls were hurt, wouldn’t have played.

The College Football Playoff made it all possible.

And the man that made that event possible was Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long. He should be the 2015 Sports Business Person of the Year.

As the chairman of the College Football Playoff, he’s the man I find directly responsible for bringing me the pure joy of watching four teams duke it out for the National Championship instead of two, for giving me an incredible storyline to tell for years, for giving me the redemption of Cardale Jones, who sent an unintelligent tweet and then made up for it. And when I say “me,” I think I represent every college football fan in the country. Sports fans as a whole even. Sports fans love sports for their unpredictable nature and their analogous look at real life. There are heroes and underdogs and surprise endings, much like the College Football Playoff.

Also, Long showed his smarts and lack of bias when he went with Ohio State, a Big Ten school, over TCU or Baylor, another southern school which faces South Eastern Conference teams, which Long is a part of.

There were more cheers than boos from the fans. In today’s day and age, shouldn’t that be enough? He gave us what we wanted, good sports and good stories. Give the man the medal.

Sam Fortier is a displaced New Englander living in New York. He likes baseball, crunchy peanut butter and the sound Kanye makes in his songs, which he thinks is spelled “HAAH.” He’s not a fan of grammatical error’s. You can read him here every Monday, follow him on Twitter @Sam4TR, or email him at 


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