SBJ/November 19-25, 2012/Colleges

ACC’s Kelly joins football playoff system

The ACC’s Michael Kelly will be the chief operating officer for the new college football playoff system, which is beginning to put together a staff that will be based in Dallas.

The new organization, which will not be named the BCS when it moves to the playoff system beginning with the 2014 season, will oversee the semifinals and championship game.

Kelly
Championship games in the current BCS setup are run by the host bowl. The new playoff games — even the semifinal games at bowl sites — will be managed by Kelly, Executive Director Bill Hancock and the conference commissioners.

“We’re committed to building a robust organization,” said Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott, a member of the search committee. “What we’ve essentially done in the past is outsource the championship game to the bowls. In the new playoff system, we’re going to be more independent and, frankly, we’re looking to elevate the championship game to a higher level of presentation. This is an important step in the process. The new COO will oversee all of the event management associated with the semifinals and finals.”

Kelly said the new office in Dallas will operate similarly to the NFL’s special events department.

“The way the NFL works with the local organizing committees in the host city for the Super Bowl will be somewhat like what we’re doing with the championship game and, to an extent, the semifinals,” Kelly said. “We’re going to take the championship game and make it one of the great annual events in the country.”

Kelly, who led organizing efforts for three Super Bowls in Tampa, Jacksonville and Miami, will begin his new role after the bowl season in early 2013.

He has spent the last five years at the ACC in Greensboro, N.C., where he was hired in 2007 to run football, broadcasting and communications as a senior associate commissioner. That primarily entailed fixing an ACC football championship game that had struggled with attendance in Jacksonville and Tampa, before finding success in Charlotte the past two years.

Kelly will relocate to Dallas, where he will report to Hancock and the commissioners of what’s currently known as the BCS. Hancock and Kelly will be responsible for building out a staff that will orchestrate the new playoff system beginning with the 2014 season.

The commissioners of the BCS are working on a branding campaign that will include a new name for the college football postseason once the playoffs start.

“Michael gives us someone who has presided over three Super Bowls and he knows this space,” Scott said. “He’s regarded as a leading expert in this field. He’s got a nice combination of pro and college experience.”

It’s uncertain how many people will be hired for the new office in Dallas. That will depend on how much of the organizing efforts for the championship game are outsourced to local organizing committees and how much is handled by the new playoff staff.

When Kelly starts, he will work with Hancock to handle the bid process for the three “access” bowls, the rotation for which bowls will host semifinals, and future championship sites.

The search for the COO position was managed by Jed Hughes of Korn/Ferry International. Scott, Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany and MAC Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher serve as the committee of commissioners charged with building the Dallas office.
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