The College Football Playoff is being militarized.
Lt. Gen. Richard Clark, the superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy, is expected to be the next leader of the College Football Playoff, multiple sources tell Yahoo Sports.
In a somewhat stunning hire, Clark emerged from a small group of finalists who interviewed in person this week in Dallas. He would replace Bill Hancock, who has presided over college football’s postseason for the last 18 years.
Clark’s hire ends a more than two-month-long search featuring a wide range of candidates assembled by the CFP with help from the Atlanta-based Parker Executive Search. The position was one of the most sought after in the industry, with an array of candidates both outside and within college athletics, including school presidents, Power Five athletic directors, bowl directors and professional sports leaders.
The group instead turned to a military man. The 59-year-old Clark, a command pilot with more than 4,000 combined hours of flight time, has spent more than 400 flight hours in combat including the Gulf War, War in Afghanistan and Iraq War. He’s earned a host of awards, including the Distinguished Flying Cross, Legion of Merit and Bronze Star Medal.
He’s accelerated up senior leadership positions within the Air Force, serving as the Commandant of Cadets, then overseeing the Third Air Force in Germany before being named Deputy Air Force Chief of Staff for Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration.
In 2020, he became the first Black superintendent to lead the Air Force Academy.
As a cadet at Air Force, he was a four-year letterman in football and as a senior helped lead the Falcons to a 12-1 finish and No. 8 ranking in the AP poll.
He enters at an interesting time. The CFP is expanding from four to 12 teams next season and playoff leaders are in the midst of negotiations for a new television package.
The expanded playoff will span from mid-December to mid-January and is expected to fetch as much as $1 billion in annual broadcasting rights fees. As college football’s TV viewership ratings soar, the sport’s expanded postseason will be one of the most valuable and watched events in all of sports.
A new television deal is expected to extend the current playoff beyond 2025. The contract with ESPN expires after the 2025 playoff and so too does any binding postseason agreement between the FBS conferences.
While ESPN owns a portion of the playoff games in 2024 and 2025, the others are up for bid. Multiple networks have made presentations to the FBS commissioners this fall, including ESPN, FOX, NBC, Amazon and Turner.