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Dallas 500

Meet the Dallas 500: Bill Hancock, College Football Playoff

The executive director of the now 12-team College Football Playoff discusses his belief that college athletes are students first, that one time a Final Four game was delayed because they couldn't get to the basketballs, and more.
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Bill Hancock

Bill Hancock was the first full-time director of the NCAA’s Men’s Final Four from 1989 to 2002, then from 2009 to 2012 he led the Bowl Championship Series. Now, Hancock is in his final months as the executive director of the Irving-based College Football Playoff, a role he has held since the playoff’s inception. Come the start of the 2024 season he will pass the reins to Lieutenant General Richard M. Clark, who will lead the playoff into a new 12-team era.

In Hancock’s full 2024 Dallas 500 Q&A, he talks about his love for classical music, his hometown, and the state of college sports.

Birthplace: Hobart, Oklahoma

Education: University of Oklahoma (BA)

First Job: “My first job was as a paper boy, where I learned to pay attention to the basics. ‘Put the paper on the porch‘ became my motto.”

Best Advice: “Treat people the way you want to be treated.”

Dinner Party: “If I could have dinner with any two leaders it would be Derek Kerr and Andrew Watterson, just to be able to visit with them about their lives.”

Destinations of Choice: “I love the Grand Canyon. I have hiked from rim-to-rim twice. Of course the scenery is magnificent, but my favorite thing about the canyon is the silence. I also love visiting Washington, D.C., and the beaches at Normandy. Every American should go there.”

I Collect: “Stories about my home town of Hobart, Oklahoma. When people ask the town’s librarian a question about the town’s history, usually I can answer it for her.”

Hobby/Passion: “I relax by reading nonfiction books, and also by playing the piano. On the physical side, I am retired from running marathons. Distance running was my primary outlet for many years.”

Industry Change: “My industry is college sports as an element of higher education. I would do everything I could to remind people of the ‘higher education’ element.”

Local Fare: “I really enjoy Via Real in Irving. I order the tamales.”

Guilty Pleasure: “Ice cream. But it has to be cookie dough or vanilla.”

Fun Fact: “People would be surprised that my dream as a high school student was to become a concert pianist, like Van Cliburn. I took a different path and have no regrets. Of course, now I realize that couldn’t have become the next Van Cliburn anyway.”

Go-to Adviser: “I have several mentors in our business. Bob Bowlsby and Mike Slive are two—the former commissioners of the Big 12 and Southeastern Conferences, respectively. Both of them kept in mind the best interests of college sports as a whole.”

Toughest Challenge: “Helping our board decide whether to expand the field for the College Football Playoff was a big challenge.”

First Car: “It was a Rambler, which my wife and I sort of inherited from a friend. It was a lousy car but it got us around.”

Proud Moment: “Moving forward with the 12-team playoff was probably our biggest success.”

A Better DFW: “If I had a magic wand, I would help North Texas focus more on diversity.”

Pivotal Moment: “Our lives were wrecked when our son, Will, died in an airplane crash in January of 2001. We lost all hope. But slowly we learned to live again. I didn’t really handle it myself—our faith, family, and friends handled it for us until we could find our way.”

Walk-up Song: “I would play Beethoven’s Symphony 9, but specifically the fourth movement—the chorale section. We all need more joy.”

Must-read: “I have to name two. The first would be To Kill a Mockingbird because of the humanity. The second would be Rise and Fall of the Third Reich because of its relevance. Can I name a third? Texas by James Michener. Every Texan, or would-be Texan, should read it.”

Spirit Animal: “The koala. Calm and reassuring.”

Alternate Reality: “I would be a newspaper reporter who was downsized. I would hope I would have saved enough money to retire. If not, I would have tried to become a church organist.”

Funniest Moment: “At one Final Four, the man in charge of the basketballs was caught in traffic; he was the only one who had a key to the closet where we kept the balls. This was NOT funny at the time. The guy finally arrived.”

Bucket List: “Nicki and I visited Antarctica in March. Oh my, it’s incredible. And it’s a long way from here!”

Key Leadership Strategy: “The key strategy is to surround yourself with good people and then let them do their jobs.”

Future Forecast: “I am excited about the future of college sports because we are training a new group of bright young leaders. Our industry is incredibly resilient.”

Author

Ben Swanger

Ben Swanger

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Ben Swanger is the managing editor for D CEO, the business title for D Magazine. Ben manages the Dallas 500, monthly…

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