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From Football Manager To Commissioner, Hatchell Grew Roots At Colorado
NFF President & CEO Steve Hatchell Set for CU Athletic Hall of Fame Induction on Nov. 9.
Published: 11/9/2017 10:33:00 AM
From Colorado Athletics.

Steve Hatchell's legendary sports administration career makes him a natural candidate for induction into the CU Athletic Hall of Fame.
 
Hatchell is the only inductee in this class to have never suited up for the Buffs in an athletic event. His illustrious career took root as the football team manager for the Buffs in the late 1960s, undertaking typical team manager responsibilities such as doing laundry and polishing helmets while earning his degree in Journalism (1970).
 
After graduation, he was convinced by legendary former CU head coach and athletic director Eddie Crowder to remain in the CU athletic department, which would result in a sports information director role from 1972-76, Hatchell credits Crowder's persuasion and CU's resources for jumpstarting his career.    
 
"CU and Eddie Crowder mean a lot to me personally," Hatchell said. "I was there for 10 years and got to do everything I wanted in the athletic department, including meeting my wife, so this [honor] is an extremely big deal both personally and professionally for me."
 
"From writing for the (Boulder) Daily Camera to being a campus correspondent for TIME to all the positions I had in the athletic department, I used CU connections to really start off, especially Eddie Crowder."
 
He left CU in 1976 to become the assistant athletic director for external affairs and the SID at Colorado State, but moved on after one year where he assumed the position as co-commissioner of the Big Eight Conference. In 1983, he was appointed commissioner of the Metropolitan Collegiate Athletic Conference (MACA) at the age of 33.   
 
After five years as commissioner in a conference that featured programs like South Carolina, Louisville and Cincinnati, Hatchell departed the MACA for a position as the Orange Bowl's executive director--one that would result in one of his finer career moments.
 
While the brand FedEx may not have been a household name in the world of college football, Hatchell spearheaded a corporate partnership with the shipping conglomerate. FedEx served as the Orange Bowl's corporate sponsor--an incredibly iconic partnership that would last from 1989-2010, and it almost never even happened.
 
"We did FedEx just because NBC was not going to increase TV rights for the game," Hatchell said. "That opened the door for one of the first title sponsors in the country and allowed [the Orange Bowl] to host four national championship games in six years."
 
Being that those six years were in the range of 1987-93, any avid CU football fan knows just how special two of those observed title games were for the Boulder alum to witness.
 
After observing a 21-6 Buffs defeat to the hands of Notre Dame in the 1990 Orange Bowl, Hatchell experienced a unique bliss the following season as the Buffs returned to face the Irish on New Year's Day 1991 for the national championship--this time covered by NBC.
 
In what was almost a consecutive loss on a "Rocket" Ismail punt return in the waning seconds of the game, Hatchell observed Tim James being blocked in the back on the play, negating the score and allowing the Buffs to prevail 10-9.  Fellow inductee Chad Brown played in both games.
 
"CU was very strong and came into the game highly ranked both years, and they were both very special for me, especially the national championship," Hatchell said.
 
Following the 1993 Orange Bowl, Hatchell departed in order to return to the conference ranks, this time with the Southwest Conference, a job that would only last two years before being a part of one of the most significant mergers to this day in college football--the Big 12 Conference.
 
"It was really a lot more complicated than you'd think," Hatchell said. "It was an intense, rocky merger between the Big Eight and the Southwest Conference that was necessary in order to get the big TV dollars, but it was tricky because not everyone was able to get a spot in the new Big 12."
 
Assuming the position as the first commissioner in the history of the conference, Hatchell quickly established the league as a legitimate institution and facilitated multiple television and bowl game deals that solidified the young conference's national legitimacy.
 
From 1996-2011, the Big 12 consisted of the same 12 programs and garnered three national championships in an eight-year span from 1997-2005 (Nebraska '97, Oklahoma '00, Texas '05).
 
Included amongst the initial members of the conference via the merger was Hatchell's Colorado Buffaloes, who claimed the 2001 Big 12 football championship.
 
Colorado's transition out of the Big 12 in 2011, followed by three other founding Big 12 members over the course of the next year, brought about a new era for the Big 12 that has featured just 10 teams since 2012.
 
"The job is totally different now," Hatchell said. "I think Bob Bowlsby (current Big-12 commissioner) is one of the finest administrators in sports, and that the new playoff makes this a different job from when it was a startup."
 
Following a half decade of serving as the conference's commissioner, Hatchell transitioned out of the college football game temporarily to try out the commissioner role in a new industry: the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA), which he would hold until 2006.
 
Today, Hatchell serves as the president and CEO of the National Football Foundation (NFF) and College Football Hall of Fame, located in Irving, Texas, having worked closely with Archie Manning, the organization's chairman, since leaving the PRCA in 2006. The Hall of Fame itself is located in Atlanta.  
 
With the 150th anniversary of college football upcoming in the fall of 2019, Hatchell is one of 13 members on a committee of distinguished college football personalities designated to coordinating a proper tribute to the game--a committee that includes legendary athlete and administrator Oliver Luck and current Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott.
 
Other notable events Hatchell has coordinated include the Doral Ryder Open in Miami and serving on multiple U.S. Olympic advisory boards, experience he terms as "extremely aggressive, yet effective work."
 
Considering he got his start getting grass stains out of CU's practice jerseys in his early twenties, Hatchell's career as a sports administrator has undeniably been one of the most successful on record. His black and gold roots in Boulder set him up for what is an ongoing legacy as a pristine sports administrator, making him an incredibly worthy selection for the CU Athletic Hall of Fame Class of 2017.

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