It was late in the afternoon of November 13, 2015, when news of over 4,000 miles and a distant ocean reverberated inside the SEC headquarters in Birmingham, Alabama.
A bomb had exploded just outside the Stade de France in Paris after a terrorist was refused entry to a friendly soccer match between France and Germany – later revealed as the first of a series of coordinated attacks that killed 137 people in the French capital that night.
Byron Hatch was days away from his stint with the SEC as deputy championships commissioner, tasked with leading operations for the league football title game. Hatch knew when he took on the job that he would only have about a month to prepare for his first appearance in college football’s preeminent league game.
At the end of the day, Hatch knew he faced a whole new challenge in the 22 days until the SEC East and West champions entered the Georgia Dome.
“He’s unfazed,” former University of Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long said of Hatch, who worked for Long and the Razorbacks from 2012 to 2015. “Whatever the situation, at how stressful it can be. He’s calm, he’s cool under pressure, and he delivers.
Hatch will take the next step at the end of January when he leaves the SEC to become the COO of the College Football Playoff, a role in which the University of Central Arkansas and the University of Arkansas graduated. -Little Rock William H. Bowen School of A former law student will oversee all operations of the National Championship game.
Go back 20 years, when Hatch finished law school, and he would have admitted that he “had no idea what he wanted to do professionally.”
“Like a lot of kids, I grew up loving Razorbacks,” said Hatch, from little Humphrey. “I always thought that one day I was going to be a Razorback football or basketball player.”
Although this athletic path never opened, Hatch had some interest from Hendrix College. Instead, he chose to focus on academics, graduating from UCA undergraduate level in 1998 before immediately going to law school.
Hatch studied tax law for four years, but was never satisfied. While living in Houston, he volunteered in the Texas Southern Compliance Office before working for the NCAA in 2005.
From then until 2012, Hatch worked at the NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis, first with academic and membership affairs and then with the championships, specifically the men’s basketball tournament.
Long first met Hatch during this time, and once Long got indications that Hatch wanted to return to a college campus, the then-Arkansas DA carved out a role for himself where Hatch could. make the most of his law degree and his training in business accounting in Fayetteville.
“I love Byron Hatch,” Long said. “There is no negative bone in Byron’s body. He has the ability to look at a difficult situation, then find a positive situation and move on to [it] without dwelling on the negatives … and pushing us where we need to be.
Hatch eventually realized he preferred to be part of an organization rather than an institution, so after three years with the Razorbacks he joined the SEC, leading the men’s soccer and basketball championships.
Between that first year’s terrorist attacks in 2015 and the transition from Georgia Dome to Mercedes-Benz Stadium in 2016, there was a lot to deal with from the start.
“[His hiring] was an accumulation of a relationship that spanned over a decade, his experiences and then me looking at what we were up against, ”SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “We don’t have the luxury of showing up at an event. It’s literally a one-year plan from when an event ends until the next year, [and] Byron was immersed in this preparation.
In many ways, Monday night’s championship game is a perfect opportunity to launch the next step in Hatch’s career – even though he won’t be in charge until next year’s competition, slated for January 9. at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles.
Monday’s title game will be played at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, one mile from the NCAA offices where Hatch officially began his athletic administration journey over 16 years ago.
“You can’t make that stuff up,” Hatch said. “A lot of people looked at me like I was crazy that I quit accounting and went to work in track and field, and I took a pay cut to do so.… But I felt like I did. that was my calling, my God-given goal and the old cliché, “Find something you love to do and you never work a day in your life?” That’s right. “