Archie Manning would like the world to know that the reason he left the College Football Playoff selection committee just before it was to begin its weekly deliberations was NOT because:
A. He was pushing Ole Miss so much the other committee members got tired of it and kicked him out.
B. He refused to vote for Mississippi State.
C. He was going to run off with Katy Perry.
D. He was dead.
The answer is E — none of the above — although at times in the past few weeks he has felt like D was a possibility.
“There were rumors that I had a fatal illness,” the very-much-alive Manning said Monday. “The truth is I had to have neck fusion surgery, and when you’ve also had spinal surgery and knee surgery in the past year, there’s just a lot of pain and I was unable to travel.
“I was deeply honored to be on the committee and disappointed I didn’t get to serve. They’ve asked me back for next year, but if I have to have another surgery, I’m afraid my nurse (his wife, Olivia) is going to leave me.”
Turning 65, which Archie did in May — “I’m already giving Medicare a workout,” he said — is hard enough.
When you add in 14 seasons in the NFL — 11 of them spent absorbing extreme punishment quarterbacking the Saints, plus an auto accident a decade ago — it’s a wonder he’s able to walk upright.
As it is, Manning sits at an odd angle during the interview in his office at the Entergy Center, looking noticeably smaller than he has in the past, although he insists he has only lost about 10 pounds.
And just as the neck surgery, performed in Memphis, Tennessee, on Nov. 1 by the same doctor who operated on his back in the summer of 2013, prevented Manning from attending the CFP committee’s meetings in suburban Dallas, Manning has suspended a busy travel schedule.
Just Monday, Archie sent eldest son Cooper to sub for him at the Birmingham Quarterback Club.
Last week, for the first time in 20 years, Manning could not be in New York for the numerous awards functions of the National Football Foundation, of which he is chairman of the board.
And that’s not to mention not going to see Peyton and Eli play on Sundays. In recent years, Archie and Olivia had limited their regular-season visits to their quarterbacking sons to four home games each. (“We found out they don’t much like the New York Giants in Dallas,” he said.)
This season, they made it to only one game each before neck problems became so much that the surgery couldn’t be delayed. Manning hopes to attend Denver’s playoff games along with the CFP title game Jan. 12.
As it was, Archie found it distracting trying to watch replays of college games, provided by the CFP, on Sundays — “I haven’t broken down film since I was playing,” he said — while also paying attention to what Peyton and Eli were doing.
Think, he added, about committee members like Barry Alvarez and Oliver Luck, athletic directors at Wisconsin and West Virginia, and Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state now back on the faculty at Stanford, who have real jobs but were required to spend six straight Mondays and Tuesdays in October and November, plus the first weekend in December, deliberating the merits of TCU vs. Baylor.
For that reason, Manning said there might be changes in the way the committee conducts its business in the future — anybody ever heard of Skype? — lest the workload become too much for current and future members to take on.
“They’re asking everyone for input about everything that was done,” Manning said. “Everybody was making big sacrifices to be there. I would imagine that will be something they look at.”
Manning isn’t a particular fan of the weekly rankings, either. But with ESPN calling the shots in that area, they’re not going away.
“I thought (Arkansas Athletic Director and CFP committee chairman) Jeff Long did a great job every Tuesday night explaining the standings,” Manning said. “That’s tough because it was the first time around and nothing’s perfect.”
Not that Manning views anyone on the committee shirking his or her duties.
“You’re sent 20 games to watch, and they provide data so that you can compare each team against the other any way you want,” he said. “I wasn’t there for the discussions, but from what everyone tells me, they were very informed and very passionate about getting it right.”
And, Manning adds, the committee was correct in naming the final four of Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State, although he won’t reveal his personal choices.
“Everybody knew from the beginning the teams that finished No. 5 and No. 6 were going to be disappointed,” he said. “And the committee really liked Mississippi State before the Egg Bowl. They’d been No. 1 the first couple of weeks and were never out of the top four until the end. I don’t know how you would have left them out.”
That’s why Manning is offended when it was suggested that he would not have supported his alma mater’s archrival.
“I have a lot of friends from Mississippi State, and I was glad to see them have a great year,” he said. “But in that committee, you put rivalries aside.”
Similarly, Manning would have been recused from discussing Ole Miss. When they name the indoor practice facility after you and make the speed limit 18 mph, it’s hard not to be neutral about the Rebels.
In fact, when ESPN’s “College GameDay” visited Oxford for the Alabama game, Manning was to be the guest picker. But he was informed by CFP Executive Director Bill Hancock that that was not allowed.
So instead, ESPN came up with Katy Perry, who provided memorable picks — “Have a corndog, LSU fans” — and spent the game in Manning’s suite, ending the day by diving off a bar while celebrating the victory against the Crimson Tide.
“Yeah, Katy had a good time,” Archie said. “But I haven’t heard from her since.”
So much for that rumor.
It was a good one, though.