[[CMP::TITLE]]: Robert Morris University

New CFP committee member Chris Howard ready to blend college football, leadership in 2017

Friday, August 25, 2017

Original story on Sporting News. Written by Bill Bender, a national college football writer.

Robert Morris president Chris Howard is always ready — and willing — to learn more. The best part? 

He'll learn while watching more football as a new member of the College Football Playoff committee in 2017. The former Air Force star begins that journey this weekend at Stanford, at the first Campbell Trophy Summit, an event named after former Silicon Valley leader Bill Campbell. Those attending the event will tour the campuses at Intuit, Facebook and Google and hear from top executives and past Campbell award nominees.

The goal is to share the connection between college football and off-field success. In this case, school and football do mix.

"What brings the best out in college football is what lessons are learned on go on to other parts of civil society in terms of leadership, whether it's government, business or education, nonprofit, military, etc," Howard told SN. "This event is going to be a synthesis or an amalgamation of some gridiron lessons and how they apply to life."

Howard himself is a perfect example. He won the first National Football Foundation William V. Campbell Trophy — formerly named the Vincent dePaul Draddy Trophy — as a running back and Academic All-American at Air Force in 1990. The award honors academics, community service, and on-field performance.

Howard served as a lieutenant colonel and won the bronze star for his service in Afghanistan. He was the vice president for leadership and strategic initiatives at Oklahoma, and president of Hampden-Sydney College before moving on to Robert Morris in 2016. Now, he's a member of the College Football Playoff committee. That's leadership on all levels. 

After landing at Robert Morris, Howard shared an even tighter connection with Campbell, a Homestead, Pa., native who played and coached at Columbia before moving on to a career as an influencer in Silicon Valley. Campbell gathered leaders from there, New York, Stanford and Pittsburgh, pairing them with college football leaders to make this event possible. Campbell died in April of 2016.

"He brought that sort of thoughtfulness and sense of hard to work to everything he did in life," Howard said.

Howard takes that same self-aware approach, and it starts with leadership. He's quick to point out that three teammates at Air Force are now generals. He rattles off the phrase, "The biggest room in the house is the one for improvement." That works in education.

"I get the question often what's the difference in being a leader in higher education and being a leader in military office, nonprofit or corporate world," Howard said. "I start with what's not different. Integrity and self-awareness and courage. I try to start with not the lowest common denominator but the highest common denominator."

One of those higher common denominators? Football.

"Given the privilege of being able to play this great sport of football and being around it and doing it the right way," he continued. "We have the opportunity to influence and impact, especially young men, but all people in society in a positive way." 

Howard is an example where integrity, self-awareness and courage stand out, and that is good news for the playoff committee. He even joked that he "doesn't have any eligibility left." The Campbell Trophy Summit aims to "bring the best out of college football."