Dec. 12, 2008
Valero Alamo Bowl
Coaches Press Conference -- 2008 AT&T Golf Classic
Derrick Fox, Valero Alamo Bowl President/CEO
About Northwestern and Missouri in the 2008 Valero Alamo Bowl:
"On behalf of the Valero Alamo Bowl, we're thrilled to have this match up between Northwestern and Missouri in the 2008 Valero Alamo Bowl. And we've got two nationally ranked programs, two teams going after a 10th win, and I guarantee you, we're going to have a great, great matchup come December 29th."
Missouri Head Coach Gary Pinkel
"Well certainly, we're honored to be a part of this 2008 Alamo Bowl. We're playing a great team in Northwestern. I should congratulate Pat, which I did personally, for being inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame on Tuesday night. I was a part of that, and what a remarkable and great honor that is. We're excited about playing this game. We're excited about the opportunity. Both teams are 9-3 (Missouri is 9-4), both teams want to win 10 games, I think we're singing the same song on both sides of the fence. Certainly, we're excited to be here. I told my players, and they're very well aware, of San Antonio. They know it's a great bowl. It's a great city, and a combination of both those things, we're thrilled to be a part of it."
On recruiting in Texas:
"Well, this was a win-win for us in many ways. The one is certainly, the state of Texas is a priority in our recruiting. We've got 28 players from the state of Texas on our team. We have eight starters, several others that play quite a bit. Other than the state of Missouri, it is where we go down and recruit the highest level of student-athletes in the country. We're excited about being here. This is where we spend a lot of our time. The coaches in the area, inviting them to practices, as I'm sure Northwestern will do, I think it's just a win-win for all the families and all involved."
On building a winning tradition at Missouri:
On opinion of need for a college football playoff system:
"I think you develop a great closeness with your seniors, as Pat mentioned earlier, too, they're the leadership of your team. A lot of those guys are the guys that had a lot of choices to go a lot of different places, and for us, they came to Missouri. These guys, for our seniors, will be four straight years in a bowl, and five out of the last six years for our program. So we're certainly making progress. All of our seniors have graduated. All 22 will graduate this December or May, so all 22 seniors. We're very proud of them for that. They've had great leadership, and I'm excited for them for this opportunity. I think the consistency of winning's really what defines a program to begin with, and then you want to continue to win at a higher level. So this is a part of the process of building our program and playing in this great bowl game."
"I have my opinion. You may not like it, but I'll give it to you. I think college football is very unique. One of the great things of college football is every single week the national championship's on the line like no other sport. I think college football right now is more popular, makes more money, has more fan base than in the history of our sport. I think the first thing you have to suggest is why would you change that. I like the BCS system. I have no idea what Pat thinks about this, and we'll hear that in a minute, but I'm of the plus one theory. You maintain the bowls, you maintain all of the BCS bowls, one plays four, two plays three, and the goal is to get in the top four, and then you have one more game. To me, you maintain the integrity of college football, and every single week, the national championship being on the line, so you maintain that and you still have a goal to be in the top four."
On need for change to Big 12 tiebreaker rule:
"As y'all know, we had some great teams in the Big 12, probably the South has as good a numbers there, maybe like the perfect storm, as you'll probably every have. I think what we will do as coaches and athletic directors is we'll revisit that in May and figure out what the best way is. And if the best way is currently, we'll stick with it. I think we'll kind of visit it and maybe decide to go another way. We'll wait and see."
On Missouri receiver Jeremy Maclin taking tight end Chase Coffman as his guest to the College Football Awards Show in Orlando, Fla.:
"Jeremy Maclin is up for the Biletnekoff Award tonight in Orlando at the College Football Award Show and he came in our office at the beginning of the week and said he wanted to take Chase Coffman with him and I have never heard of that before. Generally you take your parents with you, which and he will do. He has very limited tickets to it. We had to find out NCAA wise if he could do that or not, which we always have to do and we find out he could take him. It's a huge statement for Jeremy Maclin and what kind of person he is, how caring he is. He's a team player. He has all this light shining on him he certainly wanted to bring his teammate with him and have him be a part of it. I think that's a great statement for Jeremy and his character."
On influence the presitigious Missouri journalism school has on Missouri's football program and on Valero Alamo Bowl being billed the Journalism School battle:
"We're very proud of journalism school. I was fortunate that over our bye week in September I was invited to Bristol, Connecticut and did some interviews at the ESPN facility. I think they have 21, 22 people on that site that are graduates from the J-School at the University of Missouri. I came away from that is the remarkable pride that they have in where they went to school, where they graduated. It was overwhelming to me. We had a luncheon with all these journalists and Missouri graduates and I was very impressed. I've always had great respect for the journalism school, but I was very impressed with how much pride they have in the University of Missouri and the journalism school."
On what Northwestern Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald has accomplished as his young age:
"It's amazing. This guy has a great reputation as you know. We talked about him being inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. He was obviously a great player at Northwestern and won a Big Ten championship. He's very well respected. He's done a remarkable job in a few years of continuing to build that program. I'm a little envious that he's that young and it took me longer to get to this spot. It's a very well-coached football team. I haven't seen a lot of film. I got a chance to see just a little bit the other day. As you well know we just finished last week and we've been out recruiting and been in New York, but I know they play great defense. I know they're well coached, they're very disciplined, They're very physical and tough and that comes from his personality and what he's about. It's going to be our challenge to. He's been very kind to the University of Missouri, but in the Big Ten if you're 9-3, guess what, you're really good. So he's done a great job."
Northwestern Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald
"We are genuinely excited to be here. Derrick, thank you very much. Mike, thank you. Jennifer, I'd like to express our thoughts and our prayers from our entire football program at Northwestern University to you and your entire family. This is an exciting time for Northwestern Football. To be here with nine wins, to represent the Big Ten Football conference, and the Valero Alamo Bowl, is a tremendous opportunity for our football program. When the word came down that this was going to be the opportunity, our young men were ecstatic, very excited, and then very disappointed that we had to play a great team in Missouri, but it's amazing how the gamut can change in emotion. It's gonna be an obviously huge challenge for us, to win nine games in the Big Ten, shows the kind of team that we have. We had to persevere. We have 10 kids from Texas on our roster. To have their families come down and enjoy San Antonio, our 23 seniors, one last opportunity to be a part of our football family, we couldn't ask for a better opportunity, but it's going to be a huge challenge against a great football team, and we're very much looking forward to it."
On which Big Ten team Missouri reminds him of:
"I have seen a little bit of film. I haven't seen enough to be very educated in my response. I've watched coach's team on special teams primarily, and great skill, great speed, very tough, very physical. The amount of different number jerseys you see in their special teams shows a commitment by coach and his staff to play very sound and aggressive in the kicking game. From our standpoint, there's a lot of similarities now in college football. Back when a neck-roll guy like myself played in the Big Ten, it was four yards and a cloud of dust. And now we're all in this spread offense, and we all have our own personalities based on our coordinators and how we look to attack defenses as head football coaches. The spread is definitely in vogue, it's really changed the landscape of college football, and we'll see two spread offenses on the 29th in primetime to a national television audience. It should be very entertaining.
On preparing for Missouri:
"It's going to be a great challenge, there's no question about that. The similarities in our offenses, both being in the gun spread, will give us an opportunity hopefully to have solid practices, great preparation to prepare for the opportunity. We've seen some similar teams, just going back the last month of our season, the last four games. Illinois, a common opponent for the both of us, runs a similar offense, Ohio State, Minnesota, Michigan, so we've seen similarities to what we've seen in the past, but it's going to be a huge challenge, though, based on the personnel that Missouri has and the talent they have offensively."
On need for a college football playoff system:
"From a playoff standpoint, I look at it from a student-athlete perspective, and if we were to institute a playoff currently, we would probably have some games these next two weeks when we're in the midst of finals for our student-athletes, and I'm not quite sure how we would do that. So from a planning standpoint to make that change, I'm not quite sure exactly the direction that we'll go. From a Chicagoan, a young man that dreamed of playing in bowl games, and as part of the Big Ten conference, you look at the cities that are impacted, you look at all the young men that get to go to play in bowl games, and the fans, and the tradition that are accompanied with the bowl system, I think that would be very hard to replace and to change, and for our league, the Big Ten championship is on the line every single week. There is no championship game in our league, so every game is for the championship. I think if we were to change the structure that we currently have, it would make it a huge, systemic change, not only for the national landscape, but also for the Big Ten conference. I'm fully in support of the BCS system and the bowl games. The plus one and all that, I haven't done enough research, coach, to understand that. This is my first bowl game as a head coach. You'll have to excuse me being naïve. At the end of the day, I believe in the system that we currently have and I think it's great. It's a win-win. It's a win for the conferences, and it's a win for the student-athletes."
On influence the prestigious Northwestern journalism school has on Northwestern's football program and on Valero Alamo Bowl being billed the Journalism School battle:
"From being in New York and Gary was there. It's the mecca of media in New York and all the reporters that we have there had there when I was at the Hall of Fame, it was made crystal clear the expectations that our journalism grads have. There's the power of the pen, the internet and TV camera. They made sure to point it out crystal clear the challenges that they have internally in their offices. I think Mike Greenberg called it the Journalism Bowl. I'm not sure what he called it. But it's a great opportunity, I don't want to speak for Gary, but for both our programs. 10 wins means your season goes from good to great and to have that opportunity for both our teams it will show everyone in San Antonio and everyone here with the Valero Alamo Bowl how important this game is for both our programs and it's going to be a great challenge for us and we're looking forward to it. If our fans can have a little more fun with it I think that makes it even more special."
On the impact former Northwestern and Colorado Head Coach Gary Barnett had on his career:
"I think back to, first of all when he came into my living room in 1993 and gave me the opportunity to attend Northwestern. I wouldn't be here today if he didn't find a stiff guy that thought he could make a few tackles for him and have the opportunity to earn a Northwestern education. I'll be forever indebted to him for that opportunity. Then to be under his leadership and have him give me an opportunity to be on his coaching staff at the University of Colorado was just very enlightening. It was a great opportunity for me to grow and learn. He's very close, he's a very close friend. I think there's some storylines there with him being a Missouri grad. We are quite close. We talk quite frequently, more with text messengers now, but we still talk quite a bit. He's a close friend, mentor and just a tremendous person."
On how he acclimated himself to becoming a head coach upon the sudden death of his predecessor Randy Walker:
"We don't have enough time to tell you everyone I spoke to in those brief few weeks. It seemed like a blur thinking back to when we lost Coach Walker. The most important thing at that time was no. 1 Tammy Walker and Jamie and Abbie and the walker family, Coach's (Walker) brother Rob and the entire Walker family and help uplift them in our support for the Walker family and help our players through a very difficult and tragic event in their lives. Football was very insignificant at that time. Then to move forward each day, one day at a time, to try improve our relationships with each other. We had just come off a great year, a Sun Bowl appearance to lose Coach in July the way we did tragic is not the right word. Words cannot describe how difficult it was. I'm very proud to say that we have done the best job we can to continue on Coach's legacy. It's a little ironic. I believe Coach Walker's first bowl game was here at the Valero Alamo Bowl as A northwestern head football coach and to have my first bowl game as a head football coach here I think it's just another link between him and I. I'm just humbled and honored to continue on his legacy."
On what it would mean to end Northwestern's streak of bowl losses:
"Well I can't say that I've been around the players enough in the last two weeks to do a whole lot of motivating. Maybe from a far. There's a lot that's out of our control week in and week out and what is in control right now is the way we prepare to take on a great Missouri football team. All we can do in this opportunity is go 1-0 and there's a lot of significance that you keep labeling after that. Ten wins, having our seniors leave successfully as champions of the Valero Alamo Bowl champions, to get the monkey off our back of a drought of bowl victories. I could continue to go on anad on and if we focus on that we're not going to be maybe in the right frame of mind, the right attitude to be prepared for the opportunity that Monday evening. Our focus will be to consistently prepare to go 1-0 ion the challenge and it will not be easy by any stretch of imagination on both fronts. Number one to prepare with the distractions that go along in a month after finals and moving our program from Chicago down to san Antonio and then to be a part of a great, great week of festivities. We'll have to be focused and disciplined in our approach and preparation and then obviously to take on a great Missouri football team and that challenge speaks for itself."
On whether he will mention the bowl losing streak to his players and use it as motivation for the Valero Alamo Bowl:
"Absolutely. I think that will speak for itself and I think you (I, the reporter) will do a great job in Chicago of hammering that home. I had two opportunities as a student athlete to get that monkey off our back and two as an assistant coach and now as a head football coach. I wish the challenge was a little easier, but nothing is easy in life and this experience will make our entire football program stronger."