Allstate Sugar Bowl Introductory TeleconferenceSunday, December 6, 2009
The Allstate Sugar Bowl hosted an introductory teleconference with CEO Paul Hoolahan, University of Cincinnati head coach Brian Kelly and University of Florida head coach Urban Meyer. Their opening statements are below:
Allstate Sugar Bowl CEO Paul Hoolahan“We certainly want to start off by congratulating both coaches on a fine season. We are very happy to have you coaches bring your great teams into the Sugar Bowl to compete this New Year’s Day. We think this is going to be an outstanding matchup. We have our long time friend in the University of Florida representing our host conference, the Southeastern Conference. The Gators have been in our game eight times, however, the last time was awhile back in 2001 when they played Miami in a great game. We are certainly glad to welcome you back and look forward to having the opportunity to host you.”
“Coach Brian Kelly, we really look forward to bringing your team in for the first time, and as well having the opportunity to host you. (You had) a remarkable season, a remarkable performance on all levels and it is a certainly well deserved honor to be involved in the BCS and we are proud to be the group that is able to bring you to New Orleans and hopefully show you some of the hospitality that we are noted for.
“We are excited to have two highly ranked teams, a defending national champion against the 12-0 Cincinnati Bearcats. I think it is going to be an outstanding game and we are looking forward to a week full of fun-filled activities for the players, the coaches, their families, the fans and everybody involved.”
Cincinnati Bearcats Head Coach Brian Kelly“On behalf of the University of Cincinnati, our president, Greg Williams, and our athletic director, Mike Thomas, it is an honor and a privilege to be part of the Allstate Sugar Bowl. When you talk about history and tradition when it comes to bowl games, the Sugar Bowl is always part of that. When you think of New Year’s Day, the Sugar Bowl is part of that. For our football team, we are very excited. I want to congratulate Urban (Meyer); I hope you are feeling better, and his football team. I know he is disappointed and I know his team is disappointed not being the champions, but they have had a great season and are a great football team. Over the last five years I can’t think of a program that you want to emulate in the way things are handled on and off the field (more than Florida), so our congratulations from here to you, Urban, and your football team and we are excited about the matchup. For us, back-to-back BCS games playing the Orange Bowl last year and now the Sugar Bowl; we lost our game last year so certainly our sights are set not only on being a good football team and a great matchup, but we want to win the football game. Again, we are excited but also respectful of our opponent and look forward to the opportunity to be part of it.”
Florida Gators Head Coach Urban Meyer“Thank you very much and as Coach Kelly said, on behalf of the University of Florida, our athletic director, Jeremy Foley, and Bernie Machen, our president, and our football team and coaches, we are excited to be a part of the Sugar Bowl. It is a bowl game that I have never been to. I did witness LSU and Ohio State in that great stadium in the national championship game a couple of years ago. It was a great environment and a great stadium. The University of Florida has a great tradition of going to play in the Sugar Bowl. We will have a team meeting on Tuesday and give them their schedules. I think one of the things that make big bowl games so big is that you are going to find highly ranked opponents that had excellent seasons, and we’re anxious. I know Cincinnati very well and Coach Kelly. I’ve watched them practice; I’ve watched them play every opportunity that I can because I am somewhat of a Bearcats fan, being a graduate. I have great respect (for Cincinnati), when I went and watched them practice, I walked away saying that is an SEC-caliber football team, which is because of the respect I have for the players and the way they are coached. I am anxious to get back around my team; I haven’t seen them since last night. We’ll be ready to go and Gator nation will be strong in New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl.”
On avoiding the same mistakes Alabama made last year and regrouping the team:
MEYER: This is one of the great bowls in college football history. It’s a bowl game that the SEC is the home school. Every time I talk to someone, tonight, it’s hey, we’re going to the Sugar Bowl. We’ll get this team going. Something I forgot to mention in our opening comment, is we have the winningest senior class in the history of the Southeastern Conference. It’s either 46 or 47 wins. Our legacy is going to be depending on how we finish this season. The one thing where players are so much smarter than coaches is, as soon as we get the Bearcats film, you flip it on and it’s game on. Those guys, it would have been a different deal if you’re facing a team that you don’t respect. Our guys have talked a lot since then, we’ve watched them play, they’re on TV all the time. Then you see some of the scores and the way they throw the ball around. The Gators will be highly motivated to play this game.
On his thoughts when Texas came so close to losing:
KELLY: No. 1, the kickoff specialist for Nebraska is not getting a Christmas card from us (laughs). I’ll tell you that. Obviously, we were disappointed in the outcome because we thought that we’d have an opportunity, but that doesn’t diminish the great win we had, to comeback from 21 points on the road against Pittsburgh. It’s bittersweet, but our football team clearly remembers not playing well enough to win against a Virginia Tech team last year. So we’re passed that and from our standpoint, we’ll be prepared.
On the opportunity to prove something against a team with the reputation of Florida:
KELLY: As I said, Florida Gator football is synonymous with success and it is really the benchmark for college football over the past half-dozen years. Clearly this is a match-up that our kids, their eyes are wide open when you say ‘Florida Gators’ as your match-up. So that’s very exciting. Prove? I don’t know if there’s anything more in terms of proving. We’ve proved a lot of things. I don’t know that we have to prove anything other than we need to play really well against a very good football team.
On starting the season unranked and now playing the preseason best team in Florida:
KELLY: I thought about the fact that we weren’t ranked and that we finished within a second from playing for the national championship, which puts it in perspective. It’s 18-to-22-year-old kids playing a game. That’s why college football is so exciting, because there’s so much uncertainty. When you think you’ve got it all figured out, something happens. That’s the dynamic in college football that is so unique and so special. That’s why it’s the game that it is and why it has the kind of following it does.
On being a UC graduate and coaching against his alma mater:
MEYER: My father was not doing well [a couple of years ago], so I went to visit him at the University hospital, just probably three blocks away from the stadium. I had never met Coach Kelly, but one of their coaches is a very good friend of mine, Ted Hinton, and I was invited down to practice. Without disrespecting the University of Cincinnati, I didn’t expect what I saw. What I saw was one of the top teams in America practice and the way their defensive staff was coaching and the way Coach Kelly was directly involved, I remembered walking away from that saying, ‘Wow.’ Then I made a point I never missed a game when they were on. Obviously, there are family ties there, my father is a graduate of Cincinnati. It’s a great school. But I think the way I was treated and the fact, that, obviously, they’re a heck of a ball club.
On getting the Gators re-motivated:
MEYER: We’re going to finalize the plan tomorrow [Monday] and then we meet with the players on Tuesday, so I have not had the opportunity to do that yet, but we’ll do that tomorrow and we’ll have a great plan. Once again, if this was an immature team we’d have an issue here. But we don’t. This is a BCS bowl game. So our plan is not put in place yet, but we’ll be ready to go.
On if Carlos Dunlap will be available:
MEYER: We haven’t made that determination yet. I’m going to visit with Jeremy Foley at the appropriate time. We just got back and getting organized here now. We’ll determine that later on, maybe not this week, down the road.
On Charlie Strong coaching in the bowl if he’s hired by Louisville:
MEYER: I’m not sure. Until a decision is made at the University of Louisville, then we’ll sit down. I’ve been very fortunate to have some great coordinators. As a matter of fact, every coordinator we’ve ever had has gone on to be a head football coach. Last year Dan Mullen did. So I don’t know that. Both of the schools have to be aligned with Charlie if that should happen.
On being wary of guys being ineligible academically or talking with agents:
MEYER: Absolutely. You’ve got the juniors leaving early and all the dealings with some good players. We’re certainly going to be on call at the University of Florida, sparing no expense to make sure that we do it the right way.
On the importance of running the ball:
MEYER: I don’t think you can win the game without getting running backs involved. So that’s going to be a high priority and we’re just going to work awful hard to do it because we have some good backs.
On schedule leading into the Sugar Bowl:
MEYER: The issue is going to be recruiting and then getting ready to play without that plus-one week. So, like I said, we have not finalized that. We’ll do the best we can and our objective will be to try to get some underclassmen some practice experience. But with the team we’re playing, you better have full focus on who you’re playing and try to go win that game.