CINCINNATI INTERIM HEAD COACH JEFF QUINN
December 31, 2009
THE MODERATOR: We have Jeff Quinn from the University of Cincinnati.
COACH QUINN: Welcome, everyone. It’s a great honor to be up here to represent the University of Cincinnati, the Big East and the great city of Cincinnati. Our players have had a tremendous year. To be able to get to this point at 12‑0 is nothing shy of remarkable. These young men have put together a tremendous year for themselves. And certainly being down here at the Sugar Bowl as one of the top‑flight BCS bowls that we’ve ever been a part of.
First class. People of New Orleans, the committee members, everybody’s made our trip down here very warm and welcome and very genuine. And certainly we’re very excited about playing against the University of Florida. And with that, I would like to congratulate the University of Florida and their coaching staff for making it this far, and certainly we look forward to a great contest tomorrow evening.
THE MODERATOR: Questions?
Q. I just wondered, I know you’re busy with your own team and your own coaching career, what have you found out about Urban Meyer and his health, or do you know him that well, and your thoughts about it?
COACH QUINN: I think we should just go fishing and just relax a little bit. No, it’s always alarming to know you’ve put your whole heart and soul into this profession and this game and these young men. And certainly all you’re looking for is a chance to get out there each day and compete at the highest level. And it just goes to show life is more important than the game. And obviously we wish he and his family well. And we’re looking forward to squaring up with the boys from Florida.
Q. Have you taken any moments during this time to, for lack of a better term, pinch yourself and say, “I have this opportunity with a perfect team; for this moment I’m the head coach here before I move on to be a head coach somewhere else”? Could you ever have envisioned yourself in this spot even as the year began?
COACH QUINN: It’s interesting, because there is very little time to really sit back and enjoy it because you’re on a tight schedule. And the way I’m wired is to be completely focused on finishing the season with these young men.
But it has been a tremendous honor. I’ve been with Brian Kelly for 21 years. And it’s happened before. So as I’ve been with Brian, nothing amazes me when you get hooked up with a guy like Brian Kelly.
He’s done more for this football program and this university and this football team, because he’s really a big reason why we’re here. He took over this program three years ago, and I came along with him and a lot of our other coaches, and we came in here and we set a vision.
We set a standard, and we set expectations to get to this point, as we are today. So obviously these things happen in the best. Coaches have an opportunity to make a move, and for me it’s provided me an opportunity and it’s provided other coaches and our players an opportunity.
So we’re excited. And I couldn’t be more pleased the way our young men have practiced and stayed together and our coaches have bonded together and getting ready for this big game tomorrow.
Q. Of all the palette of opportunities that you used to provide Brian Kelly on offense, no holds barred now, are there things that he wouldn’t employ that you were trying to lobby for and now the feathers are off?
COACH QUINN: Brian and I have always worked very well together. We’ve crafted our system of offense and how we communicate, how we operate, how we go about executing our system of offense.
And really the key is nothing changes. We stay consistent with the way we’ve been able to do it. It’s been a tremendous and exciting offense to be a part of. And with these great players that we’ve had the chance to coach, there’s not going to be any real difference, other than in terms of what I will view and see, but it’s always about the kids and it’s always about performing it to the highest level.
That’s where our focus is in terms of preparation and getting our kids to execute the system of offense. And we’re going to move the ball very quickly. We’re going to hustle as fast as we can. We’re going to play with tremendous effort, and obviously without error. And that’s the key to the success tomorrow night.
Q. Could you talk a little bit about what the Friends of Jaclyn program has meant to your team this year. And I know Denis Murphy addressed your team yesterday. If you could talk about the emotion of that, please.
COACH QUINN: We’ve talked about our kids in a lot of different areas. And you hear about the physical and the skill development and the game of football. But there’s something a lot more to our football team that I think a lot of people are starting to get a little bit of a lead on, and that is to be others‑centered.
And being in that hospital yesterday with the folks that are fighting for their life and just to be able to brighten up their day and be able to give a little something to those folks to be ‑‑ and recruit. I was recruiting yesterday, too, in the hospital.
A lot of great young men and boys in there that ‑‑ and just trying to get them to understand that this game is more than just about playing. It’s about giving back. And that’s what it’s been all about, for our players. We’ve done over 100 community events over the course of this calendar year.
We have a program called Cats in the Community and allowing our kids ‑‑ it’s amazing how much they want to be a part of that and being entrenched in the community is really about giving back and that’s what this is all about. And our team has been able to embrace the city of Cincinnati and all of the people down here in New Orleans.
So being able to know that Mitch Stone has been a big part of our football program coming out to practice and seeing his day‑to‑day struggles, it’s just been very moving and very powerful for our kids. And it’s bonded us and galvanized our football team to where it is today.
Q. How much harder is it in your opinion to stay on the mountaintop, so to speak, than it is to get there? And, two, what in your mind is the next step for Cincinnati, whether it’s the facilities, the quality of player, the position of player, that you see has to take to kind of stay on that mountaintop?
COACH QUINN: It’s always about setting expectations. And we came in three years ago with two things. We said to our young men, number one, we want young men that are here to graduate, understand the value of their education, and to compete for championships. And nothing less was going to be accepted.
And when you set that standard and that benchmark, those kids will rise to that indication. And really the infrastructure at Cincinnati is well on its way to being a BCS program.
And we want to continue being a BCS football program. And these kids deserve that and the city of Cincinnati. And I think that’s really the main focus of our administration and the new coaching staff coming on, to keep that at that point.
And it is a little bit tougher as well, I know, to stay on top than it is to get there. When we first came in there we didn’t have a Big East championship.
We said, hey, we don’t have that trophy to show you young men. In regards to how to navigate on a day‑to‑day basis. But we’re going to come in there work on getting there every day and being a championship football team by our actions on how we behaved how we made decisions both on and off the field. And here we are today.
And that blueprint holds firm and true really for our program and for our coaching staff for many years to follow.
Q. Someone said the other day that an interim coach is like a substitute teacher sometimes. All that being said, apparently you’ve had no disciplinary problems either down here or back before you left, and your practices have gone to your satisfaction. How gratifying to you is that?
COACH QUINN: Well, we’re always looking in this business for guys that are unconscious competent, guys that it’s in their DNA and in their fabric, the finest young men that can be developed and lead and bring others along. That’s what I’ve leaned on. Our coaching staff are the kind of men that understand that we have to come together. And that’s been the one thing we’ve said all along.
We don’t have a big book of dos and don’ts, but we expect our young men to do the right things and care equally for each other and what we’re doing and respect. And that’s how you build these things and that’s how you get to where you are today.
You have that trust. You have that faith in each other. You have that belief. And when you go through this season and a period of time of three years, I wouldn’t expect anything less from our team.
We’re 12‑0 and these are the Big East champions. And we’ve always set that standard. So I never expected our kids not to follow through with proper behavior and quality decision‑making.
Q. Coach Kelly, have you talked to him much? Will you talk to him up to the game or will he help you with anything else? Will you lean on him in any way?
COACH QUINN: Absolutely. Brian and I have been together for 21 years. And I have had a chance to visit with Brian on the phone. And it’s always difficult because Brian’s ‑‑ like I said, Brian’s done more for this program and this university than any one coach in the history of UC football. And I respect that.
I’ve been with Brian for 21 years. People always said, Why did you stay with him that long? Because I loved his vision. I loved his passion. I loved his competitiveness. And that’s always been a part of who I’ve been.
And certainly Brian wants to see us bring home a W tomorrow. And he’s offered his input. But at the same time it’s going to be about our players executing the things that we’re going to call.
Q. Your quarterback, Tony Pike, has improved the most, and what do you expect out of him this game?
COACH QUINN: Absolutely. Tony was in the BCS championship Orange Bowl last year. Certainly wasn’t the results we expected. I think at that moment when we walked off the field, Tony, like all of our juniors that were going to be seniors, you know, made a pact and made a commitment to each other that they were going to sacrifice and commit themselves to getting back to the BCS championship, whichever bowl game that was going to be.
And Tony’s demonstrated that in some big games and some games on the road. So we have our work cut out for us against a quality football team. Great competitors from the Florida ball club, and great coaches.
So it’s going to be exciting to see how our young men respond and can adapt to the things that we’re going to face tomorrow night in this ball game.
Q. You touched on Tony Pike and one of the earlier questions talked about the recruiting process. Three or four years ago you did not have those championships and the Big East titles. Talk a little bit about this senior class and not only what they have meant to the program now but the investment that they have made in the UC program going ahead now that you have those trophies in the case that you can show recruits?
COACH QUINN: Right. That’s really what it’s about. Coaches come in and we try to really try to lock our kids in to getting them where they can’t take themselves. And there’s 16 seniors that are going to be playing their last ball game for the University of Cincinnati, as the winningest class in history of UC ball.
And they’ve done it with class and distinction. That’s what you’re most proud of. To watch these young men start three years ago and really buy into and everybody’s on the same page and moving in the same direction.
That to me is what makes this class so special. These young men have bonded together and have brought others along. And I talked a little bit about the unconscious competence that has gone on with this senior class.
And so you can’t ask a group of young men to do anything more. To be able to come into this year not knowing whether we would win all 12 games or not, but just to see how they grew and developed and overcame adversity and just played hard and physical and with tremendous effort.
That’s what I’m most proud of. And that’s why I stand before you today. Because I had an opportunity to finish the detail, and that’s why our coaching staff are all here, and all of our players are here.
Q. 32 hours ago, what logistically do you do, or do you do anything differently than, say, an August game against Southeast Missouri State? Do you put the players in more of a cocoon for this last night of a big game? Do you keep them off Bourbon Street tonight? Because it is New Year’s Eve in New Orleans.
COACH QUINN: They got their fair share of Bourbon Street, and it’s a great place. And we’ve told them night before the game, even last night, you know, when you have a focused team, when you have a group of young men committed to each other, those things take care of themselves.
So we’re not having to worry about whether guys are running out on Bourbon Street or not. These kids are locked in. They know the importance of this football game. They know the quality of the opposition they’re about to face.
This is the defending national champs. And for us to be in this position is what you dream of. These are the things that you work for. And so for our kids to think anything’s going to be done differently, it’s just not what’s going to happen. We’re going to continue our Friday night routine in terms of doing the same thing we’ve done all year long.
And the plan has worked, and I’m not going to change it.
Q. So much is made of the caliber of athlete in the SEC, the level of players and teams and things like that. When you look at Florida on film, do you see something beyond what you guys have faced this season?
COACH QUINN: There’s no question this is the defending national champs. This is a group of guys that are well coached that have great passion and competitiveness for the game.
But in the same breath, we have the same type of kids. We have kids that have played very hard, very physical. Our last time we played against Pittsburgh, we saw that our kids were down and were able to battle back and win that football game.
And just goes to show you never underestimate the spirit of a man in terms of his heart and passion and competitive fire, and that’s what it’s all about.
That’s what I think our team brings to this football game, and that’s why we are where we are today. Florida is a great ball club. They’ve got big, strong guys. We’ll have to play our very best. We’ll have to play our triple A game to be in a position to win this game tomorrow night, and our kids recognize that.
Q. Obviously you said you’ve been with Brian Kelly for over 20 years now. When you step out on that field Friday, what’s the feeling going to be knowing that you’re the main guy behind the wheel moving forward, you’re going to be the main guy behind the wheel? Is there going to be a second where you catch your breath and go: Wow, here we go?
COACH QUINN: It’s an exciting time. You can’t even describe it, the emotion and all the people and the fan support that are already flooding the lobby. I walked through the lobby today and it was amazing all the black and red that was down on the main floor of our hotel and how passionate they are about our football team.
And these kids and this program has galvanized a city. That’s what’s so special about it. But no one man does it alone. We all know that.
Our coaching staff all have a role and they have a part in this, and our players do. But we’re going to need every single guy locked in, playing, as I mentioned, their A game, in order for us to be at our very best.
So I’m looking forward to it. I know our kids are, and there will be a special moment. We all know it ends. And so we want to make this one as one of the greatest games in the history of UC football. And that’s the way we’re going to go about it.
Q. How much do you think perception, reputation, conference affiliation still have to do with how high a team can fly nationally?
COACH QUINN: Absolutely. Well, it’s always about the outcome. It’s always about winning. And you have to overcome. When you play against the caliber football team as Florida, you have to come away with wins. We know that.
The Big East, when you play against these other conferences, have to come away with big wins. We did it in the Pac‑10. We went out to Oregon State, went on the road in a very hostile environment. And that was a greatest for our kids.
And that just goes to show, we’ve been able to win some big games on the road. But you have to win those games. Let’s face it. You win. Your credibility improves. People start to respect more of what you’re able to accomplish.
And if you don’t, then you’ve got to go back to the drawing board and get back and get in there and battle again and hopefully you get another crack at it.
Q. Can you talk about Mardy Gilyard and what a unique person, athlete, performer he is?
COACH QUINN: Well, Mardy last night was doing balloon tricks in ‑‑ for these kids in the lobby. It was amazing.
Mardy connects with these young kids. And it’s just special for these young kids to see Mardy out there and being available and present to them.
And that’s what it’s really all about, when you can give back and you have players that do care more about others than themselves. That’s what Mardy’s been able to represent to our football program.
That’s like when he ran in the stands a year ago at Nippert Stadium catching a pass and he hit that little boy in the seventh row, he took his helmet off, had no regard of himself and held that child. Obviously that made big headlines.
And this goes to show how genuine he is and how much he cares about people, and that’s what it’s all about, when you think about it. And he’s a great player.
So it’s a great culmination of things that you want in your young men and what you want to be representative of your program.
Q. I think the way he turned the game in Pittsburgh around.
COACH QUINN: Mardy is certainly a weapon and a threat. But there’s 10 others out there every snap competing as hard as they can. And that’s really what it’s about. So we saw Mardy do some great things. Tony. Armon Binns. Our offensive line. Our defense. Special teams when they mishandled the snap for the extra point.
You put all those in culmination into how that game went down. It was one of the great classics, and I was obviously very honored to be a part of it and very excited about this one coming up tomorrow night in addition.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.