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Robert Griffin III on-field quotes
THE MODERATOR: Welcome to our head coaches' press conference for the 2011 Valero Alamo Bowl. Coach Sarkisian, Washington Huskies are the visiting team this year. If you could give us an opening statement, please.
Q: The tempo that Baylor plays at is very similar to that of Oregon. Do you feel as though your experience with that helps?
STEVE SARKISIAN: I think it’s helpful for sure. Our guys have seen the speed at which they go and I think that what we’ve done offensively in incorporating some no huddle stuff and an up-tempo level of play dating all the way back to last spring has helped in that as well. That was strategically part of why we did it. It’s added a dimension to our football team that has been good for our offense, but has helped our defense to feel comfortable in that setting. I think that so much of the no huddle offense is that it doesn’t feel comfortable for many; it almost feels chaotic and that’s the worst-case scenario for a defense. You’ve got to find your comfort zone and I think our defense has done a better job of that.
Q: Is there a key to substitutions when facing the no-huddle offense?
STEVE SARKISIAN: I think they key is that you need to sub early in the game. You can’t wait until a guy gets tired. You have to have a rotation in place. You have to sub early so that in the third and fourth quarters of the game, your guys are still somewhat fresh and not so fatigued.
Q: You’ve been through this situation before where you’ve had quarterbacks who have pondered entering the NFL draft. How different is the dynamic of a running back in Chris Pope?
STEVE SARKISIAN: The dynamic is just the different position and assessing the draft that way. For Chris at this point, this is a business decision. This isn’t a matter of what feels fun or what feels right. He’s earned his degree and played great football for us. Now the question is, ‘Is this the right draft for me?’ and ‘Am I projected in the right spot to do what I know I’m capable of doing?’ and ‘Could I benefit more and could I improve more by coming back next season and what might the draft look like next year?’. That’s what a lot of the discussion needs to be about. It’s not about emotion or taking a certain number of carries. That’s the tough realities to go through. We’ll go through it all and we’ll do it the right way.
Q: Do you have an idea when that evaluation might come?
STEVE SARKISIAN: We’ll assess it right when we get back, quite honestly. The NFL advisory is back, we know.
Q: What is the status of safety Will Shamburger?
STEVE SARKISIAN: He’s doubtful.
Q: Are the practices down here being closed off to the media part of the game planning for you guys?
STEVE SARKISIAN: Yeah. I felt like it was needed for us. We’ve been exposed now for quite some time and I felt like when you come down here and we get ready for the game, we needed an intimate setting for us. I thought it has gone very well and our kids have responded to it. In some aspects, they’ve almost embraced it. That’s not forever. For these five practices, I felt it was needed and it’s gone well for us.
Q: Should we expect a big change from the way your team plays with the time behind closed doors?
STEVE SARKISIAN: I don’t think you can change everything. I think as always when you have good coaching staffs that there’s going to be new wrinkles to different things. You can’t install a brand new offense or defense in three weeks. But there will be some wrinkles I’m sure for both teams that will be unique to this game. Some will go unnoticed quite honestly and some will be obvious to the common fan’s eyes.
PHIL BENNETT: First of all, I want to say hello to Kate. She was my beat writer when I was at SMU. Awful kind to me, too, and I always appreciated that.
Q: From what you’ve seen on film, how would you describe Washington running back Chris Polk?
NICOLAS JEAN-BAPTISTE: He’s a tough runner, a good one-cut running back. Once he’s made his decision, he’s going to hit the hole. He makes a lot of people miss and breaks tackles. Overall, he’s a really good runner.
Q: What’s it going to take to slow Polk down on Thursday?
NICOLAS JEAN-BAPTISTE: We’ll need to get a lot of penetration on the defensive line. Getting the running game going is a focal point for [Washington] and it sets up a lot of stuff for them. Our defensive ends are going to especially have to work on containing him.
Q: What has your experience been like at the Alamo Bowl aside from the game itself?
NICOLAS JEAN-BAPTISTE: It’s been a pretty good experience, especially things like our time at Sea World. I’ve never been to Sea World before. It was pretty cool riding the rides with my teammates, going to see Shamu, the dolphin exhibit and the shark. Spending time with my teammates, who are my friends, outside of practice is a good break from the everyday routine. The Spurs game was cool too.
Q: You were previously asked about being a one-time walk-on and finishing with all-conference honors. What does that mean for your family who raised you and watched you grow?
NICOLAS JEAN-BAPTISTE: They’re really proud of me. They’ve been behind me since day one. My mother calls me all the time just making sure I’m alright and my dad sends me inspirational emails and motivational stuff. I’ve talked to them everyday and they make sure that I’m still in love with football, which I am. They still love me to death and aren’t trying to put any pressure on me about the future and have just been supportive of the decisions I’ve made through these five years.
Q: Has it been tough for you to face the fact that this is the end of the road of college football for you?
NICOLAS JEAN-BAPTISTE: It is kind of tough, especially the way we’ve been playing this year. I want to come back and play again to see if we can do bigger and better things than this, but it’s been fun and I’ve enjoyed my time here.
Q: How big would it be for you to see that 10th win?
NICOLAS JEAN-BAPTISTE: Finishing strong is a big deal for us, the entire team. It’s especially a big deal for us to see how far we’ve come, having come from a 3-9 season to going to 10 wins.
Q: You were a true freshman your first year at Baylor. What’s it like to end your career and seek that 10th win here when many go through a red shirt year?
TRACY ROBERTSON: The biggest thing is that when you’re a true freshman, you have to understand that things are going to go a lot faster. You don’t have a year to sit and get the hang of things. Players who play as true freshman have to have a vision. I think that’s what our team has been playing off of this year, the vision of changing things. Those of us that played as true freshmen knew that we could make that happen immediately.
Q: Did it take awhile for you to buy into Coach Briles’ system?
TRACY ROBERTSON: Coach Briles makes it easy to trust him. He always makes it seem that he’s going there with you. There’s not a disconnect between the coaching staff and the players. With a guy like Coach Briles, if you see how hard he works, it makes you want to work even harder with him. We’ve been with him since day one.
Q: How would you describe the Baylor defense this season from your perspective?
TRACY ROBERTSON: If I had to compare to our defenses from previous years, I would say this year’s defense is a lot faster. Coach Bennett has brought in a lot of different schemes. He didn’t change our formation, but just the way he fit, our defense has a different mentality than the previous years that I’ve been here. There wasn’t a big adjustment between last year and this year because we didn’t have a lot of change in coaching, but the mentality made a lot of changes with time. The little things we had to pick up on – you can see how they have made an impact on the field.
PHIL BENNETT: Everywhere he has gone, he has been successful. When he went to U of H, people forget, they were 0-11 before he got there. In a couple years he has kids in there, they’re number one. They’re trademark was their offense. I used to tell him, when we played them in our conference, “You guys are hard to defend.” Offensive guys want to play in systems like that. That’s why we have the receivers, and Robert Griffin. They want an offense that is receiver-, runningback-, quarterback-friendly. Very few offenses can find that many touches. Look at Gannoway. He led the Big 12 in rushing. Then we’ve got receivers like Kendall. We’ve got four receivers, I think, with over 40 catches, do we not? The ball is getting distributed. I made a tape for our kids this year that simply said, “Why not us?” It was a highlight video of them that blew them away. I showed it to them the first day we met in the fall, and then again when we got on the bus to play Texas. I never said a word. Art has done a really good job with the expectancy. We’re not going to accept them being mediocre. The thing I’ve enjoyed about these kids is that they have bought into what is happening. The way they’ve bought in has worked. I think it can get better.
Q: On the highlight video
PHIL BENNETT: It was wonderful highlights. It was them making plays. I even did movie parts. I included parts from the movie where Al Pacino was the football coach. They had some good points in (that movie). (The highlight video) was about eight minutes, and I just said, “Why not us?” Part of changing a culture is like I told them, “We have fun when we get better.” It’s delayed gratification. Nothing for us is a given. Washington’s a dang good team. If they’d had their quarterback all healthy, they’d have won nine of ten games. They know that, I know that, they are a good football team.
Q: On why he chose Baylor
PHIL BENNETT: I had some good opportunities (coming out of Pitt). I’m a Texas guy. I’m an Art Briles fan, not only as a coach, but as a man. When Art flew to Birmingham, I called my wife and said, “I’m gonna go to Baylor.” Of course she was ecstatic, coming home. She said, “Are you sure you wanna do this?” I said, “Yeah.” I like a challenge. I don’t think I’ve done it yet. I think I’ve helped us. But I think I can do so much more than what we’ve done. I think we can get so much better on defense. Hopefully the way we are recruiting, that will happen.
DOUG NUSSMEIER: First of all, I just want to say on behalf of Coach Sark, our University, our players, very excited to be here, playing this game against a great opponent like Baylor. It's very exciting. I think it's important to let these guys talk, so as we go down here, quarterback Keith Price, running back Chris Polk, left tackle Senio Kelemete, wide receiver Jermaine Kearse and tight end Austin Seferian‑Jenkins.
Q: How much fun are you having from the Riverwalk experience to Sea World?
KEITH PRICE: I’ve been having a ball with my teammates. We brought our Seattle weather down here the first couple of days, but it started to heat up on us.
Q: Having a bowl game last year, does that make you smarter and work harder for this year’s game?
KEITH PRICE: I’m not sure if it makes you smarter, but it’s definitely an experience. We’ve been here before, so we know what to expect.
Q: We’ve heard so much about the Baylor offense, but what’s so dangerous about the Huskies offense? Does Baylor’s offense allow your offense to fly under the radar?
KEITH PRICE: We can hurt you with the run or the pass. We don’t have to worry about the media to pump us up. We know how good we are and will continue to get better.
Q: What makes your wide receivers so special?
KEITH PRICE: These guys are mentally tough. If they drop a ball, they’ll come back and make a big play. I think that it’s a testament to our coaching staff and how they prepare us. Our receivers are athletic, they prepare well and they make plays.
Q: How about your running back, Chris Polk? What makes him so special?
KEITH PRICE: He’s tremendous. I wouldn’t have as much success if it wasn’t for him. He makes things special when things aren’t there to get positive yards. If he gets hit in the backfield, he still may get two or three yards. That’s a big difference between third and seven and third and 10.
Q: How healthy are you? How good do you feel physically? Do you feel like you can get out of the pocket more on Thursday than you have in the last four games?
KEITH PRICE: I feel good. We’ll see on Thursday. Definitely a wait and see approach for the people in the stands.
Q: How do injuries affect you?
CHRIS POLK: If the Huskies are playing, I’m going to do whatever it takes to get in the game. Regardless if I have a bad leg, bad arm or a bad finger, I can’t sit on the bench. I’ve already experienced that and it’s the worst feeling in the world.
Q: Talk about this year and what you’ve accomplished.
CHRIS POLK: My only goal this year was to improve overall this year and do better than we did last year and we’ll see about that after this game. Whether we win or lose, I feel like we’ve made a step forward in the mentality and the physicality that our team brought.
Q: As an offense, do you feel like you have to score a lot of points in this game?
CHRIS POLK: We do feel like we have to score a lot of points and we have to keep RG3 off the field. We just need to eat up the clock and be a real possession team. RG3 can’t beat us if he’s not on the field. I think that’s one of our goals going into this game.
Q: Is there going to be a lot that’s different in your playbook for Thursday than what you’ve shown this season?
CHRIS POLK: Not really. We’ve been running basically the same plays we’ve been running all year. I think it’s just going to be more balanced and we’ll get back to the basics and do what we do best.
Q: How beat up was Keith Price, your roommate, this season?
CHRIS POLK: During the season, there were times that Keith was real beat up. I even had to carry him to the car and drive him to treatment. I had to help him elevate his leg in our apartment, but I kind of made fun of him because when I saw him driving, I’d tell him to go to treatment and soak his knee. He’s good now, though.
DOUG NUSSMEIER: Chris has done a great job preparing. He shows up every week and he plays his ball. I’m really looking forward to his game. He’s a great character. As good as a football player as he is, he’s a great kid, a funny guy, he’s fun to be around, and when you spend time with him and really get to know him, he really is a great kid.
Q: On Kasen Williams-
DOUG NUSSMEIER: Well, obviously you know his track history is well documented, and with any young player there’s a learning curve. You’re starting to see him develop into the marquis receiver. He’s gonna continue to get better and better. (His catching window) is huge. You talk about his leaping ability and the natural length that he has, you’ve got a lot of room.
Q: On Keith Price-
SENIO KELEMETE: As soon as Jake left and we had Keith, just seeing him run around, I was like, “Ok, this is gonna be another year just to try and make sure I do the best of my abilities to protect him, but if I slip up, I think he can wiggle through and get outta there.”
Q: Has this year met your expectations?-
SENIO KELEMETE: Kind of, but things aren’t always going to go the way you want them to. I was just glad the team was able to come back and persevere through those tough losses, especially against Stanford and Oregon, those really good teams. It just showed our character. I really wanted us to go to that Rose Bowl, but like I said, a lot of things don’t go your way, so you just gotta adjust and deal with what you got.
Q: Baylor’s Defensive Front Line-
SENIO KELEMETE: They play hard, they show good effort, they show a lot of enthusiasm, they really get after it.
Q: Anything different than what you’ve seen this year?
SENIO KELEMETE: No. I’d say their linebacker corps is pretty fast.
Q: Are you going to do anything special to combat that?
SENIO KELEMETE: We have the same game plan, just adjusted a little bit.
Washington Wide Receiver Jermaine Kearse
Baylor Head Coach Art Briles
On being the favorite...
It's different for us. We're used to the hunted and not the hunter. If you don't think dogs and cats are different put them in the room together. We want to be the dog. We want to be aggressive. We want to set the tone.
Nose Tackle Nicolas Jean-Baptiste
There is time to have fun and a time to get to work. We're able to to enjoy the sights of the Riverwalk and town but we know when to balance it. We know when it's time to be serious and time to goof around.
Wide Receiver Leanear Sampson
On the differences of this week compared to regular season…
We just have to stay focused. We're getting our rest and manage to separate the off-the-field with the on-field things.
On going to Sea World this afternoon...
I've been when I was younger. i really want to go and see the dolphins. I talking to the players that went went this morning and they were messing with the dolphins and whales. I don't know about all that but I'm interested is seeing what is out there.
On the team's attitude this year compared to last year's bowl game...
I feel like last year we were happy making it to a bowl game. It was our first bowl game in 16 years and it wsa fun in Houston but this year we are on a mission to win this bowl game instead of just coming to have fun. It's time to step it up and take a win.
On the changes since Robert Griffin III won the Heisman...
It's different because you see him on TV doing the showsand winning the Heisman and it's like "my quarterback just won the Heisman. " So when he came back it was funny becasue he won the Heisman but it still didn't feel like anything changed becasue when he came back he was focused. Now that he's back he can relax and be himself.
Q. On coming into this season with excitement and winning the Heisman Trophy:
ROBERT GRIFFIN III: You get what you work for out of it. It’s unbelievably believable. You work for it, so you believe it can happen. But when it does happen for you, you’re still excited about it. Life has changed and I need to realize that. I can’t go to the mall or to Wendy’s to get a cheeseburger without signing a thousand autographs.
Q. Was it like that before the Heisman?
ROBERT GRIFFIN III: In Waco it’s always been like that. But on a national stage, going to New York and all, it hasn’t been like that. But it was great to see all of the Baylor fans come out and to see their support. When you’re doing great things, they’re going to want to see you and want a piece of you.
Q. Has it been hard to focus on football and Washington?
ROBERT GRIFFIN III: No. It has been easy for me. Even when I was gone, I was constantly asking coach about what was going on in practice and trying to figure out what I could do to help us win. I worked out wherever I was and tried to remain focused on what I had to do. I feel like I’ve done a good job at that and our team has done a good job of helping me get back into it after being gone for a couple of weeks.
Q. Who has had your attention these last couple weeks since winning the Heisman Trophy?
ROBERT GRIFFIN III: My iPod [laughter]. I try not to talk much about it. I go by the saying, ‘What you say is who you are,” and that’s not who I am. Obviously, I talk to my parents and fiancé anytime things get tough. I relax when I have time to relax. When its time for me to be an ambassador for Baylor, I do that.
Q. Is there a different attitude amongst your team this year compared to last year coming into the bowl game?
ROBERT GRIFFIN III: I think so. Last year was a disappointment. I, for one, did not think our team was unfocused. I thought we were focused; we just didn’t perform well. This year, coming in with a five-game winning streak, as opposed to a three-game losing streak last year, is huge. We know why we’re here and we came to win our 10th game. Washington just happens to be in the way.
Q. Does Washington’s defense remind you of anyone? What do you see from them?
ROBERT GRIFFIN III: It doesn’t necessarily remind me of anyone. They have two huge guys on the inside who are bigger than I am. They play with a lot of emotion. Whenever something good happens with them, you’re going to know it. Washington is a good defense. They don’t lack at any position.
Q: On explosive plays made down field-is this a product of Robert (Griffin) making something happen and the defense freezes for a second because they don’t know if they wanna go and you can sneak in behind them?
LANEAR SAMPSON: It’s stuff we’re running and getting behind them. And a lot of the time it has to do with Robert. Sometimes it has to do with the receiver.
Q: On Washingon’s soft coverages - are you comfortable doing that? Making the adjustment? Playing the underneath stuff if they’re just going to sit back?
LANEAR SAMPSON: That’s fine, if they want to give us the underneath stuff, we’ll take what we can get because eventually a five-yard pass, two five-yard passes will turn into a first down.
Q: Do you think your running game is overlooked because of Robert (Griffin)?
Q: What have you seen from the UW Defense?
TERRANCE GANAWAY: They’re very physical up front. I look at it from the secondary. It’s a different ballgame for the running back. Running backs don’t try to outrun a corner anytime, they try to punish them. Their D-line is really good, physical and can move really good. It’s quick out there, you got a lot of speed. I’m looking forward to playing ball against them because I know they’re gonna be good. Our O-line has been playing really well all year, so if we don’t worry about anything else, just play ball, we’ll be alright.”
NICK HOLT: Hi, guys. It's good to be here. I'm going to introduce our players from my left to right. Starting off with our starting strong safety, a sophomore out of Los Angeles, California, Sean Parker; the next young man from Tacoma, Washington, starting corner, junior, Desmond Trufant; myself, Nick Holt; and then to my right, senior, also from Seattle, Washington, starting defensive end, Everrette Thompson, has been a four‑year starter for us; next young man, also from Seattle, Washington, four‑year starter, our starting nose guard Alameda Ta'Amu; and then last but not least, our cagey veteran team captain ‑‑ Alameda is also one of our team captains, but our starting middle linebacker leading tackler in the Pac‑12 conference, Second Team All‑Pac‑12, Cort Dennison. Our leaders on defense.
Q: Does having played quarterbacks like Andrew Luck and Matt Barkley help when you’re facing Robert Griffin III?
NICK HOLT: Yes. I think in our conference, week in and week out, the preparation we have to have for our foes has prepared us for some of this game. The same is true with some of our non-conference games like Nebraska and Hawaii, who both have good spread offenses. We’ve had a huge challenge this whole year playing against good offenses. This is good offense and the only difference this time is that we’re playing against the best player in the country and a Heisman Trophy winner who has a great supporting cast. And oh yeah, they run an up-tempo, no huddle offense and can score really quickly.
Q: You’ve kept teams from scoring and then they break good plays on you…
NICK HOLT: There are times we’ve played really good defense, and then we’ve played inconsistently. Hopefully, we’ll play consistently on Thursday night, making Baylor extend their drives. Our chances will go up quite a bit if we can extend their drives.
Q. Have you had a chance to see Peter Holt, your cousin and principal owner of the San Antonio Spurs, since you’ve been in town?
NICK HOLT: We had a really nice Christmas Eve dinner with Peter’s family. Peter has a nice house and he’s worked hard for that.
Baylor Head Coach Art Briles
Washington Head Coach Steve Sarkisian
I’d like to thank Valero and the Valero Alamo Bowl for the invitation. I’m honored to represent the University of Washington and the Pac-12 Conference in such a prestigious bowl. It is the first time for us in San Antonio and I know our football team, our university, our fans and our alumni are all excited to get down here. It will be a tremendous matchup with Baylor. Coach Briles has a done a lot with the team and they have been fun to watch this year. As a staff, when you get an opportunity to bring your team to a bowl game you want them to have the best experience possible. From everything I’ve heard and everything I’ve seen from the Valero Alamo Bowl, they are a first class bowl game. We are looking forward to Bowl Week and the game, it should be exciting matchup.
On the parallels between Washington and Baylor...
We have had a chance to watch Baylor play all year and the parallels start with the helmets. But then you see the growth and the consistency Coach Briles has brought to Baylor and that’s what we have tried to do at Washington. Robert Griffin III has continued to grow and mature in his position, while our quarterback Keith Price is a young quarterback that is starting to parallel Griffin. It serves as motivation to see another program in a different part of the country that continues to improve, especially in the style of play. The exciting style of play Baylor has is something we try to do at Washington.
On the comparisons between Griffin and Heisman winners he coached at USC (Carson Palmer and Matt Lienart)...
I remember Carson had a great game at the end of the year against Notre Dame, which I think won him the Heisman and Matt had some great moments too. I think you need to have moments like that to win the Heisman and Griffin has. But it ultimately not up to the coaches or the players, it is out of Griffin’s hands now. He has done all he could do.
On how the Washington fans will travel...
This is a storied football program with tremendous fans. Washington has a rich tradition and was accustomed to high profile bowl games for years. But then we were out of that scene for a while, so to be going to bowl games again is very exciting for our fans. We traveled very well last year, so they will find their way to San Antonio. Our fans will represent and I think there will be a lot of purple in the Alamodome.
On the health of Keith Price and his team...
I think this time before the game has benefited Price more than anyone else because he is still trying to get healthy. He has been battling a knee injury all year long, but he has showed me he can be resilient and persevere. Actually, that injury helped him improve as a player. It forced him to stay in the pocket and go through reads. Price has had some adversity, but I was very proud of him in the Apple Cup and the way he played. I’m hopeful that he can be at his best by Dec. 29th.
On a Baylor-type offense in the Pac-12...
I think Baylor is most similar to Oregon in the speed and style in which they play. Baylor does a great job of getting back to the line of scrimmage and putting pressure on the defense with speed. With Griffin at quarterback, Baylor probably relies on throwing the ball more than Oregon, but the tempo and speed is very similar.
We are excited to come to the Valero Alamo Bowl, especially because it gives our fans the chance to come out and support us once again. We have had great support all year and this game allows us to ride with them all the way to a bowl game. Coach Sarkisian has done a great job at Washington. The first time I watched them this year they had on black uniforms and I thought “man, those are some good looking unis”. So the Huskies have some flare and that’s a good thing. We are excited about the bowl game and excited about the matchup. These are two great conferences and we are proud to be representing the Big 12.
On Robert Griffin III’s season...
Robert’s consistency is what has stood out the most to me this year. The funny thing is that he is just now getting all this recognition for being a really good football player, but he has been this way for the last four years. He has always been a great football player, but his consistency is a big factor in that.
On his expectation of an offensive matchup...
On paper you would think it’s going to be a high scoring game. But the funny thing about football is that you never really know what is going to happen. We are just going to go out there and do what we do best. If it ends up being a 7-3 ball game, that’s just the way it is. We can’t predict what’s going to happen. That’s why fans come and cheer, because you don’t know until it is over.
On the keys to Baylor’s turnaround...
It starts with Griffin and what he brings to the table. Aside from that, we’ve had a lot of good recruits the last few years. We got guys on campus that believed in our vision and then helped us follow through on that vision. We have some players on the team now that are three and four year starters that have played every snap since I’ve been there. You can have a lot of money, but you can’t buy experience, and we have players that are experienced, fully developed men.
On playing in a bowl game last year...
I think playing in a bowl game last year for the first time in a while will effect the attitude of our players going into the Valero Alamo Bowl. We weren’t happy with the way we performed at last year’s bowl game. Washington and Coach Sarkisian impressed me last year, because they beat a strong Nebraska team. For them to come out and play the way they wanted to says a lot about how he handles that team. It is a little different mentality for us because we didn’t finish strong at the end of last season. The way we approach this game will be different then how we came into last year’s bowl game.
On the effect of a large Baylor crowd...
If you are going to eat home-cooking you have to be at home. We have a chance to have our fans in the stands supporting us, but we have to make sure we do a good job on the field so they have something to cheer about. We have to create excitement and support from our fans.
Washington Head Coach Steve Sarkisian
On the secret to the Valero Alamo Bowl’s success…
On the Aggies first Alamo Bowl:
Playing in the Alamo Bowl was a great experience, especially for our players and their families because they could spend that time together. We stayed downtown so everyone could walk out of the hotel room onto the River Walk and the layout of city meant we weren’t spending our time busing from one location to another.
The Valero Alamo Bowl hosted a reception featuring BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock on Wednesday, October 5, 2011. Below is a list of questions bowl supporters, volunteers, social media followers as well as Board and Committee members asked Bill followed by his answers.
How has the recent conference realignment left the state of the BCS?
We are like everyone else, we are just watching and waiting to see what happens. I can’t envision any changes in conference membership that would cause a seismic change in the BCS. The BCS has the strong support of university presidents, commissioners, coaches and athletics directors, because it allows the top two teams to meet in a bowl game while preserving the bowl system for the benefit of thousands of young people every year. That will not change, no matter how many teams are in a conference.
What will happen to the BCS if “super conferences” are formed?
I do not sense any sentiment to separate from the NCAA, if that’s what you are asking. I do think institutions and conferences appreciate the opportunity to make rules that realistically apply to themselves and their peer. Personally, I think 12 schools is a nice number for a conference, but that’s not to say that larger or smaller groups can’t work.
Is the BCS fair to the non-BCS conferences?
Yes, it is. First of all, there’s no such thing as a “non-BCS conference”. That term is incorrectly used by media. All 11 are BCS conferences; I work for all 11, and they all have a say in BCS matters.
Of course, I know you are referring to the conferences that have not earned annual automatic qualification into the BCS games. They all have an opportunity to earn a berth. In fact, the access for that group into the top-tier bowl games is exponentially better than it ever has been. Teams that are currently members of those five conferences participated in these four bowl games five times in the 54 years before the BCS and its predecessors were created. They’ve participated seven times in the past seven years. That’s worth repeating: five times in 54 years vs. seven times in seven years—all because of the BCS.
What do you say to all the people who are insisting there be a playoff system in college football?
Well, I work for the 11 conference commissioners and college presidents and a strong majority of them support the system we have today. There are two primary reasons for that. First, we have the best regular season in sports—the most meaningful and the most compelling from start to finish. The second reason is that we have a bowl system that rewards 70 groups of athletes with a remarkable experience at the end of the year. Those two things are worth fighting for.
What does the bowl experience mean to student-athletes today?
It’s a week that they will remember forever. They get to spend time in a different culture. They’re the talk of the town. They play on national television. Their families usually get to join them in the bowl city. The words, “I played in a bowl game” are magic.
Will other bowls, like the Valero Alamo Bowl, have the opportunity to become part of the BCS in the future?
The Valero Alamo Bowl is highly respected. Of course, San Antonio is a wonderful destination, and the bowl itself is run exceptionally well. The conference commissioners and presidents will soon begin discussions about the format for the future. It’s not appropriate for me to speculate, but I must say that I don’t sense a strong groundswell for adding more games to the BCS. We’ll see.
Do you think a playoff system will ever be put into place in college football?
No, I don’t think we will see an NFL-style payoff in college football. The bowl system just brings wonderful benefits to those thousands of students every year.
What is right about the BCS?
We have the best regular season in sports. We have a bowl system that thousands of students get to enjoy every year. I knew we were doing it right when I read about how much the Kansas State players enjoyed their trip to New York City last December. We must not lose sight of that.
And we have a championship game that draws higher ratings than the Final Four, NBA playoffs, MLB playoffs and the big golf tournaments. College basketball, a sport that I love so much, has four weeks of madness beginning with the conference tournaments, but in football you get four months of it. Every game counts.
Is there going to be a singular event that will finally get people to understand the benefits of the BCS?
We are moving the needle. More people understand the benefits of the current post-season people. Through transparency and some good old-fashioned person-to-person communications, we are making progress.
Is the Big 12 Conference viable and what do you make of all this college realignment?
Yes, I feel strongly that the Big 12 is viable. Those are great universities with great athletic and academic traditions. I think this central corridor of American needs a conference, so I certainly hope I’m right. Many smart people, people with authority, want it to continue.
Having said that, I know that the last few weeks have not been our finest hour. Some have said they are embarrassed by it, and I don’t disagree. But schools have changed conferences forever. The best perspective on all this will come from history. We are in the middle of it right now; we will have to look back ten years from now to decide on if the outcome was good or bad.
Do you think the BCS should implement more aggressive educational campaigns?
I spend much of my time helping people understand the benefits of the BCS arrangement, but we can always do more. I enjoy talking about this; I’m proud to be able to do it.
How will conference realignment affect the Valero Alamo Bowl?
The bowls negotiate with the conferences will continue, no matter how realignment ends up. Each bowl will go out and make the best arrangement it can with its conferences. There are plenty of great teams in this region who would love to participate in the Alamo Bowl, and I’m confident that it will continue to grow.
Do you think there could be a happy medium between the BCS and a playoff system?
Not if that “medium” negatively affects the regular season or the bowl experience for the athletes. The conference commissioners are committed to making the BCS the best it can be. In the next few months, they will discuss what “best” means. They will talk to people on campus, then get together and express their people’s wishes. Then they will collaboratively decide about the future.