Oklahoma State Head Coach Mike Gundy and Colorado Head Coach Mike MacIntyre.
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy and Colorado coach Mike McIntyre. Coach Gundy, if you could start the press conference with opening remarks.
COACH GUNDY: Again, always want to thank Valero, the Alamo Bowl staff, Wells Fargo. We’ve had a terrific week. San Antonio, the people in the community, it’s been fantastic. The food, the atmosphere, Alamo Heights, our practice facilities, the Marriott Hotel staff, as always, it’s been great.
It’s been four, five years since we’ve been here. There’s been considerable changes with the bowl, and they’ve been fantastic. It’s really been a great week for us. Looking forward to playing the game. Coach and I were just joking that you get places, you hurry up, wait, you get ready to play a game.
We’re looking forward to it. As I said, very excited about playing Colorado, a team that’s had a tremendous season, plays hard, very, very well-coached. I feel like this is the best bowl matchup of the year. Again, I know how everybody feels about the Playoffs.
But terrific matchup with quarterbacks that have had great success, skill players with success at the wideout spot. Colorado’s defense, could very well be the best defense we played. The secondary, I know they’ve got six guys on that side of the ball being evaluated by the NFL.
It’s a great matchup. A lot of respect for coach, to be able to win the awards that he’s won this year. I’m sure he feels like those are staff awards. But he’s done a tremendous job.
Looking forward to the game. Hopefully we can put on a good show for you guys.
THE MODERATOR: Coach MacIntyre.
COACH MacINTYRE: Our young men have had a great time here in San Antonio. It’s been a blast. Our guys haven’t been to a bowl for a long time. Our fans are really enjoying it, I know. It’s exciting.
We keep watching Oklahoma State on film day after day. They’re extremely talented. It’s going to be a very, very tough contest. Mike has done a great job for a long, long time. Has an excellent, excellent program. Our guys are excited about getting ready to play.
Mike and I were talking, it’s kind of like your first game of the year. You get ready to play, play, play. Now we’re ready to go. We still got a day and a half it seems like before we get there. But we’re excited about being here.
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. Coach Gundy, on the lightest note possible, after this game, will you or will you not retire the mullet?
COACH GUNDY: If I would have known it would have been such a distraction, I would have cut my hair in August.
I think I’m going to make that decision based on my 12-year-old’s grades. If he improves in his math classes, then I’ll cut it, otherwise I may antagonize him for another month or two.
I have had one request to keep it until Media Day next August, but I don’t know if I can go that far. It’s been a lot of fun with the players.
Q. You said it started because of a disagreement between you and your son, that eventually you’d grow it till you got your way. Is it safe to say you’ve gotten your way?
COACH GUNDY: They’re very embarrassed. As a parent that has teenage boys, you can understand I’ve gotten my point across to them.
I’ll also make it clear, there was really no argument. I make all the calls in the house. Talking about with my children (laughter).
After the TCU game, I told you guys, I got hit in the face in the TCU game. I did admit I hadn’t been hit that hard in at least a week since I came home late and asked for supper (laughter).
Q. Coach Gundy, the announcement yesterday, the official announcement by Mason and James to come back and be part of the team next year, huge for the program. Their individual legacies just continue to have a chance to grow. What could you see this time next year, their place in OSU history?
COACH GUNDY: They’ve been very fortunate to have each other. They’re quality young men that work hard. They’re very dedicated, they’re humble. They understand the team.
What I’ve been most pleased with those guys is throughout their career, there’s been times that we run the ball more based on the defense we see, and they’re okay with it. A lot of times James doesn’t get a lot of passes based on what we see. Neither one of them come to us and say, We need more touches.
Hopefully they can stay healthy. They’ve been great leaders for our team. Guys like that only come through every so often. All of you out there know, if you follow the game closely, little league, high school, all levels of college ball, the NFL, if your quarterback is playing pretty good, you have a guy that is a tough guy that will take a chance, you got a chance to have a good team. That’s really where they’re at.
So we were very excited about them making the decision to come back and be a part of our team next year.
Q. Does that mean they get to play in the bowl game or are you going to hold them out for next year?
COACH GUNDY: We’re still going to sign them up for the bowl game.
COACH MacINTYRE: Aw, shucks.
COACH GUNDY: I thought about if you want to trade that freshman you have, trade for him (laughter).
Q. Coach Gundy, I know Larry Coker dropped by practice this week. What were those conversations like?
COACH GUNDY: It was good to see Coach Coker. He goes way back with our family, coaching. Coaching me in college, then obviously with my brother. Big part of the Oklahoma State family. It’s good to see him.
He’s doing very well. It’s interesting, when you’re around those guys that have been involved in the game for really 50 years, how much they miss it when they’re out of it. But it’s good to have guys, people like Coach Coker, stop by practice.
Q. Coach MacIntyre, can you put into words again how meaningful this bowl game is for Colorado to return after all these years.
COACH MacINTYRE: We were the last team in the major conferences to not go to a bowl. It’s a big deal. Our young men heard it every day. I’ve heard every day since I’ve been there. Now to kind of get that monkey off your back is good.
Also this senior class, to end it this way, it means a great deal. It shows that if you keep putting forth great work ethic, not listen to everybody, just keep working hard, you can accomplish a lot of goals. So it’s a great life lesson.
For our fans, for our student body, they’re really excited about being here and going to a bowl game. It rejuvenates that. Hopefully it will sell more season tickets for us next year, keep growing our program. It definitely is a big deal to be in this bowl game.
Playing against an excellent football team that I definitely feel like is a top-10 football team. If they don’t have that crazy play at the beginning of the year, they are. They’re an excellent, excellent football team. It’s going to be a great game.
Q. Coach Gundy, I know that crazy play is history now. You’ve probably put it behind you. If anyone maybe had a legitimate gripe, it’s you guys. How much of that plays into your preparation for this game at all?
COACH GUNDY: We approached it afterwards that there will be situations in life that our players are faced with that aren’t fair. We all know that, the older you get.
At that time our focus had to be the next game, which was Pitt. We made sure that we understood you can’t change some things, you can only move forward. We talk about that in our organization, control what you can control. Once we knew it was out of our hands, we moved forward.
I made comments on it throughout the year based on my personal opinion in the situation. It’s interesting with young people, our players, the millennial age, they move so fast with the information they have, social media, what’s out there, they go to whatever is popular the next day.
That is one area that makes coaching a little easier than it was years ago, is they move on to the next subject so fast. I don’t really think they put much thought into it at this time.
Q. Coach MacIntyre, Colorado is a place that has a national championship, has competed for Big 12 championships. When you got there, achieved this rebuild to where you’re at right now, I know you don’t want to live in the past, but what were some of the challenges you had to overcome specific to Colorado?
COACH MacINTYRE: Well, the past, we embrace the past, we really do. It’s everywhere. You walk by the Heisman Trophy, Rashaan Salaam who we lost this year. You walk by the national championship trophy. It’s the first thing our guys see when they walk into our new locker room every day. We have a ring room and national trophy championship sitting right there. We embrace it. It’s a great thing.
The other side of it is, when we got there, our program was really down. We were the worst program in major college football. Coach Rick George has built new facilities for us. Now we’re back up at the top echelon of the facility area. Everybody has embraced us, the fan base has come back. All of that is there.
We just needed to, I guess, put a little bit more water on it, a little bit more fertilizer on it, it will grow again, because the history is great.
The cool thing, I bring back a lot of players to speak to our guys from the different times. All of them to a man came back and said, Hey, our history is great, but you need to set your own legacy and your own history. Our kids kept hearing that from guy after guy. They said, We’re tired hearing about our past, we want to see the new future. That meant a lot.
We’ve embraced our former players. They come around practice, different times. I love having them back. We embrace that. We’re very proud of our history.
These young men now want to make their own legacy, and they’re starting to do that.
Q. Coach Gundy, it was reported earlier this week that J.W. Walsh was hired at ACU as a full-time assistant. Have you talked to him yet and your reaction, two years out of college, full-time gig like that?
COACH GUNDY: I have not talked to him. I had discussions with our staff, actually a couple of the players that have.
It doesn’t surprise me. He’s got a long history. Dad is one of the most successful high school coaches in Texas football. He’s really a coach on the field.
You want your son to grow up and be like him. He’s going to do everything right all the time. He doesn’t see obstacles or roadblocks, he pushes through.
He’ll spend some time there. I’m going to guess he’ll move on. Before long he’ll be at a pretty high level. I would say someday, some point, probably back at Oklahoma State.
Q. Coach Gundy, a chance to get double-digit wins, a fifth season in seven years for this program. Total wins over four or five years ranks among the best in the country. What is the significance of seeing that for the program again?
COACH GUNDY: Well, I think those comments are positive for our program. In doing this for a long time now, each week is a new challenge. You guys that follow us know that my comments will always be that no matter if you have a big win on Saturday or a tough loss, the most important and key ingredient in college football is to be able to come back Sunday and go to work.
So we’re playing a great football team. It’s a challenge. We’re responsible as coaches to get our players prepared during that time to play the very best that they can. Once it’s kicked off, they have to go out and have fun. In a sense, they’re warriors, they’re gladiators, the guys that play this game. But the game has to be fun for them. That’s the challenge.
We always want to win, but it’s important that they go out and have fun after they’ve dedicated themselves to the team in preparation for each game.
Q. Coach MacIntyre, when you play in a championship game like you did a month ago, obviously the emotions are high. What were the keys after that game to heal guys and get them ready to where they’re prepared for this kind of big stage tomorrow?
COACH MacINTYRE: Playing in the PAC-12 championship game was an exciting event for our team. It’s kind of like a mini bowl situation, a lot of pomp and circumstance around it.
We didn’t play as well as we would have liked. Washington had a lot to do with that, of course. But we came back, started back to work, watched the film, put it behind us. They went on and took exams. When we started on Oklahoma State, we started just like we would any other game and approached it that way.
The guys get over it pretty quick. Coaches linger on it a little bit longer. As a coach, you have to make sure you don’t enforce that last game, carry it with you, not place negativity on your players.
Once they watched tape on Oklahoma State, they got nervous. Our players realized how good they are, and are excited about playing in this game.
Q. Coach MacIntyre, college football is not a patient game. Campus about an hour north here, Charlie Strong asked for patience, he didn’t get it. What were your conversations like with the administration during this rebuild? Did you have to ask for more time?
COACH MacINTYRE: No, I didn’t. We were so bad when we got there. Just a little bit of improvement. They saw improvement every year. Even though we were short on the scoreboard a lot of times, you could see our team improving.
When I first got there, If you could just stay till halftime. That’s what people asked me. We didn’t stay till halftime all the time the first few years. Then we got it going.
Last year was a year where I felt like our young men really matured, understood what they needed to do to be successful. We kept building. We were able to retain players. We had the biggest junior, senior class that they’ve had since the 2001 team that won the Big 12.
Retention was a big thing I noticed when I got to CU. Players were not staying. They had small senior classes. As a matter of fact, one of our fifth-year seniors got up and said there were only seven seniors in his first class when he got here. You’re not going to be able to win that way.
We’ve been able to do that. Our president, chancellor, AD, have been phenomenal. Everybody associated with us, even David Plati has been awesome (laughter). It’s been neat.
I just hit the right time when everybody understood where we were going. They were thriving to be successful. We were able to do that. We just kept building to try to get better.
Q. Coach MacIntyre, there’s been a lot of conversation about the fact that in your two regular-season losses, you didn’t have Sefo Liufau. In Michigan you lost Derek McCartney. Talk about the process of overcoming that, not having a guy that was the backbone of your defense, still ending up the season with a defense ranked atop the PAC-12.
COACH MacINTYRE: It was interesting, Sefo goes down. Most Colorado people don’t know this. Sefo goes down. We kicked the football off. Our kicker blows his Achilles, who was having a phenomenal year. Next play on defense, Derek McCartney tears his knee up. All three of those guys are roommates. The house they live in, nobody will ever live in again, I told them when they were gone.
Losing Derek, he’s going to New Orleans after this game for the Good Works Bowl. He was one of the 11 people picked for the Good Works. He’s just a phenomenal leader for us, too. He’s a legacy. He’s Coach Max’s grandson. He means a lot to our program in a lot of ways. 6’5″ and a half, 255 pounds, can rush the passer, is a force. We definitely missed him.
We had to tweak a few things. That’s one of the reasons you see Ryan Moeller. We felt like playing Ryan Moeller, because we started playing more teams that were spread teams. We kind of tweaked a little bit.
Missing Derek is big. The great thing about Derek is he’ll be back next year. He’s going to be going to med school. He started his prerequisites for that. We’re excited about having Derek back. He was a big loss, not only on the football field but off. We had a strong senior class. So they filled in well for him.
Q. Coach Mac, your team returned 56 upperclassmen this year, most out of any PAC-12 school. What kind of mentality and work ethic have these older guys instilled in some of the younger guys in the program that will shoulder this team in years to come?
COACH MacINTYRE: They built it. The culture they’ve developed, it’s good when you really don’t have to say much as a head coach on work ethic, being on time, how they’re supposed to be dressed. They just do it.
That’s what I’ve seen, the work ethic, them holding each other accountable. There was a couple times I went down to summer workouts. There’s guys standing outside the gate. They won’t let them in because they didn’t get there early enough. The players ended up punishing them.
They just had a great mentality. They understood what it took. I’ve always said, as you come in as a freshman, you kind of want to be part of a team. If you get to play, you’re happy. As a sophomore, you just want to play. As a junior and senior, you just want to win.
As you keep that mentality going, they pass it down to the younger guys, they’ve done that. We just got to keep the culture going, restart it after this bowl game with a new group of guys.
Q. Coach Mac, have you thought at all about what it’s going to be like to see Sefo walk off the field the last time in a Colorado uniform?
COACH MacINTYRE: No, I don’t want to do that. I’ll enjoy watching him play his last game, the other seniors, just like Mike will enjoy watching his seniors play.
In the locker room, there will be a time that I’ll think about it, but right now I’m thinking about us trying to find a way to win the football game.
Q. Coach Gundy, you bring back Washington, Ateman comes back for his redshirt year. When you look at this receiving corps, could it rank among some of the best receivers you’ve had all time in program history based on what these guys have done already?
COACH GUNDY: We’re very fortunate to have a really quality group of mature receivers that have had a considerable amount of experience playing in big games, with the addition of Ateman coming back. Really, we lose Fields and Austin Hays. Stoner was able to play for us some this year until he hurt his foot. We’ll get him back. Then we’ve got some young players that we feel really good about.
They could be a good group if they put the work in, like they have in the past, stay humble and understand the commitment to the team. They’ll have a chance to be a pretty good group of receivers.
I kind of envision playing three to four of them four plays, then running four more in, doing that throughout the game, if we’re fortunate enough for them to stay healthy and on track.
Q. Coach Gundy, can you talk about the significance, the impact that Jordan Sterns had on this program, four-year starter, the unique opportunity playing his last game in his hometown?
COACH GUNDY: Jordan has been a great leader for us. As coach was talking about with the seniors, they learned to lead and bring the young players along.
Sterns is a throwback player. He kind of goes back to the days of the ’80s of guys that will strike you and enjoy the contact. Goes against human nature for two people to want to run into each other. There’s some players that are somewhat genetically unbalanced and they’re willing to do that. Sterns has been one of those guys up to this point.
His toughness, his leadership, kind of what he stood for, has really helped bring our football team along over the last few years. He’s from right here in San Antonio. I’m excited about him. We’re looking forward to his future down the line. Certainly we’re going to miss him when he leaves.
Q. Coach MacIntyre, you mentioned earlier you lost one of the greats in program history in Salaam. Do you have anything planned as a team to commemorate him?
COACH MacINTYRE: We’re going to wear a decal an our helmet for him, honor him that way. Our guys walk by his trophy every day. There’s flowers around it now. It’s something that we notice every single day.
I didn’t know him real well. I got to know him these last four years. I remember seeing him play as a player, of course, on television. Every time I remember Rashaan, he always had a great smile. He was very, very humble. I really appreciate Rashaan and what he did for the CU program.
Q. Coach Gundy, you were just asked about your outstanding receiving corps. A comment from your perspective on the challenge of facing what Coach MacIntyre puts out there on the back end of his defense.
COACH GUNDY: You have to be play-by-play, right (laughter)? I was going to say, you’re in the wrong profession. You got to get on Game Day.
The other comment, they brought up giving coach the time, one of the big issues, a smart move with the administration with Colorado, great move on their part.
But I said this earlier, that I think this is the best back end that we faced all year. They have range, they’re long. They’ll attack you. They’ll go up, challenge for the ball. The different style of aggressiveness in the back end presents a lot of issues for teams they’ve played, is difficult to find a way to attack.
So I think it’s going to be one of the neat matchups. We’ve got a few receivers that can make some plays. They’ve got guys back there that have had tremendous success. That’s what makes this such a great bowl game, along with all of them, but I think this is a matchup that everybody will be excited about watching.
Q. How have you felt about the job Coach Tumpkin has done? Will we see him put his own spin on things tomorrownight?
COACH MacINTYRE: Joe has done an excellent job, so has Charles Clark, Jim Jeffcoat. Everybody that’s been working with them has been good.
We’ll keep doing the same thing. You can’t change. We’ll keep doing the same thing we’ve been doing. We just got to play better than Oklahoma State does. They want to play better than we do.
But talking about their receiver corps, their quarterback, they’re excellent, excellent, excellent. Reminds me of USC, which they have excellent ones. We’re lining up against USC’s receivers and quarterbacks. They’re special players.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.