THE MODERATOR: Joining us today we have Valero Alamo Bowl president and CEO, Derrick Fox. We have our vice president of wholesale marketing and international commercial operations for Valero, Eric Fisher, Washington State head coach Mike Leach, and Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell, and this year’s chair, Michael Kiolbassa.
MICHAEL KIOLBASSA: Thank you for joining us today at the Valero Alamo Bowl golf classic. I think I’m the only one dressed like we’re going to play golf up here. I don’t think I’ve stopped smiling since Sunday when we announced No. 13 Washington State and No. 24 Iowa State will be playing in the 2018 Valero Alamo Bowl.
A lot of my excitement for this matchup has been because these programs are led by two of the most respected coaches in college football. On behalf of the Valero Alamo Bowl, I’d like to welcome Coach Campbell and Coach Leach to San Antonio. Congratulations to both of you on your team’s excellent season. We appreciate you bringing your teams and exciting fan bases to San Antonio.
Our organization has been fortunate enough to have amazing community support since our inception. ESPN was our first sponsor in 1992. Before our inaugural game in 1993, Valero confirmed their support.
When the opportunity to move up in bowl pecking order presented itself five years ago, Valero provided us with the resources to lock down deals with the Big 12 and Pac-12 to make us the number one bowl game outside of the CFP.
With us, joining us this morning, is Valero senior vice president Eric Fisher. Please join me in applauding Eric and Valero for helping us improve our selection rights so we can bring such outstanding teams to San Antonio.
ERIC FISHER: Thank you. It’s really our pleasure to be part of this bowl. We’re so proud of the long-standing relationship that we’ve had with the Valero Alamo Bowl. We just couldn’t be more excited about this game and the matchup we’ve got. Really looking forward to that.
The other thing I think we take great pride in, with Valero and the Alamo Bowl together, it’s the opportunities for higher education we’re supporting in this community. A pillar we hold dear and support. At the same time we do that, what a great economic boost we get to give to the city through this partnership. City of San Antonio is a great part of this, a great place to have your teams and fans enjoy.
On game day, not only with the Alamodome be filled with fans, but millions will be watching on ESPN. I think there’s always an anticipation as some of the exciting things that have happened in the Alamodome. I think that’s going to continue to happen this year. Equally exciting is the vibrancy this city has to offer and we get with all these great fans coming to San Antonio. I think your fans are going to have a great time here.
We’re also thrilled at Valero with the new Big 12 and Pac-12 agreements. That has delivered five straight top-25 matchups, really amazing when you think about it. Also allows us to pick teams with such great loyal fan bases as Washington State and Iowa State. Really thrilled to have your folks here this year.
With you guys having won seven of the last eight games, I think your fans are going to be excited to travel and get to San Antonio. Hopefully have some great weather for you. I was explaining to Coach Campbell, it’s not always like this this time of year. Game day usually turns out fabulous for us.
Lastly, I want to thank everyone who contributes to the success each and every year of the Valero Alamo Bowl. Derrick and his team obviously do a great job. There’s volunteers, city staff, all kinds of people that get involved to make it a great event. We’re just thrilled to be part of this must-see matchup. Think it’s going to be a great day. We look forward to game day.
THE MODERATOR: We thank Valero for their support. We can’t overstate how valuable it has been for the growth of our organization and how they impact our community in so many tremendous ways. Let’s give them another round of applause for what they do for this community.
For our first 21 games, most of our matchups feature at least one unranked team. Since improving our selection rights with the Big 12 and Pac-12 five years ago, we’ve received at least one top-25 pick on each side, and basically now the average team playing in the Valero Alamo Bowl is ranked 14. Think about it, the top 12 teams more or less are in the CFP, and we’re averaging 14 in our matchup the last five years. Tremendous accomplishments by these two great conferences and great coaches with us here today.
We’ve also been known for a great run of fantastic finishes. No pressure, coaches. Since 2005 the Valero Alamo Bowl has had 10 games where the outcome was not decided until the final minutes. The common denominator in those highly competitive games, outstanding head coaches. This year’s matchup is no different.
I’d like to introduce Iowa State’s head coach Matt Campbell. In Coach Campbell’s third year leading the Cyclones, they finished the regular season with an 8-4 record, and a school record six conference wins, earning him Big 12 Coach of the Year honors for the second time.
Coach Campbell has led the Cyclones to the best two-year run in school history. This season, his defense held points below their scoring average 10 times. A win in San Antonio will have the Cyclones have the school record for wins in a season.
Coach Campbell, on behalf of the Valero Alamo Bowl we’re thrilled to welcome you and the Cyclones to San Antonio. I’ll turn it over to you for some opening statements.
MATT CAMPBELL: First and foremost, we couldn’t be more honored to represent Iowa State University, our athletic program, to be able to play in such a prestigious bowl game. I know when these bowl announcements got made on Sunday, the excitement around our university, certainly our student-athletes, were second to none.
We’re humbled and honored to be here and grateful to be able to represent Iowa State University. Quite honestly to be able to play a program like Coach Leach has built at Washington State, the season they’ve had, we certainly know the opportunity and the challenge ahead of us. But really look forward to the opportunity to be here.
THE MODERATOR: Now let’s talk to another Coach of the Year in Coach Leach. This is Coach Leach’s seventh season as the head coach of the Cougars. His 48 wins at Washington State are the third most in school history. Last season he became the first Cougar head coach to lead WSU to three straight bowl games, and this year the streak extends to four.
He led the Cougars to a 10-2 record in the regular season, tying the program high for wins in a season, meaning a bowl victory would set the Washington State record.
This week Coach Leach was named the Pac-12 Coach of the Year, an award he also won in 2015, marking the Valero Alamo Bowl as the only bowl game with two Coach of the Year winners in their games. Congratulations to both these coaches.
Coach Leach, on behalf of the Valero Alamo Bowl, we’re excited to welcome you back and have your Cougars here in the Valero Alamo Bowl for the first time since 1994. Because I know you’re not big on opening statements, why don’t you tell us what your being named Coach of the Year is like.
MIKE LEACH: Well, I hadn’t thought about it very much. I’m going to ask Matt what he thinks, then I’ll pretty much stop at that.
It’s exciting. I mean, we have great coaches in the Pac-12. To get that distinction, it’s an honor. In the end, it’s a team honor. I think it says a lot about our team. All awards are team awards. I guess I don’t feel like I earned Coach of the Year, I feel like our team, the Washington State Cougars, earned conference Coach of the Year.
I think that’s a team award. There’s a lot of people involved. We have players throwing balls, catching balls, blocking, tackling, creating turnovers. All awards are team awards. That’s a team award. I’m very proud of our team to win that distinction.
THE MODERATOR: Shall we turn it over to some questions?
Q. Coach Leach, I was wondering if I could get some of your thoughts on what Matt Campbell has accomplished at Iowa State, then talk about the defense that they’ve produced this season.
MIKE LEACH: Well, I think it’s really impressive. I mean, I played at Iowa State a number of times. They played at our place before Coach Campbell was there. I know it’s an impressive and unique place. I think he does a great job on defense.
The biggest thing is they just keep playing extremely hard. Everybody, whether you’re on offense or defense, you face a certain amount of adversity. One of the biggest strengths I think they have is they just keep playing no matter what, relentlessly, till the clock says 0-0. I think that’s one of the highest compliments you can give any team or any side of the ball.
They’re certainly very good on defense, very complete group, but also offense as a team.
Q. Coach Campbell, you’re battling the nation’s best passing attack. Talk about the problems that presents for your defense.
MATT CAMPBELL: Again, I think you go back to what Coach Leach has done really in terms of shaping and really changing the game of the football in a lot of ways in terms of passing attack.
You watch the success they’ve had, been able to build a tremendous foundation. Again, I think it goes down to fundamentals and details. Like coach said about playing hard, I think also what’s critical in this sport is fundamentals, details, having a really great foundation to what you’re about.
You turn the videotape on and you see a very well-coached football team in every aspect of the game.
Q. Coach Campbell, you had a thousand yard rusher in Montgomery and Butler. Talk about their games this year.
MATT CAMPBELL: Yeah, they’re two young men that certainly have guided a young freshman quarterback from the middle of the season on. They’re two guys that have unique leadership ability, as well as talent. Those two have played the best when we needed them the most to kind of usher in a really young quarterback in terms of giving our football team the best opportunity to have success.
Q. Coach Leach, Coach Campbell has four young children. Do you have any parenting advice you can give him?
MIKE LEACH: Well, I got four older children. You got to be a little bit like Coach Campbell’s defense: just keep perservering, keep signing up and showing up.
I’ll tell you, it goes pretty fast. It goes pretty fast. They’ll be out of the house before you know it. Boys, girls, what you got?
MATT CAMPBELL: Two and two.
MIKE LEACH: See that consistency, very consistent (laughter). I’m 3-1.
But, no, it’s an impressive deal. The thing is, though, it is funny that it goes quick. Just as they’re leaving, you don’t want them to leave. When you get down to the tail end, you say, We’re going to have this house to ourselves. That part is good, too.
Q. Coach Campbell, did you review the Swing Your Sword book that Coach Leach wrote?
MATT CAMPBELL: I did. I’ve got a lot of respect as a young coach looking at coaches that have sustained success, coaches that build programs. I think sometimes in our profession there are guys that are trying to be somebody or trying to do something. From afar, watching Coach Leach, how he’s built his programs, the way he’s done it has been really impressive.
I did have the opportunity to read his book. I’ve got so much respect for what coach has done not only at Washington State but Texas Tech, the way he’s come up and built programs. Just a lot of respect and certainly enjoyed reading the book.
Q. Coach Leach, 11th win, is that a rallying point for your team since your school has never gotten to 11?
MIKE LEACH: Yeah, I think so. The biggest thing is we talk a lot about improving, just getting a week better. That’s important to us. Then, of course, just like Matt said, I think virtually everybody in America needs a couple copies of Swing Your Sword. They make great Christmas gifts coming into the holidays (laughter).
But, no, shoot, I think we’re thrilled to be at a bowl, we’re thrilled to have a game, thrilled to have a challenge. Our team has done a good job just being fired up about having a game and playing it.
Q. Coach Campbell, we heard you often have theme music for practice. Do you have something in mind for San Antonio?
MATT CAMPBELL: It’s the holiday season, so I think Christmas music will certainly get us at least down here through Christmas. After that, we’ll have to figure that out. But at least the holiday music this time of year is pretty good.
Q. Mike, obviously you’re a man of history. What have your experiences in San Antonio been like, what do you know about the city, whether you’ve been to the Alamo? What has been your previous experience here?
MIKE LEACH: I’ve always loved San Antonio because they got these old gorgeous buildings. One of my favorite places is the hotel bar at the Menger, looking at the pictures, history, everything going on there, from Teddy Roosevelt to Babe Ruth to ghosts.
I’ve heard little bitty things on how the city is designed, how the river was developed, stuff like that. I’d like to know more about that. I don’t know as much about that as I’d like. I’ve read and studied some on the Alamo. An omission. I’ve gone by the Alamo, thought constantly about, I’ll go to the Alamo. I run out of time. Next time, next time. Have to make sure I go this time.
I have read some and studied about the Alamo, which is captivating. Pretty much when you get right down to it, it only took a couple years for the settlement of the statehood of Texas, almost a microcosm of our country, took place in a short period of time. I’m very interested in that.
Just San Antonio kind of looks and feels right with the unique buildings, unique architecture, that whole setting. A lot of places, you go downtown, it’s a mess, it’s an ugly gun and knife area. San Antonio has a gorgeous downtown. San Antonio is one of places you would like to live downtown, at least I would.
Q. H&H Car Wash is your spot. Do you have a spot here in San Antonio you try to go to?
MIKE LEACH: There’s a lot of places in San Antonio. I don’t have one specific one, although Bohanans was very good last night. We got to meet the owner-founder. What an impressive place that is. That’s one thing about San Antonio, food-wise you can’t go wrong.
I haven’t seen it commingled with car wash food here in San Antonio, but I’m not saying that it’s not. I’ll bet you somewhere that it is. Actually in L.A. I had a great car wash food place I used to go to right by my house.
Car washing food is a good combination. If somebody is looking for a business in San Antonio, that probably would be a good one.
Q. Coach Campbell, would you rather leave your house with the lunch that included a meal with onions or forget your watch?
MATT CAMPBELL: I don’t like onions, so forgetting my watch would be the way I’d go.
THE MODERATOR: On behalf of the Valero Alamo Bowl, Mike Kiolbassa, he’s been smiling since Sunday, it wasn’t just a scripted thing, he’s been our leader all year long. Obviously Eric is our leader all year long. The two teams and fan bases have responded tremendously to the bid here in the Valero Alamo Bowl. We look forward to having a lot of red I guess on the River Walk, some crimson. Both teams have been tremendous. The excitement level has been outstanding. We’re delighted with the matchup.
Again, thank you very much for your partnership with us. We look forward to a great game, and thank you for coming to San Antonio. Appreciate it.