For full audio of this presser visit: http://media.alamobowl.com/browse/2013/audio
THE MODERATOR: I’d like to welcome everyone. I’ll introduce the head table, we’ll take comments, then we’ll take questions.
With us today, president and CEO of the Valero Alamo Bowl, Derrick Fox; University of Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich; University of Texas head coach Mark Brown; from Valero CFO Mike Ciskowski; and our chairman Pat Frost.
PAT FROST: Thank you all so much for coming here today. We are very excited at the Valero Alamo Bowl to introduce our two head coaches we are so fortunate to have participating in this game.
But at this time I’d like to introduce Mike Ciskowski, executive vice president and chief financial officer at Valero.
Valero has been our sponsor since our inaugural game in 1993 and our title sponsor since 2007. We’re are very grateful they’ve renewed their title sponsorship for another six years through our 2019 game. God bless Valero.
MIKE CISKOWSKI: Thank you, Pat.
Valero is proud to be title sponsor of the Valero Alamo Bowl and thrilled to be part of this matchup which should grow the bowl’s track record of exciting games, capacity crowds and record TV ratings.
Valero and the Alamo Bowl are two San Antonio‑based institutions that provide support for higher education, drive tourist activities, and deliver a strong economic impact for the City of San Antonio.
The Valero Alamo Bowl gives the City of San Antonio a second life during the holiday season by filling the hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions during the bowl week.
At this time I’d like to introduce Derrick Frost, president and CEO of the Valero Alamo Bowl to introduce the coaches.
DERRICK FOX: Thank you for your support, Mike, and Valero’s long‑term support of the Valero Alamo Bowl. To have Valero onboard until 2019 is unbelievable, and we couldn’t do it without them.
Our advertising slogan this year is: Bowl week is the week the other 51 are jealous of. That certainly holds true this week. Thanks to these two outstanding universities with tremendous football teams and coaches. The 2013 Valero Alamo Bowl promises to be a great game delivering many lasting memories of a lifetime.
Now it’s going to be my pleasure to introduce our two respective head coaches.
First up is our visiting head coach, Mark Helfrich from the University of Oregon. It’s Coach Helfrich’s first season as coach of the Ducks, following four seasons as the offensive coordinator during which he was twice named Football Scoops national quarterbacks coach of the year.
This year’s quarterback, Marcus Mariota, finished the season ranked in the top 10 in five major passing categories, helping the Ducks to average nearly 47 points a game.
The Ducks finished season with a 10‑2 record and are ranked 10 in the final BCS poll.
Coach Helfrich, welcome to San Antonio. Glad to have you here in the Valero Alamo Bowl.
COACH HELFRICH: Thank you.
On behalf of the University of Oregon, our fans are excited to get down here. I think San Antonio is one of those great cities of America to visit, something for everybody. It’s one of those places you’d have to try to not have a great time.
Obviously it is an honor to compete in the Alamo Bowl. Thanks to Valero and everything they’ve done for college football and everybody associated with this game.
It’s an honor for me personally to sit next to Coach Brown and compete against the University of Texas. He’s an icon of our game, an iconic program. Very excited to prepare to compete against them. As I started watching film on these guys, that’s not much fun. They’re big, fast and physical.
But our players, our coaches, our families, we’re ecstatic to get down here and compete against Texas.
DERRICK FOX: I’ll now introduce no one who needs an introduction from our standpoint, a great friend of the Valero Alamo Bowl, Coach Mack Brown.
Coach Brown is in his 16th season at Texas, and one of only two coaches nationally to direct teams to 20 bowl games in the last 21 seasons, and 22 winning seasons in the last 23. He has a 10‑4 bowl record at Texas, and a perfect 2‑0 in San Antonio.
No jinx or anything (laughter).
At last year’s Valero Alamo Bowl the Longhorns defense recorded a record 10 sacks. This defense this year is anchored by Jackson Jeffcoat, the AP Big 12 defensive player of the year. Jeffcoat had five sacks in the last two games.
This year the Longhorns finished with an 8‑4 record overall and 7‑2 in Big 12 play.
Coach, welcome back to San Antonio.
COACH BROWN: Thank you, Derrick.
There’s no better town or city in this state or country that’s great to the Longhorns more than San Antonio. We’ve been down here twice with the Iowa game a number of years ago, then coming last year in both cases where we needed to pick up when we came. The crowds were unbelievable. The games were great. We have to come back to win both games. The whole week was fun.
Looks like the ticket sales are going wonderfully already for us. I’m sure Oregon will sell out theirs, which should be another sell‑out.
We appreciate you and Mike, what you and Valero do, for college bowl games and football. Without the sponsors, we couldn’t share all these wonderful experiences with all these kids.
You always want to be challenged in a bowl game so you won’t come in without an edge. We got that, without a question. We have a BCS‑type team in the Alamo Bowl. Oregon could be as good as anybody in the country. They had a couple slip‑ups because of some injuries that were key injuries. Mark has done a tremendous job taking over what was already a great program and moving it forward. That’s not an easy thing to do.
Our players were disappointed we didn’t come out of the Baylor game winning the Big 12 championship, but at the same time it didn’t take them long to bounce back when they see who we’re going to play in the bowl game.
Oregon has been one of the best teams in the country since these guys have been playing college football. Now they’ll have a chance to play.
I thought last year our bowl game was one of the best in the country. I think this one could be. We have to live up to our end of it, because obviously Oregon has. We didn’t finish the way we wanted to finish. That will be exciting and can’t wait to get all that started.
There’s been a little speculation about my job situation throughout this week, if some of you haven’t noticed. I told Mark with all respect to he, Derrick, the bowl game, I would address it very briefly. But we’re here to talk about the Alamo Bowl and the matchups. We’re not here to talk about me. That would be wrong of me spending a lot of time with that.
My situation has not changed. I’ve got the best president in the country with Bill Powers. He’s unbelievable. He’s done a tremendous job for eight years. What.
We did lose in an iconic athletic director, DeLoss Dodds, that has been here 32 years and has run the best program in the country, without question. He’d been my boss for 16 years.
We’ve hired what I think is a great athletic director with Steve Patterson. I got a chance to visit with him a little bit the other day in New York. Anytime your athletic director changes, that changes the game. With all due respect to him, I want to sit down with he and Bill in the near future and talk about where we’re going and our program is going.
I’m excited about our team, the way they fought back this year. They’ve had more adversity than any other team. We weren’t excited to be 8‑4, but we were excited about the way they fought and competed. It was a great message for all of us.
Moving forward, I’m looking forward to my meeting with Bill and Steve. We’ll all get on the same page and move forward.
Again, I want the focus to be on these kids and the focus to be on this bowl game because that’s what we’re here for. I apologize to you for having to put up with this.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll now go to questions.
Q. Mack, along those lines, we’ve talked about distractions all year. This season has been nothing but. When you do get to talk with your team, what can you tell them to get everybody’s mind right?
COACH BROWN: Beat Oregon. That’s the only thing that’s important. This is about the kids. This isn’t about me. It’s about the kids moving forward.
That’s what we are. Mark and I are guys that try to keep a staff moving in the right direction, keep all the distractions away from that. It’s about the University of Texas playing against Oregon, it’s about the kids in this game. We sure don’t want that to be a distraction.
I haven’t seen our kids since the Baylor game. Like Mark, it’s a tough day for us because we’re both recruiting. The dead period starts on Sunday. We have to get done as much today as we can. We have our banquet Friday night. I look forward to seeing the kids because I know they were down after the Baylor game. We’ll have our first bowl practice on Saturday and get started towards the ballgame.
Q. Mack, do you believe this is your last game as the head coach of UT? If so, what does it mean to you?
COACH BROWN: You know, I’m excited about the game. I said we wouldn’t talk about me or my future because I am going to have that meeting with Bill and Steve Patterson. I look forward to that meeting.
We’re not going to discuss that anymore today. We’re just going to talk about the ballgame.
Q. Mark, I was wondering with you recruiting, finals going on this week, how are you as a staff beginning game prep? Sneak in film review whenever you can?
COACH HELFRICH: Yes, we are a little bit of everything. This is a tough time of year, like Coach Brown was talking about. We’re transitioning from an end‑of‑the‑year regular season to hit the road recruiting immediately. We throw our banquet before we go recruiting to make it more challenging.
We’ll finish up tomorrow afternoon recruiting, then we’ll have a short practice Friday. We’ll practice Saturday, Sunday, kind of begin in earnest on Monday on a game plan as a staff.
Q. What was your reaction when Marcus said he was coming back? Should he have been invited to the Heisman announcement?
COACH HELFRICH: We think Marcus is pretty special. If there’s six better players in the country, and that’s not in any way disrespectful of those players, those guys are really great players.
But Marcus Mariota is a top‑notch guy in every form, excellent person, excellent student and excellent football player, a guy our guys have rallied round.
His coming back, he had been hinting at that for a long time. It wasn’t a huge surprise. It was a nice pickup in the recruiting class, absolutely.
COACH BROWN: Will he be at the bowl game (laughter)?
COACH HELFRICH: We’re talking about Jeffcoat, too, by the way (laughter).
Q. Coach Brown, can you talk about Oregon’s offense. Is anybody comparable in the Big 12?
COACH BROWN: No, I don’t think anybody compares. They do a good job of running the ball. They started the up‑tempo stuff to be as fast as anybody in the country. They don’t give you an opportunity to line up. It makes it very, very difficult. They have tremendous team speed.
Where they do not get the credit is their lines of scrimmage. That’s where they’ve improved so much, even when we played them back in the Holiday Bowl in the early years.
Their quarterback to me is as good as anybody in America. He’s unbelievable. He can run, he can throw, he’s the leader. He’s the guy. When their backs touch it, they have a chance to score every time they touch it. Their receivers, you have to spend so much time on their receiving game, one‑on‑one situations, it puts you in a bind.
I think their offense is one that all of us are continuing to look at and trying to emulate.
Q. Mark, what would you say is the difference between your play in October and November?
COACH HELFRICH: It’s colder in November (laughter).
As the season wears on, there’s always kind of nicks and dings that take effect. We played an excellent Stanford team that obviously had a great run here recently, and lost. That was extremely deflating to a lot of guys. We’re both at places where after one loss, there’s some element of huge disappointment, or the season’s over. I think that permeated a couple of our younger players.
But I thought our guys rallied pretty well. Our win, especially against Oregon State, Utah as well, those were kind of just those games from the outside that it’s like, That’s just another win. Those were grind‑it‑out, gut‑it‑out, shorthanded‑type of wins that you have to do to be as consistent as our guys have been and win as many games as our guys have won. You have to win those every once in a while. Part of it is playing great people.
Hopefully we’ll get healed up and get ready to go for Texas.
Q. Coach Brown, have you ever thought of doing uniform changes as frequently as Oregon?
COACH BROWN: When I got to Texas, Coach Royal sat down with me and he says, You know our colors are burnt orange and white, right?
I said, Yes, sir.
He said, You know we like our uniforms, right?
I said, Yes, sir.
He said you’re not planning on changing them, ever, right?
I said, No, sir.
I think that answers the question (laughter).
With due respect, Phil Knight is a friend of mine and we love our Nike uniforms.
Q. Talk about your Texas player on the roster and the importance of doing a showcase when you are here in San Antonio.
COACH HELFRICH: Texas has been great to us in recruiting. It’s a place that high school football is I should say second to none in this room, but there are a couple other states that would argue that.
Oregon’s population doesn’t have the depth of athletes across the country in our kind of wheelhouse states, California ‑ Texas among them hopefully. But it’s a great place to grow up as a young man and play high school football. So many great programs around the state that could compete with anybody.
The coaching, the education system top to bottom is good. You know what you’re going to get from Texas. We try to sneak in every once in a while and get a guy or two.
Q. Coach Brown, with losing the game to Baylor, how do you expect the players to respond to that, plus the added distractions of everything else going on right now?
COACH BROWN: I’m not worried about the other stuff. You always worry when you lose your last game. It meant so much. You worry about creating an edge for your next game, the bowl game. For me, the team that has the best edge in bowl games is the one that usually wins. There’s more upsets in bowl games than at any other times in our season.
I thought we were lucky. I wasn’t sure when we got the call from Derrick, but I thought we were lucky when we drew one of the best teams in the country. A lot of teams aren’t going to have the opportunity to be challenged like that. I was worried who we would draw and would our guys be excited about it. That got answered very quickly.
Just talking to them, having texts from them, our staff that’s been around them, there’s such a buzz right now for the opportunity to be challenged by a great football team. They respect them. That’s fun.
I really think, again, this town is going to be abuzz. Oregon has great followers. Our bunch will be here in full strength. I just think it’s a tremendous matchup, and I do understand and want to be honest, we got to hold up our end. They’re going to hold up their end because they’re really good.
COACH HELFRICH: You’re really good at this, really good at this (laughter).
COACH BROWN: But it is true. I’ve watched them. I’ve sat there. In fact, when they were throwing out all the different combinations of things that could happen, I said, Huh‑uh, huh‑uh. Derrick called. I said, Derrick, we were there last year. He said, It will be so much fun. I said, We got it.
From that standpoint, I think both teams will respect each other. Our coaches like their coaches. There’s a lot of relationships between the two. I think it’s fun. That also matters.
Derrick could tell you, in bowl games if you’re coaching against somebody you don’t like as a coach, it’s not comfortable because you’re around each other all week. If the staffs don’t like each other, it’s more uncomfortable.
But this will be fun. We’ll all enjoy it and have a great game. Mark has never lost a bowl game, and I have (laughter).
Q. Mack, when your back was against the wall, this team did respond against Oklahoma in a big way. Have you had a chance to reflect on why this team, with its makeup, is going to be a special one to you?
COACH BROWN: I think it’s the senior class. No team has put up with more stuff than this team. You really like them and appreciate them. Whether it was early coaching changes, they responded to it, responded to me, trusted me, played their rear‑ends off.
The amount of injuries, I’ve never seen this many injuries. There’s probably eight of our top ten players that won’t be playing in the bowl games. These guys have said no regrets, no excuses. Let’s just keep playing. Let’s don’t sit around and talk about what’s wrong, let’s talk about what’s right.
They’ve been a fun group to coach. They’ve been attentive, played hard. We missed an opportunity at Oklahoma State and Baylor, which was really disappointing, because we turned it around since the early losses. They’ve given it their best. That’s all you can ask a team to do.
Q. Both of your teams started out looking to higher goals, maybe championships. Now you’re here and happy to be here. What does it say about your team, what lessons have they learned now that they didn’t end up where they set out to do? Why is it important for them to play in this game as hard as they would in any other?
COACH HELFRICH: We’re both at places where if your record doesn’t end in ‘hyphen zero’ there’s problems. Those things are exaggerated. Maybe the guy just didn’t line up right. How do we fix that? Sometimes when you win, you get lucky. Okay, we need to fix that, too.
Top to bottom, our guys will be very excited for this challenge, to finish it right, to win your bowl game, whatever that is. If it’s a BCS game, whatever is considered toward the bottom of the rung, is huge. It’s an opportunity to work with our young guys, develop our depth. We’re a young football team. Put those guys in those situations, playing against a program like this, they’re going to be physically challenged big‑time. Then you want to put an exclamation point at the end of the season rather than dot, dot, dot.
COACH BROWN: We told our guys you don’t get to choose where you go. You have to win to go where you get to go. So it is what it is.
If we would have won all the games, then there would have been options other than this one. We got to come to a fun place, a good place that we enjoy. We love this city. This bunch is loved by a lot of Texas Longhorn fans and we’re playing against a good team.
Not everybody gets that. Not everybody is that fortunate. Some people that are in bowls that are considered maybe at a different stature don’t get to play who they want to play.
We told ours, You play your way into bowls, you don’t talk your way into bowls anymore. It is what it is. You are who you are. You take what you do.
DERRICK FOX: On behalf of the Valero Alamo Bowl, we have two of the best coaches not only as coaches but as people. We see them week in, week out. They welcome us behind the scenes win or lose. They are tremendous people. This is an exclamation point here for the Valero Alamo Bowl. Thanks for coming down.
COACH BROWN: Thank you, Derrick.
COACH HELFRICH: Thank you, Derrick