Belk Bowl Press Conference Transcript 12/04/12

Dec. 4, 2012

Belk Bowl Press Conference ▪ 12/04/12


University of Cincinnati President Dr.  Santa J. Ono

Introductory Statement:

“It’s a great pleasure to welcome Will Webb, the executive director of the Belk Bowl, to the University of Cincinnati. Will’s dad actually grew up in Cincinnati, in Wyoming, and he’s a big fan of Cincinnati Chili. We really are thrilled to have you will us, Will. He actually has been involved in basketball for a long time, some Final Fours. But now has been the executive director of an outstanding bowl, the Belk Bowl. Welcome to the University of Cincinnati. We were founded in 1819 and we are the only collegiate program to have won four of five conference championships in recent history. We’re incredibly proud of that, incredibly proud to be a part of the Belk Bowl … Welcome, Will.”

Executive Director of the Belk Bowl Will Webb

Opening Statement:

“Thank you very much. On behalf of the city of Charlotte, Charlotte Collegiate Football and the Belk Bowl, we’re ecstatic to welcome Cincinnati to our game. This will be our 11th game. We’ve had our eye on Cincy for a number of years. And, we are very excited to be hosting a co-champion of the BIG EAST this year. Cincinnati brings a lot to the Belk Bowl. It brings a good name, brings a great football team, brings a great set of fans to Charlotte, and helps as we continue to grow to become a bigger and bigger bowl. Our objective every year is to sellout. We’ve averaged 60,000 fans over our ten years. We’re very excited about having all of the Bearcats Fans in Charlotte and look forward to hosting the team for a week.

“Charlotte presents a number of different logistics for a bowl team. As I was just speaking to Coach [Butch Jones], once your team gets there, except for going to practice and one event, you can walk to everything. You can walk to your stadium. You can walk to the other team hotel. Once your fans get there and park their cars or get out of the cab from the airport, they can walk to the stadium. They can walk to the restaurants and bars. We have what we think are some of the best events for fans and for the teams. We take the teams to Charlotte Motor Speedway. And it’s really quite fun to watch a 300-plus-pound player go through the window of a racecar, but it’s one of the highest-rated bowl events in the country.



“Belk, our title sponsor, is the largest privately-owned department store in America. And last year, for the first time, we took the players out and gave them a gift card to Belk. We let them go shopping. We had some people tell us we were crazy to do that; these kids wouldn’t like it. They loved it. My greatest story of the night was a lineman from Louisville walked up; big kid and he had a Cuisinart coffee maker and pink slippers under his arm. This was the 22nd of December, and I looked at him and said, ‘Man, those for you?’ And he was almost crying. He put his hand on my arm and said, ‘Mister, this is the first time in my life I can give my mama a real Christmas present.’ It was great. All of the players loved it.

“We have a number of other events, but we welcome all of you. We look forward to seeing the media. We look forward to seeing the fans. And most importantly, we look forward to seeing the players and coaching staff in Charlotte.”

Cincinnati Head Coach Butch Jones

Opening Statement:

“Thank you, Will. And, obviously, it truly is an honor and a privilege to be playing in the 11th annual Belk Bowl. As we have come to know around here is that bowl games are very special. It’s very special because it’ll be the finished project of Team 125. We’re very proud of celebrating 125 years of playing football at the University of Cincinnati and what better avenue for Team 125 to finish than in Charlotte at the Belk Bowl. Obviously, very proud of our football team. Nine and three, have an opportunity for double-digit wins. It’ll be tremendous challenge facing a Duke team. Obviously with the proximity with Duke to Charlotte, I’d like to encourage all of our fans to attend. We had a tremendous outpour of support last year in Memphis, and we’re going to need everyone down there to cheer us on. But, Duke has a lot of momentum; first bowl game in a number of years. So obviously, we need to make sure that stadium is filled with Red and Black as well. I keep saying it; I think it’s the greatest story of college football: the 2012 Cincinnati Bearcats. The perseverance, the resolve, the resiliency, whatever term you want to use to describe this football team. I think it was evident. The perseverance: we had a very, very hard fought loss at home against Rutgers. I think a lot of people cancelled us out. Everyone but our players and coaches, we kept believing. When you have a belief system and an expectation, anything can happen. And to be standing before of you, sharing a conference championship in the BIG EAST, four out of the last five years, I think is truly special.”

On his status of coaching here:

“Well, I think we’re all professionals and I think Ryan Koslen professionally asked everyone that this be about the Belk Bowl. That’s why we’re here today and Will was very fortunate to fly in here today. We’re just excited and it’s all about our football team. I think all you have to do is look at my past and in the past years of what’s happened. And I’m still the head football coach here. I think that speaks volumes.”

On his intentions to coach in the Belk Bowl:

“I’ve said again that I have every intention, but again that’s not why we’re here today. If you guys don’t we can end it right now.”

On Duke:

“I’ve watched them a lot on film today and it’s very challenging because just like them we’re trying to finish recruiting right now. They’ve got a very explosive offense and I think they’re the only school in the country that has three receivers with sixty-plus catches or more. With their receivers unit, obviously Coach Cutcliffe has done a great job with that football program. Very explosive, very physical and they really excel in special teams. They’re very good team from the ACC so it’s going to be a good challenge, a good test. I think it’s going to be similar to the same situation last year when we faced Vanderbilt. You know, a program that was coming into the bowl game with a lot of momentum, a lot of energy and I expect the same from Duke.”

On when he knew this team might be special:

“That’s a good question. Every team takes on its own personality, its own identity and obviously, needless to say we lost a lot of flamboyant leadership in terms of Isaiah Pead and Derek Wolfe and John Hughes, but I liked what I saw the first day of workouts. And really the birth of team 125 so to speak occurred last year at this time. And we’ll do the same this year through our bowl preparation. We had last year’s seniors after every bowl practice meet with this year’s seniors so to speak, that junior class,   and really reflected back on what it means to be seniors. Also the expectations that come along with being a senior. And so they really laid the foundation for these juniors to become seniors. They kind of went through some of the mistakes maybe that they made going into their senior years and then what they felt they could do to correct those. And I thought that that really elevated our leadership. You look at the seniors and the productivity of individuals that really played very sparingly last year. The first one you think about is George Winn. And then you look at Travis Kelce and what they’ve meant to us. And then obviously defensively Dan Giordano and Walter Stewart were in that group. Malik Bomar as well and Drew Frey, and Cam Cheatham. I saw a team that was extremely hungry. I think the defining moment was after spring football we hired a team of Navy S.E.A.L.S to come in and train our guys called “The Program”. They started off that Friday with leadership training under duress and then we were in the swimming pool at 4:30 that Saturday morning and they came in and sat down with me after the conclusion of that exercise and said to me ‘Coach this is the most impressive teams in over 500 teams that we’ve trained with the camaraderie, the leadership, and the ability to communicate under stressful situations’. I think from then on moving forward, we’re a football team that is very close, very galvanized. I think that it’s been a process and I think it shows with the resiliency this year.”

On where he thinks the program is right now:

“Well I’m proud of what our players have accomplished. I think our players leave here with an affinity for the University of Cincinnati and their degree means something to them. Being a part of our football family means something to them. I think two out of three Big East Conference Championships means something. But I think it’s more about the players. To see the players progress the way they have, to see the maturity levels from the Derek Wolfes to the Isaiah Peads, we all know J.K., but I just think the maturity and growth and the overall expectations. I think that was really shown on national television this past Saturday at 3:30 when he had to go play a UConn team that we hadn’t beat up there since I think 2006, with a lot on the line. And I know a lot of the noise and clutter out there was that they would be distracted and to the contrary our team attacked it. They played in twenty degree temperatures and it may sound kind of corny, but not one of our players had long sleeves on. And that’s a mentality. When your officials come over and they notice it I think that says something. I think that just an overall mentality and expectation and they’ve done a great job of really mentoring our freshman as well.”

On meaningfulness of playing in a bowl game:

“A bowl game is very meaningful. Like I said I think we said we take some things for granted around here. We’ve played football around here for 125 years and this is our 14th bowl appearance. You know bowl games are so special. They’re sacred to college football. From many things, it’s a reward to the players, but make no doubt about we’re going down there to win a football game. It’s a reward to all of our fans and it’s a great opportunity. It’s on a Thursday night. Just like Will said they’ve been eyeing Cincinnati we’ve been eyeing the Belk Bowl. Every summer when we have our conference for Big East Media Day we always talk to the bowl representatives and after they leave each coach talks about each bowl and their experience and every time the Belk Bowl comes up they rave about it being one of the best bowl games that they’ve been a part of and participated in. The hospitality shown by the city of Charlotte and Will and his staff to everyone. They’ve been extremely accommodating. You get a chance to play on national television on ESPN an it’s another great opportunity for our entire institution. It’ll be a four hour commercial for the University of Cincinnati.”

Will Webb

On how they went about selecting UC for the Belk Bowl:

“Neither conference for us is really slotted. With the Big East we have discretion to select whichever team we want. We get the number two pick in the Big East after the BCS. We’ve had our eyes on Cincy for a number of years. I came up for a game a couple of weeks ago along with some other people earlier and we liked what we saw with the football team. We liked what we saw with the fan support and we’ve always what we’ve heard from Cincy in terms of your dedication to football, to your players, and to your bowls.”

On the number of tickets Cincinnati needs to sell to the Belk Bowl:

“Our agreement with the BIG EAST is 12,500 tickets, and we don’t anticipate Cincy having any problem with that. Last year, Louisville exceeded that. We are not at the top tiers of the bowls but in a few years, we will be. Our board, our title sponsor, has challenged us to do that – everything we do from our hospitality to our events. This year our pregame concert for over an hour is going to be Lady Antebellum outside the stadium. It’s going to be a great festival. Our events, our gifts, everything we do is top shelf because we know to be into the big shelf, you have to act like that. So we really take special care of our fans and of our teams, players, coaches and administrators.”

On what make him so sure Cincinnati will sell its ticket allotment:

“You look at overall fan interest. You look at how they travel. Cincy has travelled very well to the Orange Bowl, the Sugar Bowl, had a good crowd last year at the Liberty Bowl. You also, as a school, as a fanbase, they want to build that reputation so that every year, the bowls, whatever picks ahead of us says, ‘Hey, we can’t pass over Cincy. They got a good record and they’ve got a great fan base.’ We’re an easy drive, lots of flights everyday from here. We’re in the heart of [Atlantic Coast Conference] territory. This weekend we [ran] the ACC Championships as well. We think this a great way for Cincy fans to show their support for a program in ACC territory against a good ACC team as you all try to build your brand too.”