BCS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME MEDIA CONFERENCE
December 5, 2012Richmond High School
ERIC THOMPSON: Good morning, everybody, my name is Eric Thompson, CEO of the Orange Bowl Committee. First and foremost congratulate University of Alabama, University of NotreDame, two great institutions with legendary football programs.
This year marks the 20th time the Orange Bowl committee has had the opportunity to host the National Championship Game, and we'd like to thank the NASDAQ and the National Football Foundation for the opportunity here this morning.
Last thing I would like to do is to thank the Bowl Championship Series and Bill Hancock, Executive Director, for the opportunity to host this. It's a tremendous platform and forum for South Florida and honored to do so.
THE MODERATOR: Welcome to the coach's introductory press conference, it's really hard to believe we are already talking about the BCS National Championship, seems like yesterday we were in two?a?days.
But I suspect as coaches appreciate and feel like it's been a few months. It has been a privilege to chronicle these programs and their outstanding season and I join in saying congratulations to both Alabama and NotreDame. We are thrilled to be back in Miami and looking forward to an outstanding match up.
We would like to begin today by hearing from Bill Hancock who is the Executive Director of the BCS who joins us in congratulating Coach Saban and Coach Kelly.
BILL HANCOCK: Good morning, everyone, we appreciate you being here, this is a news conference we customarily do at the site of the game, but we decided this year to bring it to New York City and we appreciate the coaches being with us this morning.
Once again, the BCS has met its intended purpose: It's delivered the game everybody wants to see. With Alabama and NotreDame, we do have two of the iconic programs in the country, Coach Saban and Coach Kelly are two of the premiere coaches in our business, and we are very honored and looking forward to a terrific game.
THE MODERATOR: We would like to introduce Ford Gibson, and unfortunately, he's so excited, he lost his voice already. But he is thrilled to be here, the Orange Bowl President and Chair, and of course.
Now in his third year in South Bend, Indiana, Coach Kelly has certainly restored this program to national promise, he looks to join former NotreDame Coaches Ara Parseghian, Dan Devine and Lou Holtz in winning National Championships in their third seasons at the University of NotreDame.
Head coach of the NotreDame Fighting Irish, Brian Kelly.
COACH KELLY: I want to begin by congratulating the University of Alabama and Crimson Tide and Coach Saban and his players on, again, an incredible season as SEC champs. They continue to be the model in college football.
And in keeping with the venue where we are, you have two blue chip stocks that are going to go against each other. You have two great programs with great traditions. I think it's going to be a great match?up. I think both of the strengths of the programs are pretty evident in terms of how the game is going to be played.
Again, any time you get an opportunity to play for a National Championship, you relish that opportunity, and certainly, you know, the discovery BCS championship hosted by the Orange Bowl is probably one of the best venues, if not the best venue to have this match up.
So on behalf of our football team, our staff at the University of NotreDame, we are very excited about the opportunity to play in this Championship Game.
THE MODERATOR: If you are not a fan of the University of Alabama, you're in bad luck over the past few years. They have become a staple in the BCS National Championship Game, Coach Nick Saban as returned his team for the second consecutive year, the third time in the last four years, that's a first in the BCS era. Alabama defeated Georgia in the SEC Championship Game to punch its ticket to Miami.
We'd like to introduce the head coach of the Crimson Tide, Nick Saban.
COACH SABAN: First of all, I would like to thank Bill Hancock of the BCS for this opportunity and the Orange Bowl committee for the great work that they are going to do to make this a first?class venue.
South Florida is a great place and we are looking forward to that opportunity. I'd like to congratulate Coach Kelly and his staff and his players for having a phenomenal undefeated season. We realize how difficult it is to go undefeated in this day and age and they have got a fine football team, very physical, big, strong, kind of how we try to build our team.
But I'm also very pleased and proud of our team at the University of Alabama for what they were able to accomplish this year, the perseverance that they showed, and winning the SEC Championship Game, as well as the way they persevered in the season. This is a phenomenal opportunity for our players for both teams.
This is, you know, sort of a unique matchup, I think, of two universities that have very storied traditions and it's great to see these two teams have an opportunity to play in the National Championship Game, and our team, our players, our coaches and our entire organization is certainly looking forward to the opportunity that we have.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you, and of course the game January 7 on ESPN.
Q. Wendy mentioned three years historically with NotreDame, I don't know if you call it benchmark or not, but when you took this job, how long did you expect it would take to get the program back to this level and what's impressed you the most the last few years of getting to this stage?
COACH KELLY: I had an evaluation clause in my contact after the third year, so I figured we needed to get it done in three years. (Laughter).
You know, I think it's a process that you undertake, and you don't normally have, you know, a destination date. In other words, we are going to get to this point at this date. I think you just go in and you get to work.
You know, I've got a clear idea of what we wanted to accomplish at NotreDame. We had a blueprint of what we felt was going to be successful for NotreDame and we just went about and went to work and this is a culmination of three years of doing that job and sticking to the plan that we had from day one.
Q. What particularly stands out about that process? What have you seen your team get considerably better at?
COACH KELLY: Bigger, faster, stronger. Look, you know, the way that we wanted to construct this football team is that if we got to a National Championship, you're going to have to play physical football. There's no tricks. There's no gimmicks. It's going to be basic fundamental football when you get to this level.
And so again, I think it was just a maturation and a development of our football team to get bigger, faster, stronger; and then have a will. You saw Alabama exert their will in the second half of the SEC Championship Game. You have to have that mind of mental toughness in a football team, as well. That's been the process for us at NotreDame.
Q. You have had members of your staff come up as possibly candidates for other jobs. It's a tricky time of the year in college football with coaches moving about, but for coaches in your situation who have huge games coming up, how do you balance at this time of the year a member of your staff who might have some interests from another school to have a better job with the needs of your own team?
COACH SABAN: First of all, I think when you're an assistant coach, when I was an assistant coach, you work extremely hard so you can have success in the program and try to follow the process of what you're trying to do to be successful. You invest a lot of time.
But you also have some personal goals and aspirations like a lot of our assistant coaches do and I'm sure Brian's staff does, as well and that's why you work hard to do a good job.
I think those folks have every right to receive positive self?gratification professionally by taking advantage of some opportunity they have created for themselves by doing a good job. And I think it's just a matter of professionalism where you can separate yourself for a day or two, not affect the performance of what you're trying to do at your job, evaluate the circumstance.
Last year Jim McElwain interviewed for the Colorado State job, came back and coached in the National Championship Game, did a phenomenal job, put a great plan together.
I've been in a situation where we are playing in the playoffs in the NFL and had a college job waiting for me. I just think it's a matter of professionalism on the part of the person that is reinforced positively with an opportunity, but also knows the importance of the loyalty to the players and the things that he tried to accomplish with those players and how important it is to finish those things.
COACH KELLY: I think Nick is right. I think first, you're not surprised that your talented coaches are going to have opportunities. So I think you go into the process understanding that.
I think second is that you want to be there for them to counsel them through the process, but really, it's got to be handled with a great deal of professionalism because they are still employed by that university. They still have a job to do, and so we talk about, in particular, that those opportunities will present themselves, as long as you handle them in the right way.
So they are encouraged, but they are also cultivated from within in terms of how they handle it on a day?to?day basis.
Q. And if you don't mind, do you expect to have your full staffs that you have right now in the Bowl games?
COACH SABAN: You know, we can't really?? I can't predict that. I really don't know what's going to happen. We don't really control those situations.
I know we have some very qualified people on our staff that would be very good as head coaches and I think eventually, they are going to create opportunities for themselves. When that happens, I don't know.
I think one thing you don't realize, if one of our coordinators walked in the room with the offensive or defensive team and said, I'm going to become the head coach at wherever, those players would be happy for that person who has worked hard with them and helped them develop as players; and they would be happy for them and their families, that they would have an opportunity to work hard for something they have created for themselves.
So this is not a negative thing, at all. But again, you know, everybody's got to be a professional about it.
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I would say it's a positive thing. We can't predict it, but we know that we are prepared regardless of the circumstances, and if we were to lose somebody, we've got great coaches on board that are ready to step up.
So can't predict the future, but I would agree with Coach Saban, again, you know, our players would be very happy for anybody on our staff if they got a leadership position.
Q. In the initial stages of analyzing the opponent, what has kept you up at night?
COACH KELLY: Are you kidding me? Really? (Laughter).
Everything about them: How they are coached; their attention to detail I think is what stands out. When you talk about Alabama, there's an attention to detail in everything that they do.
So you're going to have to beat them. They are not going to beat themselves. And as coaches, we always look for those opportunities where there's a weakness somewhere, and try to, you know, product and find that weakness.
With this Alabama football team, the way it's coached and the way it's constructed, they are not going to beat themselves; you're going to have to beat them and that's the uphill challenge.
COACH SABAN: For me, I never sleep well, so NotreDame is just the excuse now. (Laughter) It gives me something to worry about, but they have pleasant toy worry about. I think the first thing is they are a great defensive team, fantastic front seven, very physical, great size and play exceptionally well together as a team. They are very well?coached.
Offensively, I think they do a tremendous job getting the ball to their playmakers, lots of formations, lots of motions and shifts to try to make sure that their playmakers are getting the ball and quarterback does a really good job of implementing the whole process and it's just a really well?coached football team and they don't beat themselves much, either.
It's going to be a great game with two really good teams.
Q. What's impressed you most about the way Nick has built the program?
COACH KELLY: He's done it the right way. The program is run in a manner from NCAA compliance all the way down to just the way that their kids handle themselves. You watch them after the game, you know, it was classic, and it start at the top and comes from Coach Saban on down.
You want to play teams like that, and you want to get into a championship game when they are doing it the right way, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Nobody is perfect and we are not perfect but that's what is impressive when you have a football program that inside out is done first class.
Q. What were your thoughts on the way McElroy played the other day?
COACH SABAN: Well, I didn't get an opportunity to see him other than the highlights, but we are always pleased and proud when one of our players takes advantage of an opportunity. He certainly did that in helping his team win the game.
Greg did a fantastic job for us. Very intelligent, smart, great leader. So we are hopeful that he'll continue to be able to get some opportunities and be able to take advantage of them. We are very proud of him.
Q. What does it say about your group of seniors to look back at their legacy and say they have played in three BCS Championship Games in four years?
COACH SABAN: Well, I think it's a great accomplishment for that group, one of the most successful classes in the history of college football in terms of what they have been a part of, what they have been able to achieve, and probably more specifically, what they have provided a lot of leadership for.
You know, these guys are great team guys. They trust and respect the principles and values of the organization. They have been very positive in how they have affected other people. They have been very responsible for their own self?determination and have the accountability to do the things they needed to do to be successful.
We tried to define those things personally, academically and athletically and give everyone an opportunity to be accountable to it, and they have worked extremely hard, invested their time well and developed a lot of characteristics that are going to help them be more successful in life, which is the ultimate goal of the program.
So I'm really proud of this group, even though it's a small group, there's only nine guys left, several guys have gone out for the draft. But this group has done a phenomenal job and I'm sure they will look back some day and be very proud of what they have been able to accomplish in their career at the University of Alabama.
Q. What has impressed you the most about what Coach Kelly has been able to do so quickly at NotreDame?
COACH SABAN: Well, I think there's two things. It's not just about winning a game.
I'm a process?? get the process right, and the process is ongoing. There's never a continuum of success, and you're always working, every day, to make your organization and program better, whether it's personal develop many, academics or developing your football team into football players.
And to see the kind of improvement that they have made, first year, second year, now third year, and culminating that with an undefeated season; but it's the way they play: Very physical, lots of toughness, really good mental and sort of psychological disposition of how they compete in the game.
I think that's one of the most difficult things to instill to get players to buy into, because it's a little bit like Jimmy Johnson said last night at the banquet, it's not easy. Guys to have make commitment and you have to sell them on making the commitment to see that kind of progress in the program.
To me as a coach I really respect that and I think that's the most significant accomplishment. They have good players, but a lot of people have good players; but the way they play and the way they compete and the relentless sort of competitive attitude they have, I think that's what I admire most and think is the most difficult to get instilled in a group of young men.
Q. You guys have both been here before, so can you help explain maybe the process of going from six days to preparing for an opponent and now you have maybe 40?plus. How do you find the normalcy in that long, extended break while you're preparing for an opponent; is it difficult or does it become easy over time? Do you get more used to it?
COACH KELLY: I have not been in this position before relative to the length of time. But you know, I think that there's a couple things.
First, I think it's a self?fulfilling prophecy if you keep talking about the long layoff. We don't talk about that. We talk about what's the next step here and the next stage, or it's the National Championship.
For us, a week or ten days of weight training and conditioning, we'll try to get some almost camp?like fundamental work, give them a little bit of a break, and then really gear up for Alabama. We just want to be better on that one day in that stadium. So our focus then will focus strictly on Alabama for ten days to two weeks.
We think we've got a plan and we don't concern ourselves with the length of that time.
Q. So you're saying that basically your preparation time for this specific game is almost equal to the normal schedule during the season, is what you're saying?
COACH KELLY: Well, we try to work our way up to a routine. There's that space there, weight training, conditioning, some fundamental work and then try to get back to that routine that they are all familiar with as we lead into the game.
COACH SABAN: Many people have asked me how you carry the momentum of winning the SEC Championship Game into the next game. And I think the answer so that is, you can't. You almost have to look at any Bowl game or any layoff like you have for this length of time as the next game is sort of a one?game season.
So we separate very similar to what Brian talked about in weight training and conditioning, for a period of time, and we have some fundamental practices that we are going to do to give the players some time off and then we'll get the preparation for the game.
So that's the way we have done it for a long time. That's what our players expect. So you know, I'm not saying it's the right way to do it but it's very difficult to carry the momentum of the season to a game that is that sort of, you know, much time to wait or bring guys along psychologically.
Q. You were born in Everett, Massachusetts; is that correct?
COACH KELLY: Do you need my social security number, too? Did I double?park out front? (Laughter).
I was born in Everett, Massachusetts. Went to St. John's Prep in Danvers, Massachusetts.
Q. Wondered if you had a premonition ?? years ago, the NotreDame fight song ?? inaudible ?? was Crimson Tide.
COACH KELLY: Is it really. I always learn things on this job, every single day. (Laughter).
Q. Manti T'eo is going to be here in a couple of days for the Heisman ceremony. Can you just speak to what he means to your team or what he's meant, both on the field and from a leadership standpoint?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I was talking about this the other day. There are so many superlatives that you can use about players throughout the country. He's a college football player. He loves the game. He's passionate about the game. He's 21 years old and he acts like that. When he walks into a room, there's an energy and a passion for what he does, and that will you bes off on everybody.
Coach talks about, you know, a level of accountability; he raises the level of accountability amongst his teammates and when you have that kind of energy and that kind of personality, it rubs off on everybody. He's a college football player that loves the game and he elevates the play of others around him.
THE MODERATOR: Coach Saban, Coach Kelly, thank you. We are excited, it is December 5, so we have about a month to go to the 2013 Discover BCS National Championship on Monday, January 7. We look forward to seeing you all in Miami, and Coaches, best of luck to you both. Thank you.