Mike Stoops Q & A

Arizona announced that Mike Stoops was the new head football coach for the Wildcats. Stoops met the media on Saturday and after a lengthy statement he answered a number of questions from the media. Here is a transcript of that question and answer session.

What is your timeline, and what is your anticipated arrival in Tucson?
"The timeline we have in place is that I will fly back (to Oklahoma) tomorrow and finish the week out in preparation for the Big 12 championship game and be back out here a week from Monday. That is the timeline that we have in place. I will finish the month of December here at Arizona, and I haven't made any plans after that."

Were you able to watch the Arizona-Arizona State game yesterday?
"I did. I watched a great deal of that football game. The thing that impressed me is that there is a lot of talent on the field. The big thing is trying to get it channeled all in one direction. The thing I was most impressed with was their ability to compete and hang in there and play well on the road against a rival team. I thought Arizona competed very well throughout the day. When you look at the Pac-10 Conference, there is a lot of parity. Obviously, USC is a tremendous football team. Then, when you look at Washington State, you see what they have been able to accomplish over the past two, three, four or five years, and to see what they do is really something that we would like to model our program after. They are extremely well coached, and they play hard. Those are two things that will be very big with this football team. We are going to be well coached, and we are going to play hard, and we are going to know what to do. It takes absolutely no talent to play hard and to know what to do. Those are two phases of the game that we will get better at immediately."

How was the selection process?
"The process was very good. They were very forthright with me; they told me exactly where the process was going and the timeline and how they were going to run the interviews. It was very fair and very comfortable for me. The people were some of the greatest people I have ever met, and that is what made this job so attractive because it was an opportunity to work with the likes of Jim Livengood on a daily basis. The character that these people have was very important to me. I've always said that if I was to become a head coach anywhere, having the support of the president and the athletic director is the most instrumental part of any program, and having that support of everyone was very important to me. When we turn this thing around, it won't be because of me or because of my staff, but it will be because of everyone that is in this room that is for Arizona. Having all these people pulling in the right direction, that when we get that, the quicker this thing can turn around."

Do you see any parallels at Arizona to other places you have coached (i.e. Kansas State, Oklahoma)?
"I've always felt that you could win anywhere. A lot of people felt that they could never win in Manhattan, Kan., and look at what they have been able to accomplish, and not only what they've accomplished, but also the way they have maintained. That is the great story with what Coach (Bill) Snyder has been able to do. Turning that program around was tremendously difficult, and it was a lot of hard work. A lot of people would go to Coach Snyder wanting to know the magical formula. There is no magical formula. The formula is working hard every day and getting the best people around you as possible to be successful. You have to have coaches that understand the game, and that have a great passion for what they do, and then you have to get the players to buy into that. Sometimes talent is very overrated. When you watch games, it is people that play hard, know what they're doing and have a passion for what they do. I think that is something that I have been able to build my life around. I was never a tremendously gifted athlete, but I found a way to play and to hang around. That is very important."

Have you spoken to (former interim head coach) Mike Hankwitz?
"No, I haven't, and I hope to speak to Mike somewhere in the next 24 hours. Mike is a dear friend of mine, and a guy that I competed with for a number of years in the Big 12 Conference. I know Mike personally and professionally. He stands for everything that is right in college football."

Do you have some favorite recruiting areas, and how will you play catch-up in the recruiting process?
"The main geographic areas that we would like to recruit are California, Texas and Arizona. That will be the nucleus of our players' recruiting areas. Obviously, we are a little bit behind in the recruiting process. Some of the specific coaches that I am looking at have strong ties to those areas, as well, so hopefully, we can make up some ground there. There is still some time. It is early; kids are sometimes fickle in their evaluations of particular schools. We will go after the best possible players that we can get in and that can help us win here. We are not going to go out and sign 25 players that don't make us better. We will not waste scholarships; if we have to save some for the following year, we will. The big thing is getting quality players with quality character that can help us win."

What are the details of your contract?
"We haven't even finalized this contract."

How difficult is it to leave Oklahoma?
"You had to bring that up. You knew a soft spot in my heart. It's hard; it's extremely hard. It probably will be the hardest thing that I will have to do. You have your brother, and I have some players that I have great relationships with, and that will be very difficult to leave behind."

Did you get a chance to talk to any of your players at Oklahoma?
"On Wednesday, I told them that this process was taking place. I told them that I had no idea how it was going to end, but that there could be some finality by the end of this weekend. They are on vacation, and they are at home as we speak, so they are probably seeing it now for the first time and hearing about it."

How crazy has it been with everything coming out of all stations back in Oklahoma?
"It has been pretty hard. It was a difficult couple of weeks, but again, the people here on the committee letting me know where things were headed was very beneficial. I think having a game to prepare for helped me get off of worrying or thinking about it. The professional and competitive side of me was not going to let our team go in unprepared. I personally would never do that. It was important that we went out and won the last game, and we performed well. Our players are very smart, and they understand what is happening through this process. The great thing about them is that they are your biggest fans; they love that this is happening to me. They are not scared of what is going to happen."

When will you meet with the Arizona players?
"When I fly back in next Monday, I will have a meeting in the afternoon with all of the returning players and the senior class. My message is going to be pretty simple. The expectations that we put on them are going to be extremely high, and the work ethic is going to match those expectations. We are going to work hard on our physical skills; our off-season program is something that needs to improve, and that just goes into their work ethic. To compete at this level, you have to be well conditioned and well trained. That is an area that we can make tremendous strides in a very quick time."

Are you familiar with the Tucson area?
"I had the opportunity to be in Tucson when we played in the Copper Bowl when I was at Kansas State. I played here when I was on the staff with Coach (Hayden) Fry at Iowa. I've been out here a couple of different times. I'm familiar with the greater Tucson area, and all of the diversification of this great city is really going to be great for my wife and our children. The quality of life here is phenomenal, and we are excited about the opportunity to raise a family here."

Have you had a chance to tour McKale Center and see the facilities?
"It is a beautiful facility, and everything we need is in there. We are happy with the way things are set up, and I am anxious to get moved in and get started."

Do you hope to have your staff in place by the time you get here?
"There are a lot of guys that are possible candidates who are finishing out seasons and finishing out bowl games, so I really don't feel comfortable commenting on the staff at this time."

What advice did your brother, Bob, give you about becoming a head coach?
"He has been giving me the most advice about how difficult it is. As for the whole process of getting comfortable doing what you're doing, that is something he said gets a little easier everyday. He told me about how hard it was to leave when he left Florida. He has given me a lot of good advice in the hiring process of coaches and things like that. Things I feel are probably very similar to what he felt when he came to Oklahoma. I certainly understand everything that he was talking about now that I stand here before you. This has always been a goal of mine, and the opportunity to coach at a university like this is always something that I have wanted to accomplish. To win and be successful, and to have my own program, my own players and my own coaches is something that all coaches aspire to do at some point in their life. I'm so blessed to have that opportunity here, especially because this is a great university and a great place. The short amount of time I have spent with this administration and to see how badly they want to win inspires me to do well and to work my butt off to get this thing going. There is no doubt in my mind that we will get this program going, and we are going to do it right now. I've never gone into a game where I didn't think we had an opportunity to win and compete, and I don't plan on starting now. We are going to be ready to play when we start in September, and we are going to have a style of defense that attacks people from a bunch of different ways, and we are going to have an offense that is going to spread people out and make people defend the whole field when we play."

Do you feel you have the necessary tools to be successful?
"Yes. I think I have thoughts on putting together a staff that I feel very good about. Hopefully, it will all work its way out here. Jim (Livengood) has given me the opportunity to hire the best people I can. That is the type of support that you obviously need to be successful. I'm not going to rush to put a staff together that doesn't give us the best opportunity to win. That's why I intend to take my time in putting this staff together. Our players are more than qualified, and we have enough athleticism and strength. We have enough people to win. We are deficient in some areas, but we will work on those deficiencies between now and next fall. There are a lot of great players out there, and if they are willing to put in the hard work over the next nine or 10 months, then we will have a team that will compete on a national level next year."

Do you have any final remarks for the people in Oklahoma?
"You see the strong ties that I have. Again, Oklahoma has unbelievable people, unbelievable football fans and unbelievable supporters of us and the program. That's the thing you love, and hopefully, we will have that same type of support from the people of Arizona. All they want is a quality football team, and that is what we plan on putting on the field next fall. We are going to have a quality football team that these people and this community can be proud of, not only on the football field but off the field, as well. That is the way we have done it at Oklahoma. The team (at Oklahoma) plays with class and confidence, and the way they present themselves on the field is second to none. That didn't just happen; that is something we cultivated throughout our time there. Bob (Stoops) has done an unbelievable job keeping those players to where they are right now. It is a special group, and we will see how the year plays out, but they are going to have an excellent chance to win a national championship and a Big 12 championship."


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