COACH KIRK FERENTZ OPENING STATMENT
Obviously, we're very excited about the announcement. We're all glad to hear the news, certainly. I'm sure our players are going to be very, very pleased about that. I'm very honored to be going. I'm very proud of the team, and the way they progressed over the last five years, and certainly over the last two years. We've made great strides. It's a great compliment to our players for us to be going to back-to-back January bowls. It's a great accomplishment. We're all excited about it. Hopefully it will be a little easier to focus now with our preparation. We're certainly playing an excellent football team in Florida. I saw them on TV a week ago against Florida State. They've got a lot of great players. It's a great traditional program. So, it's going to be a great challenge. It's a great location. It's a great opponent. What else could you ask for? And now our work begins.
What do you know about Florida?
They're good. I know the quarterback looked extremely good. Chris Leak is a guy that we know an awful lot about. I've kind of from a distance watched his progress this year. He's stepped up and really done a fine job. He was extremely poised as a high school player. He appeared to be very poised last week on television. That tight end looks to be exceptional, too. They have a lot of great players on both sides of the ball. It's no surprise. We've been recruiting down in Florida ever since I got here. They've just got great players each and every year. I know they're going to be a very, very talented team and a great challenge for us.
Can you talk about your involvement with Leak and how close you came to getting him here?
I think we were pretty close. He could probably answer it better than anybody. I think we were right there down to the wire. Who knows? Maybe if we were down in the South, maybe that would have helped us a little bit; if we were a little closer to home for him. But it didn't work out. The thing that sticks out to me was that he was a pleasure to recruit; just an exceptional young person; a great family. You could tell just through the process that he had a chance to be a very special player. He's well on his way towards that.
He visited here, right?
Yeah. He visited there, I think, the last weekend after our finals last year before the holidays.
Do you have any ties with anybody on the Florida staff?
Nah. I don't know that many guys anywhere. I know of Coach Zook, obviously. He's coached in the Big Ten and was in the National Football League for quite some time. I think we were probably across the sidelines and didn't even know it, maybe. I think he was in Pittsburgh, maybe, when I was in Baltimore. He's done an excellent job. It was tough at the beginning. He followed a pretty good act down there. The little bit I know about it, it sounds like they played an awful lot of young players early this year and last year, even. They had a couple of bumps in the road, but they really came on strong. If I'm not mistaken, I think they beat LSU at LSU, which probably says an awful lot right there. That gives you an indication of the kind of football players they have in their program. You play in the SEC, that's a very tough conference, like the Big Ten.
What's your work schedule now?
Nothing has changed. We've had a schedule in place now. We'll recruit hard this week. We'll recruit a little bit next week. Then, we're going to pull in and start getting ready for the ballgame full speed. Our players, obviously, have some practice. At the end of this week, we have our banquet on Saturday. Then, they'll be in finals. We'll try to leave them alone, for the most part, during finals. As soon as finals are over, we're going to try to get ready for the ballgame and do a good job that way.
Do you get a sense that they're almost playing a home game?
Yeah. We've tried that before. A couple of years ago, I think Texas Tech enjoyed a home field advantage playing in San Antonio. Certainly when we played Florida in the Gator Bowl back in '83, it was a little bit of a similar circumstance. Hopefully our folks will be able to grab as many tickets outside of our tickets. I just talked to one of the folks from down there. I think their stadium is 65,000 plus. It's not a gigantic stadium. I'm just hopeful that we can still grab some tickets. I would assume that the Florida Gator fans have done a good job of that this week. Hopefully there is something left.
Do you get some of the site seeing out of the way by going down on Christmas Eve?
Yeah. We'll practice pretty hard up until that time. I'm hopeful that we can use that day to travel. We'll get down there and have an orientation meeting. The, we'll let our players go. I don't know what's going on Christmas Eve, other than going to a church service or something like that. But they'll have a chance to look around a little bit. We'll practice hard those next couple of days, and then get into our game week routine where we give them a day off and then have our normal game week. If all works well, we'll hopefully have a good game week here on campus before we leave. Then we'll have a couple of days to get acclimated and have some good hard work down there and then taper off as we get closer to the ballgame.
Are you going to work harder this year?
That's fair to say. We played a little bit later last year, but we scheduled it where our guys had an opportunity to go home for Christmas. After reviewing that, I just think that was disruptive in our focus last year. A lot of things were disruptive, and that added to it a little bit. It's something that I thought about during the off-season. I had a chance to nail down my plans down tentatively. I ran those by our leadership group and seniors during the summer and came back and visited with our seniors again yesterday. We're all on the same page. We're all in agreement how we want to approach it. We're going to work hard, but we're also going to relax, too. This is a great reward for our players. They've earned the right for that. I'm hopeful that we can get the majority of our work done here in Iowa. So, when we get down there, other than those first couple of days, they can really have a chance to relax and enjoy a great venue.
Do you have good luck in Tampa?
I've never played there. That's one of the stadiums that I was never involved in. I'm undefeated. How's that? (laughter) That's pretty good. Of course, we haven't won either. That's pretty bad.
Do you have any feelings about the idea that the bowls seemed to go in the pecking order with the Cap One taking Purdue over you?
I never gave it too much thought. The biggest thing was whether Ohio State was going to drop out of the BCS picture. And if so, that would have made it real interesting. They way I look at it as a coach; we're really pretty much out of it. The coaches and players are out the mix there. On a national scale, if you look at the whole system, there's only so much that can be done. A lot of it has to be done on the field. After that, you're kind of at the mercy of the system a little bit.
The nice thing to know was that we had three possible locations. All three of them were excellent. It is nice to be playing in Florida. This is a place that we haven't been. Believe me, we love San Antonio. We'd love to go back. But it's also good and significant that we're playing in January. That's been a team goal. To me, when you start going back to back playing in January bowls, that speaks highly of your football team. The fact that we're 23-6 over our last 29 ballgames, again we're really making progress. That's something that all of our players can be really proud of.
What do you think about having two national champions? Is that OK?
It's OK with me. It appears like that could be a possibility. I just saw Pete Carroll on TV. He's probably got a pretty good claim to it if they can beat Michigan in the Rose Bowl to finish 12-1. It's hard to argue against them. And whoever wins the Sugar Bowl is going to have a very legitimate argument, too. As long as we don't have a pure playoff system, the chances of that happening are very likely. I don't know when the changes are going to occur. I wouldn't be surprised if down the road we look at a different wrinkle or two. I'm still of the belief if they tiered the top four teams and played one game maybe 10 days after the last bowl game, that might not be a bad system. But I'm sure there would be problems with that too.
When did you find out you were going to the Outback?
At about (4 p.m., Sunday). I got a call from Bob. He had been on the phone. He's been in and out of a presidential meeting (Sunday) in Chicago.
When did the players find out? Do they have to watch TV to find out?
The word is out now, certainly. I'm sure they're all watching TV today. It's kind of like when you cancel practice or cancel class. Word gets out pretty quickly. (laughter)
Do you vote in the coaches' poll?
I don't. That probably gives the poll a little more validity. (laughter)