"Hello to everybody. How's everybody doing today? It's great to be in the Lone Star State. I'm excited about it. As a kid I grew up in Ohio, and we always talked about Ohio and Texas football being the best high school football in the country, and you could argue that. I know all my Florida kids would probably want to fight us on that.
"I'm excited to be here in Houston. Great opportunity to represent the ACC conference against a great team with Jerry Kill's, Minnesota, Big Ten opponent. I think it will be a great matchup for both teams, and our kids are extremely excited to get down here, and just get a feel for the area; the culture; kind of immerse ourselves for a few days in Texas, and enjoy the experience of the bowl game. It's going to be something that all our people up in Syracuse are looking forward to.
"As we get into this situation, I'd like to thank the bowl for having us down, and thank our administration, Dr. (Daryl) Gross, and our SU people worked hard to make this thing happen with the folks here at the Texas Bowl. We just couldn't be more excited to be down here playing some football in one of the greatest football regions in the country."
On if having Penn State as a common opponent with Minnesota helps them out
"A little bit. We played them the first game this season. Drastically different situation. We had a situation where I was on staff for four years at Syracuse, I was the defensive coordinator, and then we had great turnover when coach (Doug) Marrone got the job at Buffalo, and he took most of the staff with him.
"So, we had a lot of turnover, and that was our first one, so Penn State like opponents, but I know we're a lot different team. We came up a little short. I think we were six points shy of that one. I think to some degree but not too much. Not this late in the season."
On his biggest adjustment of going from defensive coordinator to head coach
"Well, I think there's a lot of things. Now I'm working with both sides of the football, getting to know the offensive kids. I knew them for all those years, and we recruited a lot of those kids from all the different places that they came from, but to actually work with them on a daily basis is probably the biggest difference. That and dealing with all the Alumni and all the things that are part of being a head football coach, but it's been everything I expected and everything I signed up for, and I love the job. I really do.
"I can't believe I have had the opportunity to coach at Syracuse. Such a great institution in a part of the country. Kind of spread our wings and fly, and part of that's the experience to come down and play in a bowl like this. So for me, from a logistical point, a lot of difference, but really just more opportunities to meet people from Syracuse that have an interest in promoting the school and making things bigger and better."
On how involved he remains on the defensive side of the ball
"Not too much. I really believe in letting my coaches coach. I really do. I've been everywhere as an assistant coach. In my 23 years, I've been coast-to-coast, and coached for a lot of different guys, and the ones I enjoyed coaching for the most were the ones who just let me coach, and hire you and let you do your job. Make suggestions when things are struggling and support them. Try to be the backbone of the program. Make personnel adjustments to help the team, that sort of thing, but on game day I don't call any defenses or offenses."
On his opponent the University of Minnesota
"Well they've had some differences in personnel as well. Big thing, they ran the power well against us. We didn't knock the power out as well as we needed to. That's one thing I remember, because I was the defensive coordinator. We lost that one I think 17-10 wasn't it Sue (Edson)? Tough team. Well coached. Coach Kill I have all the respect in the world for Jerry Kill. I was at Northern Illinois for eight seasons.
"Coach Kill followed us. I left a little bit before he followed us in, but he followed Coach (Joe) Novak who is one of my top mentors in the business, and I kind of feel a little indebted back to Jerry, because he did a good job keeping that program rolling, because that was one of those situations where you were so proud of working at an institution that was really one of the worst in the country when we first got to Northern Illinois, and then we were really proud of the way we built it up under the leadership of Joe Novak.
"Coach Kill was at Southern Illinois at the time, and they used to come up and visit, and when he got the job at Northern, I was really happy and pleased they hired him, because he's such a first class guy, understood the formula that it took to continue to win there, and felt like he's kind of part of that Northern Illinois family."
On if playing in a bowl in Texas can helped recruiting in this area
"Yeah, I do. We were just talking about it. The more I've walked around the stadium; I just got off the recruiting trail, flew over from Tampa this morning, got off the plane, and I've already met like five Syracuse people here, so I think we need to take a good look at Houston.
"When I was at Stanford, Andrew Luck, obviously we recruited there. I was with Coach (Jim) Harbaugh at Stanford, and then I left when Andrew was coming in, but I was part of the recruiting process, and got to know his parents, and if we can find a couple guys like that I think it'd be well worth it.
"So, we're going to look at those types of things, and we're going to put a couple of my new friends on detail work to start sending us some recruiting video across the internet. Maybe we can come on down and find some kids in this area."
On why he hasn't recruited Texas as much as coaches in the past
"When you look at it, you have to kind of look at the different scenarios, you know where you are. Now that we're in the ACC conference, it obviously makes a lot of sense to go up and down the eastern seaboard. There are a lot of good football players up and down that area.
"Those are the homes we're going to be in the most; the television sets, and that conference alignment and those kids; those families can move up and down that area and see their kids play, so I think that's one obvious reason that we want to do a good job on the eastern seaboard.
"Like I mentioned earlier, growing up in Ohio, the respect that my father, a high school football coach had for the Texas kid, you know we'd watch those bowl games back in the day, and those kids would come across, and all these great players from Texas, and then I read a lot of articles from coaches that were high school coaches in Texas, and you say boy it really reminds me of where I grew up. Little bit different drawl; southern drawl maybe a little bit different, but as far as the philosophical background of the Texas kid, and the Ohio kid, I was always intrigued with that type of a player.
"Who knows? Maybe this can be a bridge that opens up some opportunity to recruit some kids, and they can watch our guys play, and this is how relationships are built, or rebuilt as you stated with Paul (Pasqualoni) recruiting down here before, and maybe we can find a couple and start the bridge down from Syracuse, New York to Houston, Texas."
On the challenge they will face from Minnesota
"I think they've got a doggone good running back in David Cobb. He can run the football, and he runs it well because they block well up front. They're going to be a sound, tough team. They're going to be a team that doesn't shoot themselves in the foot. That's one thing I noticed watching coach Kill's teams the last couple season, because obviously we've played them. I've seen them get, probably more consistent with the way approach the game, the mistakes they don't make.
"They don't throw a lot of interceptions, and they play a good, tough brand of football. So, I think it's really the run game first and foremost, and then for us, we need to do a good job trying to run the ball on them, and changing it up. Probably the run game."
On how surprised he was when Doug Marrone left for the Buffalo Bills job
"I was just happy for him. I was happy for him and my friends that I worked with there for four years. We took a program that was last in everything, and got us to a co-championship in the Big East, and whenever your friends get an opportunity to realize their dreams in this business and move up, and get an opportunity to coach in the NFL, if that's what their dreams were, you just feel great for them. You feel happy for them and their families.
"Surprised? Not too much, because he's a talented guy, and talented guys get recruited, take a look at other opportunities. So more than anything else, not so much surprised, but satisfied that he had a great opportunity for him and his family."
On if he was hoping to get the head coaching job when Doug Marrone left
"I love Syracuse, so I was hoping to coach, I was hoping that Dr. Gross and the folks that have input there, would maybe give us a shot to stay and keep the Shafer family close to home, because we really love central New York. It's a neat place to raise children.
"We live in a little district right outside of town; Fayetteville-Manlius. Well rounded. Lot of balance. Education, athletics. I really like that part of the country, so for me I was highly motivated to hope and wish that they would give me an opportunity, and back-and-forth with Dr. Gross early; they gave me a shot, and we're trying to get it better every single day."
On if he could see himself staying at Syracuse for a long period of time if Doug Marrone had stayed and he was still defensive coordinator
"Well, my number one goal is family first. I wanted to get my son Wolfgang, through high school, because since 2003, we've bounced around as a family a bunch. This business is wild and crazy as you guys know it. Lot of houses. I think we've had five or six houses since 2003. We went Northern Illinois to Illinois, Illinois to Western Michigan, Western Michigan to Stanford, Stanford to Michigan, and Michigan to Syracuse from 2003-2009. That's a lot of houses; a lot of work for my wife Missy.
"So the kids, because of dad's passion and love for the game, and opportunities, had to go through some tough times and some challenging situations to meet new people at every school they went to, so our goal when we were about 23-24 years old, when we were first married, Missy and I, we wanted to have the goal of chase the dream, and see where we're at by the time they get to ninth grade, and then let's settle down for a few years and let them get through high school, so I would have been fine being the defensive coordinator for Coach Marrone at Syracuse as long as I got Wolf and Elsa through school.
"It's always been my dream to be a head football coach. I didn't know if it was going to be high school or college or where; didn't really care. I just wanted to run a program someday, try to build it, and establish a situation where people know our program for a long time, and take great pride in putting true student athletes out here. I want people one day to say Syracuse has really done a great job establishing themselves in the ACC conference as one of the top tier teams. We're not there yet. We got our butts kicked by the two top teams in the conference this year in Florida State and Clemson. We've got a lot of work to do to get to where we need to be, but we're highly motivated to make it special at Syracuse.
"We've got a great blueprint watching Jim Boeheim build that program. I'm so lucky to have somebody like that to just watch, look, read about, ask question about what it's going to take to try to get our football program to some sort of level just close to what he's done. Scratch the surface I'd be happy."
On how long he's wanted to be a head coach and if it's everything he expected
"Since I was probably seven, eight years old. Everything I expected. Everything I signed up for, everything I expected; the headaches included, but I love the headaches. They're great challenges. When there's situations going on, I told Sue (Edson) earlier, you always have situations.
"The further I am away from the campus, the more I feel panicked that something's going on back home; we're not doing a good job with this, that, or the other thing. But, it's everything I signed up for. It really is. It's a heck of a challenge every single day. Every day I wake up, and I love it. I love the challenge."
On how they will stay sharp over the long layoff
"Well, we took really the first week and a half to really heal up. We're banged up pretty good like most people around the country, but we had a rash of injuries late in the season. We lost a lot of starters; a lot of rep guys that were banged up pretty good. So, I said we're going to try to rest, rehab and then knock out the academic scene. So what we did was we structured it more time for the rehab guys that were injured, a little bit more rest time for everybody, where we stayed away from a lot of pounding; got them back in the weight room, got them running but just striding, that sort of thing, and then really structured it so that our kids would have more time for their academics with their finals.
"Finals week finished up yesterday and today basically, and then we'll give them a few days off here, and then get back at it. They'll be back in town Monday evening, and then we'll jump into it pretty good. Get it cracking and try to get them leathered up a little bit again, and get those callouses back on their shoulders, and get them ready to play again.
"That's the approach. My whole thing is though, the kids, and the program have earned an opportunity to play in a great bowl game here in Texas, and I want them to have fun with it. I want them to enjoy the process. I don't want it to be punishment. You come back and all of a sudden it feels like two-a-days. I've been around that before too, where bowl practice is like holy cow what are we doing. So, we're going to try to get them freshened up, get them playing fast, sharpen up their skill sets, and come on down to Houston, and give this game our best effort."
On what the initial reaction was from his players when they found out they were coming to Texas
"They were fired up. They were juiced up. I think any time a young person gets an opportunity to travel somewhere they've never been before, and when you look at the demographics of college athletes, you have a lot of kids who are first time college students. A lot of kids from different parts of the country that haven't really gone anywhere, and a chance to come down to Texas, and like I mentioned earlier with Jamey, immerse themselves with a rich culture in Houston here, and get around, and try to tie a lasso, and throw it at a calf, and whatever the heck we do.
"We've got a Texas guy on the roster, Drew Allen. I haven't seen him eye-to-eye, since I've been on the road recruiting, but I'm expecting him to teach us how to tie a lasso, and throw it. He's got cowboy boots and stuff, so I figure he's going to have to be the guy that gives us some advice. I've got another kid named (Josh) Kirkland, I've been talking about. I think he might be the guy to try to tackle a calf.
"He's from Kansas, and there's something about that guy that I think he could do it. We're going to start with those two guys and then see what we can do with all these activities, but we're going to have a lot of fun, and let these kids enjoy the hard work they've put in, in their careers, for the seniors especially, and try to have it be a great experience for those guys as they finish up wearing the orange and blue. A great learning situation for the young guys to say this is pretty cool; bowl games are pretty cool, and lets go to one every single year I'm here. That's the goal. That's the mindset, and we're just happy to be a part of it."
On if during the BC game he was thinking about the opportunity to go to a bowl game or just thinking about winning the game
"A little bit of both. Any time you're in the fight, you don't really think about things other than make a good call, manage the clock, and get in a situation where you can give your kids a chance to win. Right after it happens, boom it hits you, but we had a tough one the week before. We lost to Pitt by a point, and I mentioned the Penn State game earlier in the year, we were seven points away from winning eight (games) this year.
"So, the kids were close, but close doesn't matter, so it was nice to get that last one. The kids made a nice play. A little throwback on that thing to get the BC win which is a big win for us, because that's an old, northeast rivalry that's been going on for a lot of years, so it was good to get that one."
"I just saw him. We just saw him. I was just in the cafeteria with him. He had to go run. It was great to see Alec. He had a week where he was up on campus, and came up and saw us. It was great to see the whites of his eyes. He's a great kid. Hard working guy. Broke a lot of records for us up at Syracuse.
"Our wide receiver coach is Rob Moore, who had an all-pro career in the NFL, and Alec broke some of Rob's records up there. Just so proud of him. He was part of our first class when we got there. He endured the pain of turning the program around the right way; the hard way. Just to see him out there in the cafeteria was awesome, and I know he'll be around seeing our players and catching up with them."
On the importance of a bowl game
"It helps a lot because you have advertising; free advertising going on and on and on. The kids wouldn't say it's free and neither would the coaches because we're working our buns off, but I think on so many fronts it helps your program. Not only extra practice time, but also the opportunity to continue the process of learning. More football; more videotape time in an environment where the kids aren't in school anymore either. Which is big. It's more of an NFL feel to the week.
"The kids get that opportunity to prepare. You don't have to hurry, because of the game. You have a little bit more time to take a few seconds to retool your teaching approach; take a look at where you are. And, the opportunity to give young kids practice time. In season your young kids are just running scout teams and whatnot. When you get in a bowl situation, you have an opportunity to say hey we're going to go young guys up; let's see what you got and we keep the older guys watching. It's an opportunity for those guys to have a little bit of fun, but also get those reps. From a recruiting point of view you get an opportunity to put your product out there. Go into a kid's home and talk about, we're going to a bowl game.
"We're going to play in Texas against a well-coached Minnesota team. Those kids want that. They want to know that they're going to be part of something that's extended each year. Each year they come to their campus they can expect that they're going to fight their buns off to go to a good bowl game every year. That experience in and of itself gives you an opportunity to have that free advertising."
On if conference realignment complicates the bowl picture
"No it doesn't to me. It really doesn't. It's the state of football right now. Everybody was jockeying for positions to be in a super conference. John Swofford did an unbelievable job with the ACC conference. I thought he brought the right teams in. We're finishing that process up next year. I think he was the front of the curve. I think he did a great job with the Grant of Rights, keeping the powerful teams in the conference.
"Hopefully, we have a national champion in Florida State this year, because I think they're a damn good football team. We were in the Big East, and it was a great conference, but we think with this ACC can be just an unbelievable conference, especially in the next five, six, seven, eight years in my opinion. I really see it rivaling the SEC in football. It'll be a matter of time before we make that full turn, but I think we've got some great coaches, some great institutions, and an opportunity to play a great schedule every year. So it's not strange to me. It really isn't.
"It's the new normal. I'm excited to be a part of it. I really am, and I know our kids are too. And the basketball. I mean Big East was unbelievable obviously, but I'm looking forward to Boeheim playing Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski). They're coming up in a couple of weeks. Jim's one of the most competitive people in the world. Heck yeah he is. Those matchups are going to be great. North Carolina, NC State on the basketball court. I'm looking forward, hopefully we can get recruiting done, so I can go to a couple of those games."