Cohen talks Peach Bowl, scheduling

With so much going on right now with Washington Athletics, we thought it would be a good time to catch up with Washington Athletic Director Jen Cohen, who had a lot to say about the Huskies' recent inclusion in the college football playoffs, as well as the future of UW's non-conference scheduling.

Did you have any advance notice of the Peach Bowl announcement?

“Absolutely not. I was at home, pacing. Getting more and more nervous as the morning went on. Muting the volume so I didn’t have to hear all the commenters, because that talk fired me up. Absolutely not, I had no idea. The only indications I’ve had have been through the Pac-12 office and the commissioner (Larry Scott), who have had dialog with the CFB and had strong feelings we were in but you never know.”

Who was more nervous and who screamed more - you or your boys?

“My boys and my husband were screaming at the TV prior to the announcement based on what they were hearing and then the entire Cohen household went pretty crazy when we saw our name pop up.”

Were you guys selling Fiesta Bowl tickets?

“So we actually pre-sold all the bowls. So this is the first time we’ve ever done this, and I’m so proud of our staff for doing this. They went out a couple weeks before and did a pre-sale for all the bowls that we had a possibility of being in. So yes, we had pre-sold Fiesta, but we had also pre-sold the Peach (Bowl), so we were ahead. We had pre-sold several thousand for the Peach Bowl, so we were ahead of the game going into yesterday.”

So what happens to the tickets sold to the other bowls?

“They were on file to be held accountable to it if we would have gone, but they don’t get billed - no.”

How many tickets do you get for the Peach Bowl?

“We have 13,000 tickets. We’ll have a pretty good handle on those numbers here in the next 48 hours, but we feel pretty confident we’ll be able to get through our allotment. Our fans have been phenomenal.”

Alabama have the same number?

“I believe so. I haven’t seen their allocation but I think it’s standard that both schools get the same amount.”

With the Pac-12 title game and now the Peach Bowl, how do those games affect the football budget?

“Right now it’ll probably be a neutral. For the Pac-12 Championship, the model’s very different. We’d never been in that before but the Pac-12 conference shares the expenses for that. So that’s doesn’t have a negative on us at all. The bowl games have traditionally cost us the last several years because of the payouts those bowl games have had and the cost associated with going and doing it the right way for our student-athletes. I think our goal is…I don’t think we’ll be making money, but our goal is to have it a break-even experience so we won’t have any additional costs.”

On the out-of-conference scheduling and anything else in the works besides the 2018 pre-season kickoff game versus Auburn?

“Scheduling is very complicated. And by the way, there’s a lot of debate on strength of schedule. Our overall strength of schedule this year was right there with some of the other schools that they were debating. Breaking it off and looking at just your non-conference schedule versus your overall strength of schedule…I’m not sure how much weight is given to one versus the other, but my sense is that it’s your overall strength of schedule that matters the most. So when it comes to…and really what they are talking about there isn’t really the three opponents, it’s probably you should just get a strong Power 5 in there. 

“When we scheduled Rutgers they had a couple eight-win seasons. When Michigan scheduled Colorado, they had several losing seasons. So that’s what so hard about football scheduling and it’s such a factor that you don’t always know when you schedule whether a team is still going to be successful when you play them. So we’re not jumping too far out yet because we want to be patient and see who is out there. 

“The ’18 deal was awesome and been an absolute gift to be able to get our existing set schedule redone. Because once your schedule is set there’s these contracts and buyouts that are massive. It’s very rare to be able to change your schedule once you’ve set it. So that was just a very unique situation that we’re really excited about. So ’18 looks great and ’20 and ’21 we have Michigan so we’re good there. So really where we’re focusing now is those out years and trying to find quality Power 5 opponents that make sense for us and also make sense to come out to Seattle.”

Does Pete have input, or does he let you do your thing?

“No, we do it together. We do most of the work here but he always has input. This is his program and his program to build in a way that can be a championship program, and his input on scheduling is very important. We always talk about it and we’ll continue to talk about it. We talk about opponents, we talk about key graphics, we talk about weather, all those type of things. There’s a lot of factors that go into scheduling and we’re trying to check as many boxes as possible. Not every year you’re going to get that, but our goal is that we will and we’re going to continue to work on it.”

On pre-sale for the 2018 preseason kickoff game versus Auburn

“Absolutely. We’ll get through the bowl game and the CFB playoffs and then into next year we’ll have the option for people to pre-purchase to go back to Atlanta. So for sure it’s going to be an incredible experience and obviously a great opponent. It goes to show that Washington is back on the map, right? That’s a big-time pre-conference game to be able to play.”

Any comment on trying to get an extension worked out with Coach Pete?

“We’ve had a couple conversations and we’re really excited about keeping Coach Pete here as our head ball coach. Obviously we want him here and he wants to be here, so all that’s good stuff. It’s just a matter of us working out the details and hoping to get that released soon.”

Where are you at in your Peach Bowl planning?

“Again, one of the great things is, just from the external fan side we had a jump-start with the pre-sale of tickets. We also have done something new that we’ve never done before, which is partner with PrimeSport. We have official travel partners who are doing everything from hotels to tickets to charters. Right now they are getting ready to fill their third plane already of Husky fans. We have Husky Headquarter plans going on, thinking about what our warmup is going to be, we’re looking at other receptions that we’re coordinating, collaborating with campus and with regional giving and university alumni relations because we’ve got a lot of alums that are in the south and back east that we want to engage as well. 

“And then the guys are finalizing their practice schedule plans, Christmas, and getting their affairs done. So the team will probably meet here Christmas day or the 26th. They are getting that crew set and it’s a big-time task but we’ve got a great staff here. They are very organized and everybody’s…we’ve got some people flying to Atlanta right now to do site visits. We’ll have an idea on logistics at the end of the week once they get back.”

If the Championship game was any indication, better anticipate more people at the warmup

“The challenges is that there aren’t very many venues around that can accommodate everybody that you think is going to be there. It’s just one of those challenges. It’s a good problem to have but we already know the UWAA helps lead the effort with the warmup and they are definitely looking at larger venues than they ever have in the past to try and accommodate as many guests as we can. It’ll be awesome.”

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