TCU (12-0, 8-0 Mountain West) Head Coach Gary Patterson, who has been named the 2009 Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year by the Football Writers Association of America, sat down with the media today for a press conference as tomorrow's Fiesta Bowl matchup with Boise State (13-0, 8-0 WAC) approaches. Here is the transcript of the press conference as recorded by ASAP Sports.
PAUL JENSEN: Good morning. I'm Paul Jensen from the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl communications staff. On behalf of Chairman Alan Young, Executive Director John Junker, and the board of directors, and most importantly over 3,000 volunteers, some of whom you see in this room today in the black windbreakers, welcome to the 39th Tostitos Fiesta Bowl head coaches press conference.
We will have coach make an opening statement and then open the floor for questions.
I would like to make an announcement that the Football Writers Association of America will announce Gary Patterson as its 2009 winner of the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award. The award will be made to Coach Patterson Tuesday night in California.
A few thoughts before we go to questions?
COACH PATTERSON: Well, first of all, thank you. On behalf of Texas Christian University, the State of Texas, Fort Worth, we are very excited to be at the Fiesta Bowl, to have a great opponent in Boise State and to understand that we're here representing maybe a landmark ball game of two undefeated games, two, in your minds, nonqualifying teams but two teams that really know how to win that, in the last two years, are 48-3 culminated record, that really have class kids, know how to play hard.
I'm very humbled by getting an opportunity to be a head coach of one of them. So we're excited. I can tell you this much: Probably we could have played the game a day ago. We're ready to go with this. Seven days is a long time, but it has been a lot of fun.
Q. A year ago you met Boise State on a different stage. How much has the college football world changed for Texas Christian University in this year from then to now?
COACH PATTERSON: Well, with Insight it hasn't changed at all. You still do the things you need to. We started with our pyramid from the very beginning. But really on the outside stage, just on the national scene, it seems to me that it has changed quite a bit. We have a lot of you in this room to thank for that, and we probably have our kids to thank for that.
It is kind of like coach-of-the-year awards. I haven't seen many O-12 coaches receive those awards, so it means you must have a great staff, you must have great players, and you must have a great administration and great fan base to do that. I think it is a big group award.
For both Chris and I -- I can't speak for Boise State, but I would say the landscape has changed and they had a lot to do with that, along with Utah had a lot to do with that in playing in the games they played in so far.
So we're in a situation where we're trying to be the next group. Like I've told people all along, it doesn't do you any good to get here. When you come to these places, you come to win. We're not just happy to be at Christmas. We want to be able to open presents. You got to get ready to do what you need to do. That's what our kids have come to do and that's what they have worked at in the last month, to get to a point to do that.
Q. Is this a game of strength? People talk about how much stronger you appear to be than Boise State. Do you look for this to be a strength game, a test of strength?
COACH PATTERSON: I've watched both tapes. I don't know where they get all that. I think both teams are very physical. I think they win because they play hard.
Any time you get two teams that play hard and believe that they can win, you will have a chance to do it. A year ago, I heard the same things. The score ended up 17-16. So for us, the team that wants it more I think is the team that wins this ball game.
Both of us I think want it a lot, so I think the thing that you are going to get into, you are going to get into who doesn't make mistakes, who will be physical.
I think both of them will crowd the line of scrimmage. Both of them will try to stop the run. Both will try to make plays in special teams. Like last year, I still think it comes down to red zone. We were fortunate enough to be able to make them kick three field goals and we were able to score a couple touchdowns. It is one of those situations where you got to get ready to play.
Anything can happen in these kind of games when you have a month to prepare.
Q. Just want to look at the ramifications of this game. There are those out there that say the winner of this game is set up as perhaps the first midmajor to be able to make a run at a National Championship next year. What do you think the case of that is?
COACH PATTERSON: I think they will have an opportunity to start high. I think both teams, depending on how the game goes, I think possibly because they have so many players coming back, have a preseason chance to be ranked high. But that will come down to you.
A year ago we ended up the season 7th and we started 17th in the preseason poll. So it will really come down to how everybody else perceives everything else to go down and how the game goes.
I think both of us have those intentions, but I think the most important thing at least we're trying to think about right now is winning. We're going to let all the rest of that stuff take care of itself. Right now it's tomorrow night, and when we play the ball game, give ourselves an opportunity to win the ball game. And then we'll let everybody who decides all the rest of that stuff decide it.
Q. Just going back to the perception you talked about there and coming here to the polls in midsummer, when Boise won here a couple years ago there was talk maybe they would be in the front and then they started 15, 20, too far basically away. Is that turning a battleship a little bit for the nonqualifiers in terms of getting the perception around where you should be included at the start of the season with college football's blue-bloods?
COACH PATTERSON: I do believe that the process has been ongoing. I think just for us to have ended the season a year ago in both polls somewhere around 7th in the nation, I think, with two losses is an indication that the mind-set has changed.
But I would say by having two nonqualifying schools in a BCS game has changed the landscape of college football forever as far as the BCS is concerned.
And I do believe that people understand now with the 85 scholarships, the academic standards you have on any given year, a team could have a good enough team to play with anybody in the country. And that's all coaches want to do. You know, there's a lot of people that have talked on platforms about a lot of different things.
Our commissioner has done a great job in talking for the Mountain West. I believe the only way we can do anything about it as coaches is we got to go win. We got to play a great schedule and you got to go win, and your kids got to do it the right way.
I think that's -- I think that's one of the reasons why we have won a couple of group awards as far as coach of the year. I think people do believe that they like it. We haven't whined about it. We haven't done anything except try to do the best we could on the field and try to be who we need to be.
I think Boise is the same way.
Q. Who is the best team in the state of Texas?
COACH PATTERSON: (Laughter). Well, I tell you what, there is a bunch of them. You saw one that played last night. But Coach Brown and I, him and Sally are good friends of ours, again if I go back to my thought process of who's the best, you would have to play to find out. I'm just going to leave it at that. They do have a very good football team.
I have always felt like if we weren't playing one of them that I always rooted for them, for anybody in the state of Texas for the simple reason that we recruit a lot of their kids that went to their place. We know their parents. We are going to live in the state for a long time. If you don't have anything good to say, don't say anything at all. Just kind of do it, and we will try to let our actions speak on the field.
Q. There has been a lot of talk about Boise potentially joining the Mountain West, and I wondered your thoughts on having them as a conference mate.
COACH PATTERSON: I don't really have an opinion of it. Probably when the season is over, if that's a possibility, the questions I would raise, would it make it easier or harder for both teams to get to a BCS game, if you did that? I have heard it would raise our standards of our conference as far as being an automatic qualifier. But to be honest with you, I think we have already done that.
And so for me, my question would be would it be tougher, if Boise did join the conference, would it be tougher for TCU, Boise, Utah, BYU and the other people in our conference to be able to get to a BCS game every year?
My opinion, probably not.
Q. Fans have been calling this a separate but equal Bowl. Do you feel like you guys deserve a share of the National Championship if you win this game? Or is Bill Hancock saying, You had a great season, enough for you?
COACH PATTERSON: Well, I would say this. It is the same way I voted in the final poll. A lot of my fans ask me why I voted Texas Christian University No. 2, not No. 1. I watched all the ball games and on that very night I thought Alabama was the best team in the country when they played Florida.
I'm like a fan. I'm going to watch it. I am going to evaluate from a coach's perspective and I will watch all the ball games. I will see one firsthand. And if there is some way we can win our ball game and that I watched, then I'll decide that. At this point in time, the way I voted is the way I felt about it, and I put Boise I think as my team fifth and we voted, too, because I felt like on our final game and how we played against Utah comparably to how other teams played in their final championship games that that's where I owed it to my team to do so.
But to say we should be the national champ, I will see what we play like tomorrow night to find that out.
Q. You mentioned some of the ways you think this game might be similar to last year. How do you think it will be different? Obviously there are differences in these teams.
COACH PATTERSON: I don't know how much different it would be. You got the same players basically coming back for Boise, and schematically and everything that we've had. Defensively, we're faster. We haven't been as physical.
But I think it still comes down to both teams will have to play in the red zone. Both have had high-octane offenses. They've had offenses that have scored a lot of points, done what they needed to do.
Defensively, I don't think Boise gets enough credit for the defense they have because I think they're very good, especially their front. And special teams, if you looked a year ago, if we needed to change anything in the ball game. They had over 140 yards of special teams offense over Texas Christian University. So that's one place that we can't afford that to happen on kickoff and punt returns and other things that happen.
We have got to play a lot better in that category for us to be successful.
Q. During the season you made the remark that everybody loves a Cinderella. Is it time for both of these teams to shed that title and start thinking of themselves as a team that could be the host team at a game like this?
COACH PATTERSON: Well, from your perspective, yes. From my perspective as head coach, I like the chip on the shoulder. My team plays better when we play like that, so I like Cinderella.
I believe if we are ever going to accomplish what we want to accomplish, at some point in time we will have to get to that point. I think both of us -- again, I think it comes down to you and football fans across the country. The best way to do that is not to beat our chest. I think the best way to do that is to go out and play, keep recruiting, keep building our facilities, make your conference stronger and go do that.
You know, I just don't think that anybody out there is looking -- the way everything else is in the world, I don't think that's what somebody is looking for. I think there is no way that you ever get anywhere when you make everybody that votes on it mad. So I think the best way to do that is -- I mean, it doesn't work for me at home; I can tell you that.
I would say at some point in time that we're going to have to get to that point if we want to play for a National Championship where people don't feel like we're a Cinderella.
Q. You mentioned before about how you thought this matchup had changed the landscape of football. How do you think going forward -- what do you see those changes, how are they going to manifest themselves?
COACH PATTERSON: Number one, I think you have to see how the ball game goes. We put it in a situation, we have to see how both teams come out and how we play and how it ends up. Everybody judges everything by its last ball game.
The team has been judged, the University been judged, everybody being judged. For us we need to come out and play. The thing I know is it doesn't matter what anybody says. It will be decided in three hours, and the team that wants it the most, as a general rule, wins.
The team that finds a way -- because I'm one of those guys that believes you have to find a way to hate each other for three hours. After that, you're friends because I think that's the way the game should be played.
If you watch me on the sidelines, that's the way I am. It is really -- it is kind of like the way -- the perception, when I started, "This guy is out of his mind on the sidelines" and now I have passion. "He is a great motivator." You lose a couple ball games and now I'm crazy on the sidelines.
I think for both of us, I think, the knowledge of who Boise is and who Texas Christian University is has changed because of the media and T.V. to put us in a situation where people get a chance to play. This is going to be one of those ball games where there is no Monday Night Football. You are going to be the only show in town. And we both need to come out and play as such.
Q. I wanted to ask you about Kellen Moore. You talked a lot about him. What has impressed you most on film? What has the preparation been to defend him?
COACH PATTERSON: Number one, he is a winner. Number two, he doesn't get flustered. Number three, you can tell he studies a lot of film. He puts the ball where it needs to be. He understands what you are doing.
You have to be very good at what you do, because a lot of times he is going to know what you do. Just like I have read a lot about what has been said there about how they needed to defeat Texas Christian University as far as execution. We need to hold the same standards.
We are going to have to go play and know -- they know we will be in a certain coverage. We have to go make plays or they are going to make plays.
I love guys that are very humble, great guys, play hard, win. He definitely falls into all those categories.
Q. You started the season a week later than everybody else in the country and then played all the way through the season, had a lot of momentum. But now you haven't played for about a month or so. How have you maintained that momentum in practice and at the same time allowed your team to enjoy this experience?
COACH PATTERSON: Well, this will be walk-through No. 16. This will be practice No. 100. This is the most practices we have ever had in a season where we have played on New Year's, and some other ball games we have had around 97. We have had a lot.
The way we try to do practices early in December is so you can recruit. And this is the way we have done any ball game we have ever played. We didn't practice during the week. We practiced on the weekends when we had recruits in, so you can get your timing bound. You are always worried about your offense more than your defense because timing of everything that goes on.
We didn't come as early as what Boise did because I felt like you practice better in your own facility, so we had two really hard -- we had, well, about six straight days before we let them off for Christmas and they were getting after each other. Tough practices. We took off the 23rd, came back on the 27th. We had two very hard practices the 29th, we practiced in the morning, shorts, which was kind of the second cycle.
We came here and then we had two hard practices the first two days in pads, and then we have been in shorts ever since. We have always believed you have to have your shoulders and your legs to play to a high level. And if you don't know how to tackle and block after practice No. 100 we are probably not going to get it done until the spring. So for us, now you got to get ready to play.
Q. I'm just curious, the media and the fans have all kind of lumped the two programs together. I'm curious from your standpoint just how similar do you see Boise State and Texas Christian University in the pecking order of college football.
COACH PATTERSON: Well, I don't know about the pecking order, but I think you should always take notice of people that win. I mean, I think Chris has had three close to undefeated seasons in the last four years. We've won over 11 ball games. I think 6 out of the last -- 10 or 11 ball games 6 out of the last 8 years. I don't know how you judge all the rest of it.
But it is kind of like the weight room. You know, it's -- I know it takes a lot of work to bench 450 pounds. You can't just walk in there and do it, and that's one of the places I play real close attention to, is results. And I would say that that's -- I would look at our programs because of the winning that they have been doing, and I think people are.
They've already knocked down that wall a little bit. For us coming into the Fiesta Bowl and being invited by our gracious hosts has made a big difference maybe not in this recruiting season maybe finishing up because we only had a couple scholarships left, but I think it will make a big difference because that was the one thing that was being held over our head from the other conferences that recruit in the state of Texas, quote, automatic qualifying schools that we still were able to beat them in recruits on "Well, they can't get to a BCS game, they can't play for a National Championship." No longer will they ever be able to say that.
Q. So they are a comparison?
COACH PATTERSON: Yeah.
Q. You mentioned earlier the historic nature of this game with the two nonqualifying teams and what they could accomplish. Have you tried to emphasize or deemphasize that with your players as you prepare?
COACH PATTERSON: With my players, I don't even talk about it. I mean, we play in the state of Texas where I'm not compared -- to be honest, I'm not compared to the Mountain West Conference. I'm compared to Texas, A & M, Texas Tech. When we recruit, that's who I have to recruit against.
It has been well-documented, I have stated before. I don't think Boise or Texas Christian University are nonqualifying conference schools. I think both of them can play at a high level.
If you look at our records against qualifying conference schools, the big question that comes right after you say that, "If you played in the conference, I don't think you could do it day-to-day." If I recruited in that conference, I would be able to do it every day.
You know, it's really kind of funny that people say, "Well, the strength of their conference," how many teams from the Big 12 have played in a National Championship game or a BCS game? It is the top two or three. How many in the SEC? Same schools. Every conference has the same -- how many in the Big Ten? Same schools. I mean, everybody has the same situation.
One of the things we haven't done, I think, we'll start out the season possibly next year doing the same thing is playing somebody that's going to be highly ranked and again trying to prove where we need to be. Not prove that we are a good program, but I think you need those kind of ball games to some day put yourself in the situation to play for a National Championship.
I don't think your program ever finds out where they're at unless you play at a high level. Basketball has an advantage because they play and they can play a couple games and you play so many games it gets lost in the shuffle. We have 12, so that one ball game counts a lot.
I think for Texas Christian University, and I think Boise does the same thing, they have what we call a stretch game every year where perception-wise, as far as your guys are concerned, perception-wise they are supposed to be better than us. So that's why we play it, so we have an opportunity in perception to make a difference as far as on the landscape of college football. We've done that, but I think you have to be smart.
As a general, what we do, we play one stretch. We play a 50/50 and then we play one we should win. And now that we have four, we play two 50/50s. When we play a Big 12 team, which this year we feel like coming to the ACC we played two stretch games, both of them, Clemson and Virginia, were on the road. So we felt like there were two stretch games.
So I just looked at the record. Not many people go into Clemson -- I think their record was 200-something to 23-7, 65 or 70 years of college football winning and losing at home. Tough place to go play.
Q. You said that this team plays its best when it has a chip on its shoulder, and you used bad-weather games and things like that at the beginning of the season to help motivate this team. What has this team rallied around for this game? Not being in the National Championship or playing Boise State? What is the chip for this game?
COACH PATTERSON: I think the team has followed me. They don't worry about things they have no control over. Not playing for a National Championship I think has been more of a fan thing and a media thing.
We are disappointed, but one of the things we've done and this team has done all year, every seven days you go play another ball game.
What we have rallied around, this senior group has a chance to win 43 games, a chance to be the only team at Texas Christian University to win 13. We've never -- there has been a 12-1 team back in 1935 in Fort Worth.
So this team has an opportunity to win more games than any other senior class has in the history of the school. I have done this all the way along. You can't just have one thing. But for us you are playing a great Boise game. What I told them from the very beginning when it was announced, You have an opportunity on the last game of the season to prove against a team that's undefeated that you are the program that you are, period.
I mean, if that's not enough to go play a ball game, if that's not enough to go play a ball game, then I am probably coaching the wrong football team. I will find out if that team shows up tomorrow night.
Q. You mentioned a minute ago playing -- the need to play top teams to get where you want to go. As you have gotten better, is it harder or easier to get those people to play you?
COACH PATTERSON: Well, it's not hard to get them if they'll just go there. We have Oklahoma, we have Oklahoma coming back in 2012. We have Texas Tech and Baylor both out of the Big 12 on our schedule next year that's home and home. We have got Virginia coming back in 2012. We have LSU in 2013. We have Arkansas down the road.
So we've scheduled -- we try to stay somewhere between eight and ten years out of scheduling those games. Sometimes that's good; sometimes that's bad. But as a general rule, those names that you just heard don't change much as far as the quality of teams that they have.
It became a little bit more difficult. In our version, it has also become a situation where we need to be smart because we have an ultimate goal at the top of our pyramid not to overschedule and not to underschedule.
You know, it is not just about them. It is also about us, of making sure because you have got to kind of know when you will have a big senior class, when you will be a little bit younger, how that's all going to fit. I was -- this season was kind of a surprise, to be honest with you. I thought next year would be the team that would be the best football team we had because we lost seven starters off last year's defense that was No. 1 statistically in the nation.
After spring we had a team meeting. We weren't very happy with this group, at least to the standard that we feel like that we can play. And they kind of took it upon themselves as a whole group, not just defensively but as a team, they kind of grew up and became that.
Scheduling is difficult, but it's not if you are willing to go anywhere and go play them and not if you are willing to go play there. But home and home I think is very difficult. But that's for anybody.
Anymore I don't think it is about who they play. I think it is about finances. They need to have X amount of home games to play at their place. They don't want to go somewhere else because they need to put that 85,000 to 100,000 in their stadiums so they can fulfill their budget. I think that's more than it is anything else anymore in the state of the competition level.
Q. How does the addition of Austin Pettis and Tyler Shoemaker change what you do, or does it at all? Have you been preparing for them at all?
COACH PATTERSON: I expected them to play. It is not my first rodeo. We expect them to play. I expect Ian Johnson maybe to come back and have one more game. I mean, Coach Peterson, I have watched him throw the ball, he may throw a couple passes. I'm not sure he is as good at Kellen Moore.
In fact, if you saw Coach Peterson, he was about the same height. He could move around. He probably did as good a job of getting his shoulders around and getting the ball out of his hands on a blitz.
Those guys are good players. I would think, because we've had guys come back from those injuries that the wide receivers, the leg injury or the broken leg would be hard. But it's -- if he is ready to go, we're ready for the challenge.
Q. I know you've said recently that you think you can get to the top without the playoff system. But a poll came out recently that 63% of the fans are in favor of one and they seem pretty adamant about it. There is a lot of vitreal out there about it. What do you have to say to the fans?
COACH PATTERSON: This is the thing about the playoffs: Who says the playoff system would be any different than the BCS system is now? If you put an 18 playoff system and you have six automatic qualifying groups right now that are in the BCS, so there's six teams -- you add -- so another one of those conferences feel like they have another one. There's a seventh team. Another conference wants to add an eighth.
Show me right now how a playoff system is going to make it easier for Texas Christian University and Boise State unless you give us an automatic qualifying birth into that playoff system. It hasn't changed.
You can argue about finding -- there is two arguments that you have here. If you are wanting to try to find a true national champion, well, you can have a playoff system and get to it. If you're asking me for Gary to jump -- Gary Patterson to jump on the bandwagon and say, Well, Texas Christian University should be in favor of a playoff system, my answer is no right now, because you haven't given me the guidelines of what a playoff system would be about.
Second thing is my kids have been here at the Fiesta Bowl for five, six, seven days. It has been an unbelievable experience. I played in Division II, I coached in Division II and 1AA and been in the playoff system. Every week you practice at your own place. You practice for seven days. You get on a bus or plane and fly to that place. You go play the game. If you lose, you're done. There is no experience to it. You win, you go back to your place. You practice for seven days, you go play again.
Where do we reward the players? Where do the student-athletes, what do they get out of it? It is like the 12th ball game. When we brought around -- we were going to have the 12th ball game in college football, what was supposed to go along with that was five years of eligibility. We never got the five years of eligibility.
What we got was higher academic standards. All they've done is made it tougher and tougher and tougher to be a student-athlete in college football, but no one has ever done anything for the student-athletes. The only thing I know you do for the student-athletes is 64 teams get an opportunity to go have a Bowl experience.
I'm not against a playoff system. I'm not for the BCS. I think it has been the best system we've had up to this point to find close -- as close as we could to find a national champion. But for Gary Patterson to jump on, and a lot of people misconstrued that I was for the Bowl system, not for finding a way to find a national champion. That's not what it's all about.
What I'm about is why, as a representative of Texas Christian University, should I be a guy that jumps on a bandwagon for a playoff system unless you as a group are going to say a Boise State, a Texas Christian University, a BYU, a Utah are going to have an opportunity to have whoever the best team from these other conferences are, they are going to have at least one slot in that game. That's all we're asking for in the BCS, is to be -- you don't have to be an undefeated team. You have to be the best team.
Until somebody gives me that answer, I'm not in favor of one side or the other.
Q. Wouldn't you want a crack at the National Championship game?
COACH PATTERSON: Of course. I mean, that's beside the point. But right now there is no guarantee for me -- there is no guarantee for me, even if I was undefeated this year and we were in a playoff system, that I would still have a crack at them because no one is telling me that I would ever get in that playoff system anyway.
Right now when they decide and we come to a playoff system, I want to make sure you call me. If we get it, because at this point the powers to be, we will have to fight to be one of those eight teams, because I don't think you can go to a 16-team playoff, number one, because of academics, because of health of players. I think what you will find out is all these guys will go in the first round of the draft and you are going to tell them they are going to play for more games and they got a chance to be a draft choice.
Look at McGehee who played in the National Championship, hurts his knee in one ball game. He goes from a first-round pick to whatever he was from a fifth to a free agent. You got guys who say, I don't know if I can do that. Why should I risk the rest of my career with four more games when people are saying I can go right now? I want to support my team, but I also have a family at home that doesn't have much, so why do I do that?
Q. Your staff and Chris Petersen's staff spent some time speaking on the phone and in person trading ideas this past spring. Is that a help or hindrance at this point?
COACH PATTERSON: I don't think it makes any difference. I think we're both -- we're helped by it because that's what we do.
I spent the last four years -- we have almost 600 to 1,000 high school coaches that come through our place every spring, and here in the last five years we've had almost, I would probably tell you, 15 to 20 Division I staffs that have come through our place in the spring and studied what we do.
Most people think we're crazy anyway about how we do it. One of the things I've always felt like -- and I'm one of these advocates, the same way I do to a lot of people when they speak at clinics, they don't tell anything. One of the ways I think that I have become a better football coach, when I was telling a group last night, I think there is five things you have to be to be a great -- free to be an assistant and five to be a head coach, and I wasn't any of them when I started.
The only way I can help this profession is to go out and help people. Obviously Boise and Texas Christian University didn't think they were going to play each other.
Most of the time when you go in and study somebody, as a general rule you come out with about one idea because you know they have won, they have done what they needed to do. You are looking for about one idea that will make you better. You didn't go down there to write down notes, the next time we play them, here's what I'm going to know. We're very similar in the way we do things.
So, for me, if it hurts us, then -- and I see because I'll know as I watch on the field, if it hurts us, I will probably be mad at myself, but I would bet it would not make any difference at all.
Anything -- Chris is my friend. The reason he called me, he asked me -- in fact, it was probably my fault. They were going to send one coach. I said, If you want to come out and be part of it, bring your staff because I believe that's how you do it so everybody gets on the same page. That's what we ask when we go somewhere else to study what other people do. I think it is what makes the profession grow. Is it going to help us maybe in this ball game? Maybe not. But down the road I think it does.
PAUL JENSEN: Thank you, Coach Patterson.