December 2008 Archives
UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME MEDIA CONFERENCE
December 8, 2008
BRIAN HARDIN: Good afternoon. This is Brian Hardin at Notre Dame. We've got David Bruton, David Grimes and Maurice Crum at the table. We'll start with questions.
Q. Mo, I just wondered, you were around for the 2004 Bowl season, so forth. As far as players' enthusiasm and so forth, what's the difference maybe between '04 and going to that Bowl and going to this Bowl?
MAURICE CRUM, JR.: I think the biggest difference is just it was a completely different situation at that time, with the coaches and all that stuff. So there are a lot of guys kind of, I guess, torn, missing the coach, and guys being their last game. And just the situation was completely different.
Going into this one, I think the guys are really excited to go to a Bowl game and have an opportunity to play a quality opponent.
Q. David, in terms of, sounded like Notre Dame had some choices about where it could have ended up, what was appealing to the players about Hawaii. I know that sounds obvious, but beyond the obvious, because it did butt up against your exam schedule a little bit, it's on Christmas Eve, there's some other things, but just talk about why, other than the obvious, what the attraction to Hawaii was.
DAVID BRUTON: Hawaii fits perfectly in our schedule. You go in right from exams and hit the road and you're right there. And in football, it's good for our break. I mean, there's no interruption in our break as football players. So we get a chance to finish the game early, be able to get home, some of us will get home on Christmas Day. Others may be a little late. And you have this long break, a lot of us who haven't experienced that yet.
Q. Dave, a lot of people are looking at this as maybe a springboard to 2009. You guys don't have a 2009. What kind of statement do you as seniors want to make with this game?
DAVID GRIMES: I think it's just going out on top. Kind of take that bitter taste out of our mouth that we had this last month, and get the seniors something to be happy about.
Q. Mo, Charlie talked about the players and their input about the Bowl game. Talk about that process. I don't know who came to you guys, said, hey, where do you want to go. But can you talk about that process leading up to yesterday?
MAURICE CRUM, JR.: I think what it was, it was kind of just the administration kind of wanted some input from the players. So Coach Weis went to the captains and the leadership guys and just kind of asked us from our standpoint just what do we think is best for the team, because, again, with options, they all have their pros and cons. So we just kind of wanted to weigh those as a team.
Q. Did you go and talk to other players, though, talk to me about the process?
MAURICE CRUM, JR.: It's pretty much like the leadership committee and the captains, because we're all so close with the team and guys kind of knew, was kind of aware of the situation, knew there was some options, didn't really know where we were going to end up.
So just kind of around the locker room, just listening to the guys and taking their input. And we took it upstairs and tried to incorporate everything and make the best decision for the team.
Q. When did you let Coach Weis know that Hawaii was --
MAURICE CRUM, JR.: Just thinking about it, weighing the options kind of the schedule and how it fits, I mean, obviously Hawaii was very attractive to a lot of the players. But it maximizes our break time and it makes it easier to roll into the football game and not put us at a disadvantage versus going home during Christmas and maybe some guys having, oh, man, I gotta go back. Still giving guys an opportunity to get home on Christmas.
Q. I guess it was on Saturday that you let Coach Weis know you wanted to go to Hawaii, middle of last week? When did you let him know?
MAURICE CRUM, JR.: Friday we met about it and just kind of, in order of the options, which one we thought was best for the team. And that's the one we thought was the best.
Q. You said everything has pros and cons. What's the con of going to Hawaii?
MAURICE CRUM, JR.: It's leaving so fast. And then for the guys who, for like myself, who have to fly from Hawaii to Florida, it's an extremely long flight. And I'm probably going to have a layover somewhere. So those are some of the cons. But, again, I think for the team it makes the most sense.
Q. Either for David or David, I guess the destination, does it kind of re-energize you guys a little bit? I don't think it would be kind of wrong to say the way the season ends, frustrating, upsetting for you guys; the fact you're going to Hawaii, does that kind of give you guys some extra juice that maybe a Shreveport or a Houston just wouldn't?
DAVID BRUTON: I believe the fact that we're going to a Bowl game in general should energize the team. A lot of us are upbeat and peppy about the fact that we're going to a Bowl game.
And I guess Hawaii probably adds a little more excitement and a little more wind under the sail for a lot of guys because some guys would never imagine going to Hawaii in the first place, let alone to play under the sun and make that long, long trip. It's more attractive than Houston or something like that.
Q. What do you think, David, about that, gives you guys a little extra energy than just going to another Bowl game would not?
DAVID GRIMES: I definitely agree with what David 2 said. (Laughter) Like coming off last year, we didn't make it to a Bowl, and I think there was just a lot of guys happy that we're actually going to a Bowl.
And I think there's even more energy, because Hawaii, nice weather, beautiful women.
Q. David, you talked about this a little bit, I'd like to get Mo and David 2 on this, how a win here would kind of finish off your careers the right way. You guys didn't get the win in Los Angeles. You didn't get the win on Senior Day. Would winning a Bowl change how you feel leaving here?
MAURICE CRUM, JR.: Definitely. This truly is my last chance to leave a mark in the program, and also give those guys who are coming back something to build off of, and I really do think that will be a good way just to leave a good taste in my mouth.
DAVID BRUTON: Yeah, just agreeing with Mo, it's the final shot that I have to leave my mark. And I care a lot about the guys, and I want to prepare them and springboard them into a positive start for the next season. So it's a bit selfish on my end, but also selfless as well.
Q. What do you guys think of when you think of Hawaii?
MAURICE CRUM, JR.: I'm really looking forward to it. I'm just looking forward to a good time, and I guess having a really, really close team and going out there, I think it adds to it. We'll be able to do a lot of things together and have a lot of fun, so I'm just looking forward to a lot of fun.
DAVID BRUTON: What little David said, just the women, the sun, the atmosphere in general of Hawaii and just basically living a dream or a fantasy just to go out there.
Q. Lastly, it's been a while since Notre Dame won a Bowl game. How will that feel to put is that streak to an end?
DAVID BRUTON: That would be a major accomplishment, especially since mine and David's class, quote, unquote, the forgotten class or the worst class in Notre Dame history. But it would be great to say we broke that streak along with the fifth-year seniors break that streak and start a new streak in itself.
Q. Is it fair to say that this is a fairly unanimous decision, or were there people who wanted to go to Houston or Shreveport?
MAURICE CRUM, JR.: Being that I'm from Detroit, I voted for the Motor City Bowl. Detroit, we have better weather than Hawaii. (Laughter) That was my vote. It definitely wasn't unanimous. Coach Weis asked the group of guys to give their judgment personally and how they felt about the team.
Q. Obviously all three of you are not exactly from the West Coast. Your families, did you talk to them about it? Are they even going to try to make the trip because it's not exactly cost-effective?
MAURICE CRUM, JR.: It's just too far. I know my parents aren't going to go because they've got family outings and stuff planned for Christmas already. So it would be tough to try to string that up.
DAVID BRUTON: From my family, I was surprised I got a call yesterday, well, last night. And my dad was like look for flights for us, a cheaper one, because it looks like it's going to cost 4100 for the flight alone for my mom, dad and my younger brother and my son if he's going to be able to make that long, long trip. I was shocked they're even thinking about flying all the way to Hawaii.
DAVID GRIMES: My mother said she was going to watch the game in a beach chair. (Laughter) and bring some sand in the house. So I said that's fine.
Q. Was that maybe the biggest con, for you guys, it's a fairly large contingent of parents, families, brothers, sisters, girlfriends, that weren't going to go, was that the biggest con to this thing?
MAURICE CRUM, JR.: I think so. I mean, not having your loved ones to share in the moments with you. But, again, we're a pretty close team. So I think we'll make do.
DAVID GRIMES: I agree with Mo. It's one thing not having them there, but it's another thing when it's Christmas Eve as well. It's kind of two-headed, I guess.
Q. As leaders, how do you guys guard against, okay, we're going to Hawaii and then trying to keep focus, there is a game, what do you do about that?
DAVID BRUTON: I believe the team is well-prepared and got the mindset right that it's not just a vacation. It's a business trip in itself as well. We gotta take care of business first and the free time that we do get, enjoy it. Soak in the sun. Soak in the memory.
But when it comes game time or when it's practice, you gotta take it seriously because we're not coming there just to end up 6 and 7. We want to be 7 and 6 and springboard off into the right direction.
MAURICE CRUM, JR.: I think us going out there right at the finals kind of sends that message to guys and just it will help everyone just distinguish between football to let them know this is what we're here for first and foremost and it's our jobs as leaders to make sure that message gets preached.
DAVID GRIMES: And the parting line, since we found out, has been just to win the Bowl game. And I think secondly is to enjoy a place like Hawaii. But definitely our goal is to win a Bowl game.
Q. What do you guys know about Hawaii, the team?
MAURICE CRUM, JR.: I know there's a lot of receivers on the field. I've seen that much. But, I mean, they did pretty good, was it last night? Saturday night, when they played against Cincinnati, from what I saw, I think they were a pretty good team. And they're definitely a really good opponent.
DAVID GRIMES: We also know they're a quality opponent and they're tough to beat at home. I think their record at home is 22-4 in the last 26 games. So they're definitely a quality opponent.
Q. Does it feel weird to be playing a Bowl game at somebody else's, basically their home?
MAURICE CRUM, JR.: Yeah, in a way. When we played in the Sugar Bowl it was close to that, too. But the Hawaii, that is their home, and then they're really good at home. But I mean for us it's just like another business trip. We're going to get on a plane and get ready to go and prepare like we always do and just count on that.
Q. The team had a say, but there are some Notre Dame fans questioning whether Notre Dame should play (indiscernible), do you have an opinion on that at all?
DAVID GRIMES: No opinion.
MAURICE CRUM, JR.: No.
Q. How much does that Bowl-losing streak weigh on you guys at this point? Is it something that's at the top of the list to end, something you guys think about at all? How does that play into this whole preparation time?
DAVID BRUTON: For me, personally, I'm 0-2 playing here in a Bowl. So I want to end my streak. And the overall Notre Dame record in a Bowl, it does weigh a little bit, but in the grand scheme of things I just want to handle what's going on now and the fact that I'm 0-2 in a Bowl.
Q. Mo, it seems to me, and maybe you wouldn't agree, but it seems to me this is a chance to really get a gauge on where the younger guys are as far as support of Charlie Weis and support of the program and whatnot, a lot of different distractions going on and out in Hawaii. What do you want to see from the young guys? What attitude do you want to see them take? What do you hope to see from those guys?
MAURICE CRUM, JR.: What I'm looking forward to seeing is just seeing those guys essentially just show what they're going to do next year. Because those guys are no longer young guys at this point. Most of those guys have become juniors and sophomores with years under their belt and a ton of playing time. So the Bowl games are the kind of games where you start to see the bright spots going into next year.
Q. How important is it? I know there's obviously the off season and a big gap in between, but can you take some momentum away from this Bowl game? How important is this game in terms of that?
MAURICE CRUM, JR.: I think it's very important going into next year and next season for those guys just because it lets you know -- you can only be judged from your last time out. And for those guys, that's their last time out. And I really do think that the better they do, the better they'll do next year.
Q. Since all you guys are seniors, and obviously there are All-Star games to be played as well, the fact that it's on the 24th, does that weigh into it, too, that you guys might get some time off before any All-Star games that you may or may not have been invited to/accepted?
MAURICE CRUM, JR.: Yeah, definitely I think so. Just because, I mean, an opportunity to have any kind of time to take a break or to let your body rest, essentially, before you go against really, really good competition I think is very vital and it helps out a lot.
Q. Have you guys been invited to any games yet?
DAVID BRUTON: Yeah.
MAURICE CRUM, JR.: I think the East/West game for me.
DAVID BRUTON: The Senior Bowl.
DAVID GRIMES: Not yet.
BRIAN HARDIN: All right. Thanks everyone.
"As we entered this year, I strived to be more balanced as a head coach, managing all three facets of the game -- offense, defense and special teams. During the 2007 season, we were a young, inexperienced team. I felt we were non-competitive in several games and all three facets of the team contributed to this. After our struggles, as the head coach, I envisioned being more involved in all three facets rather than primarily with the offense.
"This season, the defense has proven to have made considerable progress and has put us in a position to be able to win every single game. I have been pleased with Corwin (Brown) running the defense with guidance from Jon (Tenuta). The successful relationship between these two has allowed me to not have to spend time equally on defense as the other two facets, instead shifting my time, first to special teams and most recently to offense.
"Though I have seen considerable improvement on offense and special teams over (2007), I feel my time is best spent in these two areas, where I have built considerable expertise during my coaching career. Until we are performing at the highest level, I owe it to the team and the coaching staff to concentrate on these two areas, while also overseeing the program as a whole."
He was upbeat Tuesday following a meeting with the school's president, AD and the head of its board of trustees to get an update on plans to expand the Bearcats' small football stadium and to improve their practice fields.
Kelly acknowledged that other schools had expressed an interest in him, but said he's not interested in leaving.
"All I can say is that with all the speculation and all the jobs that have been out there, sooner or later 'no' means 'no,"' Kelly said. "Again, no one can ever speak in terms of forever and ever, but what I can tell you is there's been a lot of interest in my services, and I want to be here at the University of Cincinnati because of the right reasons."
The Bearcats (10-2) won the Big East title this season, sending them to the first BCS bowl in school history. A win Saturday at Hawaii would set a school record for victories in a season.
Kelly has been mentioned for other coaching jobs since late last season, when he revived Cincinnati's moribund program. He led the Bearcats to 10 wins, matching the school record, and a No. 17 final ranking that was their highest for the end of a season.
Despite losing his two experienced quarterbacks to injuries, Kelly led the Bearcats to another breakthrough season this year. Their current No. 13 ranking matches their best ever -- they also made it that high in 1954.
Recently, Kelly's name has been mentioned for numerous openings, including those at Tennessee and Washington. Tennessee filled its job by hiring Lane Kiffin on Monday.
With its basketball program still trying to recover from the fallout of coach Bob Huggins' ouster, the university has made it a priority to keep Kelly, who set a Big East title as his goal when he arrived on Dec. 4, 2006, and was able to deliver one within two years.
Using the core of a team recruited by Mark Dantonio, who is now at Michigan State, Kelly has taken the program to new heights in each of his two seasons.
He got a new contract after his first year, paying him a guaranteed $1.2 million this season. Bonuses for winning the Big East, boosting attendance and other accomplishments will push his total pay this season to around $1.5 million. His deal runs through 2012.
The Bearcats play and practice at on-campus Nippert Stadium, which holds 35,000 -- by far the conference's smallest -- and lacks modern amenities such as luxury boxes. When his contract was renegotiated a year ago, Kelly made upgrading the facilities one of the deal's terms.
The school is obligated to build a covered practice field -- the Cincinnati Bengals don't have one of those -- by next December. If it fails to do so, Kelly's contract buyout is reduced by half.
"As you know, I have some contractual stipulations relative to those facilities," Kelly said. "Right now, we feel pretty good that we're on schedule for it."
Mike Thomas, the school's athletic director, also told Kelly on Tuesday that the school also will raise money to upgrade Nippert Stadium. Architects are looking into options for renovation and expansion. There is no estimate yet about how many fans it will seat, how much the project will cost or when it will be completed.
"Coach Kelly and the success he's had here has really put things on the fast track for us," Thomas said. "The things that are important to Brian are absolutely important to me, things that were really on the agenda before Brian Kelly arrived here. But success breeds these kinds of opportunities."
Evans: Weis not going anywhere
As the first of Notre Dame's verbal commitments to receive an in-home visit from Weis, Evans wasted little time asking about Weis' future in South Bend.
"I asked him about his job status," Evans said. "He told me he's good to go; he'll be there. He said he made sure he's good before he left and it's just the media spreading that he's going to get fired. He said if he didn't know if he was going to be there or not he would tell me. It makes me feel good that he'll be there."
Evans wasn't the only one asking Weis questions during the two-hour visit.
"My mom has talked to him on the phone, but she liked him in person too. She said he was nice and knowledgeable," Evans said. "My grandma, she thought it went well. She was very protective and asked a lot of questions. She thought it went well."
Weis spent most of his time discussing Notre Dame and the benefits of attending the school.
"He was just letting everybody know what Notre Dame's all about and how much of a good fit it is for me," Evans said. "He was trying to get in good with the family."
There was also some discussion of playing time.
"He said I'd play whatever position will get me on the field the fastest," Evans said. "He said I can play inside and they can move me outside. He said I could be playing early, but not fast enough because I want to play when I get there."
Now that Evans knows Weis will remain in South Bend, the Rivals100 pick can focus on the next chapter of his life. That begins with next month's U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
"This week I'll start training for the game and get a good three to four weeks in before I go," he said.
Evans said he leaves for San Antonio on Dec. 28 and that it seems like just yesterday that he was a junior participating in the All-American Combine trying to earn a spot in the Bowl Game.
"It feels good," he said. "That was my goal and I accomplished it. I wanted to get back there. It came around fast."