June 12, 2012
AUBURN -- A transcript of today's press conference with Auburn head football coach Gene Chizik:
"I think that everybody knows and understands that this has been an incredibly difficult 72 hours for a lot of people, starting with the six victims and their family and friends.
"I want everybody to be mindful that there are six victims and a lot of family and friends that have had an incredibly difficult 72 hours. The whole Auburn community, the whole Auburn family is devastated in the passing of three young men. We're devastated that two of the young men we obviously know very well, Ladarious Phillips and Ed Christian. It's just hard to put into words the difficulty that a lot of people are facing right now. It's hard to stand up here and figure out and navigate these uncharted waters for all of us, and I want to say that our thoughts and prayers and everything that we can do for the victims' families is our number one priority right now.
"On the night of the incident there were so many people that I appreciate that did a really nice job of communicating with us and trying to keep us up to speed with what was going on. I want to say that our law enforcement agency here in the Auburn police department, and Chief Tommy Dawson, did a great job of communicating with us as quick as possible. I appreciate that. I really appreciate the media -- you guys and how respectful you all have been in terms of respecting the privacy of the victims and respecting the privacy of our football team to be quite honest. I would really appreciate if you would continue to be respectful of that.
"I've got a team of 120-something-odd players right now that are trying to navigate a lot of questions that aren't answered. We're trying to do that as a coaching staff and I think the Auburn community is trying to do the same thing.
"With respect to the ongoing investigation, obviously we can't go into a lot of details of really anything, but I think it's pretty obvious that we've got a long road ahead of us right now, and it's a long road of grieving for a lot of different people and we're all trying to figure out exactly how to do that, and everybody's got their own way of doing it.
"Right now this is really a day-by-day process for the athletic department. I think it's a day-by-day process for friends and family of the victims and, like I said, our heart and our prayers go out to those families. Our number one goal, again, is to support those families, support the friends of those families, to do whatever we can as an athletic department to reach out and help. My number one goal is to try to provide some type of aid and counseling and things of that nature for 18- to 20-year-olds, many who haven't experienced anything like this, and try to find them a way to navigate this world. It's hard enough for grown adults who are 40, 50, and 60 years old, and we've got a whole team trying to figure this thing out, so another top priority for us is trying to get our guys some help. Today we talked to a couple of players about coming in here and seeing if they felt comfortable talking to the media for a brief period of time and it just wasn't the right time. It's pretty obvious that the several young men that we asked, they're not ready to do this; I'm not ready to do this, but that's part of my job. That's kind of where we're at.
"Again, it's just a tough period of time. There are not a lot of answers to anything right now, but we're going to continue day by day to do the things that we can to navigate this world, but again it's a day-by-day process. With that, I'm going to open this up to questions."
On first hearing the news...
"I can't go into a lot of the details. Like I said Auburn law enforcement, starting with Chief Dawson, did a fantastic job of communicating with me that night, and again I can't go into a lot of the details, but I'm very appreciative of the way that unfolded. We were on top of it from the beginning and the communication was flawless in terms of us staying abreast of everything that was happening and as you can imagine the emotion is what any of you would feel in here. It's disbelief, it's outrage, it's devastation. It's really hard to express exactly all the emotions that go through you when you hear something that is so outrageous, just very difficult to believe. Again, I felt the communication process with law enforcement was very good, very professional.
On first contact with players...
"This was college students at a gathering. They were gathering together to watch the NBA playoffs and so it wasn't like it happened at 2:30 in the morning. It happened almost at 10:00 at night, so obviously there was a lot of people awake and a lot of people around. With social media right now, things got out quick, but we did what we thought in a timely fashion was the best way to communicate with our players, again without going into a lot of detail, at that moment my first concern was to make sure everybody on our football team along with anybody else that was near the incident was safe. Obviously at that time it's hard to gather up a whole team full of guys. You don't know who's out of town, who's in town, your first thought it protect your players, protect anybody who's even close to the incident. Without going into the details of how we did that, that was our first plan of action, trying to get everybody into a good place. That's what we did, but we knew about It shortly after the incident occurred and that was good communication."
On the message sent to the players...
"Basically that everybody needs to get back to your dorm, get back to your apartment, get back home."
On meeting with the players Sunday evening...
"We weren't able to have a meeting until the next day. So we had a team meeting the next day. It was a very difficult meeting. There were a lot of emotions spilled out from a lot of different people. Some of our guys talked. I tried to explain to our guys that this is a grieving process and that there's no right and there's no wrong, and there's no guilt in that, one way or the other.
"There's going to be a lot of solemn faces, there's going to be a lot of I don't know how to act in this moment and all of that is right. There's nothing that's wrong with that. We tried to impart to them that we're going to do everything that we can as an athletic department to get them help, to get them counseling, to get them whatever they need, but there was a lot of devastation in the room, and it was a pretty lengthy team meeting, and a lot of emotions from coaches and players. It was a very, very difficult first meeting after the incident, so again we gave the players a chance to say what they thought and felt and all of that was very fair. They needed to do that.
"We got up and expressed how we felt as coaches and at the end it was a good meeting simply because we all needed to be on the same page with where we're at and with how we felt, and that no matter how you felt that was ok. The long and short of the message of the meeting was we're going to make sure we take this day by day and that we're going to try to help any way we can. Be mindful that there were six victims, and even though three of them were past or present football players there's still six victims here and this is something where we need to reach out to a lot of people and so I think they understood that."
On how Eric Mack is doing...
"He is expected to make a full recovery. He is up walking around. His mother is here in town. For the circumstances, both of them are in an OK place. I think he feels very blessed that he was able to walk away from it. Again, we are hoping for him to have a full recovery. What happens from here in regards to football is neither here nor there. It is about the fact that the young man is going to be OK."
On what colleges might do to protect the student-athletes...
"We try to educate our guys on a lot of things. This is one of the safest college communities in the country. U.S. News and World Report comes out with a report that talks about how Auburn is in one of the top-10 places to live in the United States a couple of years ago. It is an isolated incident and it makes no sense. We try to educate our guys daily no different than what I would do with my own children. Looking for the signs of things that may become dangerous or may become a situation where you need to leave now, that is what we talk about all the time.
"Again, this was some college students gathering to watch a NBA playoff game. You should be able to go out there and watch a game, and be able to be safe doing it. In this particular incident, it was not. I don't know that there is any magical teaching moment for somebody to recognize when somebody is going to do what they did. It is very hurtful."
Is there any concern that any of the guys who were there won't be ready for football season...
"I am not worried about football season. I don't care about football season. This is not about football season. This meeting is about young guys who are trying to get past a very tragic event. To me, it is neither here nor there whether it's football season or next football season or 18 months from now, I want to get these guys healthy as fast as I can get them healthy. So there is no timeline on that.
"As I have said earlier, I have one goal. My one goal is to provide anything we can to anybody that was affected whether they were there or not there, whether they were their best friend or if they were kind of their friend. My number one goal is to help make sure these guys get the help they need to get over this at whatever point the grieving process kicks in and they find a way to get through this. There is no timeline on this. There is no time limit. I don't care about football season. It is the last thing on my mind. I have a whole football team and six victims that I am concerned about."
Are the players are using the counseling services...
"Absolutely. We had them up and available on Sunday at our team meeting. They have been using them. All of the services we have provided them, they have been using them. They are going to continue to use them for as long as they need to."
On how much contact he has had with Ladarious Phillips' family and Ed Christian's family...
"I am not going to go into a lot of detail, but a lot. It has been a great communication process in terms of myself, their families and the athletic department. Again, when I say our number one goal is to do whatever we can for the victims and their families, that is what we mean. There has been great communication with both Ladarious' family and Ed's family."
Are you going to the funeral services as a team?
"We, as an athletic department, are going to be providing transportation for everybody in the athletic department that wants to attend the services. We are going to provide that opportunity."
On Ladarious and Ed...
"These are two fine, young men. They were two good men. They had a whole life ahead of them. It wasn't about whether they were a good player or a bad player or they got hurt or they didn't get hurt. They were just two great young men. It was a pleasure for me to be able to recruit them. It was a pleasure for me to be around two guys that were fine young men."
On if he has heard anything from the University of Alabama and other schools...
"I have a whole list of people and things that have called and things of that nature that I have not been able to get back to and that certainly could have happened. There have been a bunch of people that have reached out and they have been fantastic. But, as you can imagine, our plate is full right now, so I don't know whether that has occurred or not."
On if he was the one who had to inform Ladarious' and Ed's family...
"I really don't want to get into the details of how that unfolded, but I was definitely in communication with some families Saturday night."