Dec. 8, 2011
Chick-fil-A Bowl Invitation Press Conference
December 8, 2011
Gary Stokan, President and CEO, Chick-fil-A Bowl
"Thank you for being here today. We're certainly honored and privileged to be on the campus of Auburn University to extend this invitation. A little bit about our selection criteria of why we chose Auburn. Our belief is that bowl games are rewards for the players. Having participated as a student athlete in basketball in college and coached in college, I think it's awfully important for all of us in the bowl games to understand that we're here to create memories for the college student athletes. Not everybody gets to play in a bowl game, and maybe over their four-year term, they might not play in a bowl game, but when they do, we want it to make a memorable experience. That's how we think. We have a theme that we use during the week, and it's "Live, laugh and learn." We think it's important that the kids live right. We have a great hotel for them to stay in. Auburn will be staying in the Hilton. They'll eat great meals, first class events, we'll give great gifts. Laugh; we don't have banquets, we have functions that are a Family Feud that's a lot of fun. We have a Battle for Bowl Week at all of our different events. Every day there's a different Battle for Bowl Week for the players to participate because at the end of the day, they're competitors, and they like to compete. Whether it's making milkshakes, like the offensive lines of both teams will participate against each other, shooting hoops, various events during the week that we'll do. Then learn, we think it's important that we also use this as a learning experience for student athletes. We'll take them to the Martin Luther King (Jr.) Center (for Nonviolent Social Change) where they'll hear from Congressman John Lewis, who as a student was very instrumental in playing a role in the civil rights movement with Dr. King. They'll also go to the Martin Luther King (Jr.) Center (for Nonviolent Social Change) where Dr. King gave his first homily and speech. They'll also go to Children's Healthcare (of Atlanta) where a lot of the kids that are in that hospital will never get out of the hospital, so they'll be able to give back during the season. We think that's important for the players.
"Our selection of Auburn, obviously we think the players need to find themselves playing into the game or out of our game, so it's not a decision we make, it's the teams make those decisions. We felt like Auburn made that decision easy for us by beating South Carolina, a top-10 team, on the road; playing the 11th toughest schedule in the country and losing games to five top-ranked teams that are in the top-15 and finishing with a 7-5 record, 4-4 in conference; being the defending national champs and being the reigning coach of the year; and being ranked 25th in the BCS. For all of those reasons, we thought Auburn would be a great addition to the 44th Chick-fil-A Bowl. Obviously, we hope that we get a similar kind of game as we had in 2007 when Clemson and Auburn played to an overtime game that Auburn won. We think that Auburn, being one of the top young teams in the country playing another top-ranked young team in the country in Virginia, will make for an exciting matchup.
"A little bit about our bowl information. Our total pay-out is $6.9 million this year. With this pay out, that will be $110 million total that the Chick-fil-A bowl has given to universities across this country in 44 years, which is kind of remarkable. Sell outs, we do not have any tickets left. The only tickets left are with the University of Virginia and Auburn University, and we think those will go fast and quick so that we'll have our 15th-straight sell out. Only the Rose Bowl has sold out more continuous times than the Chick-fil-A Bowl. TV, this is a great game if you want exposure. We're on New Year's Eve in prime time in an unopposed TV time slot. We own four of the top-10 telecasts in ESPN history, and it's because we're in prime time, and we're unopposed. Where a lot of bowl games play against each other, we're unopposed. Last year, to give you an example, we had 8.4 million people watching at one time. For a non-BCS bowl, that's pretty high ratings. We're awfully proud of that, and Auburn will be the beneficiary of that. Competition-wise, close to 60 percent of our games have been decided by a touchdown or less. We typically get a close game, and that's why we get high ratings. We think that we'll have a similar type of game this year. This is our 20th anniversary of hosting the ACC and the SEC, and the ACC leads with 10 wins, and the SEC has nine wins, so Auburn can get it tied back up 10-10 here with a victory in our game.
"We also think our bowl game's a great reward for fans. We truly believe in southern hospitality. We enjoy hosting people in Atlanta, and for the fans, which we think Auburn has one of the top-10 fan bases in the country and passionate fans, you can follow us on Facebook and Twitter on social media. There's a U Post, if you go on Chick-fil-ABowl.com, where you can provide some support for your team. We'll also be holding a Spirit Day here in Auburn on December 17, from 12:30-1:30 at the Chick-fil-A on Magnolia Avenue right across from Auburn. We do have some events for fans if you go on our website. A couple of them just to mention, one is the (Chick-fil-A Bowl Fan Night at the Georgia Aquarium). The world's largest aquarium is in Atlanta and certainly a fun event for fans to come to town and go to the aquarium. Then our FanFest. In 2001, we hosted Auburn, and we started a new tradition. You guys have a great Tiger Walk, and we implemented that in 2001 with our FanFest, and we've continued that every year. At FanFest this year, we'll continue Tiger Walk for the fans to greet Coach Chizik and the players as they walk into the (Georgia) Dome and right into the locker room. Then lastly we have a parade the day of the game, which is a fun parade that goes through Centennial Olympic Park. So that's pretty much why we selected Auburn.
"A little background on our bowl game and where we stand within the bowl structure, I will say that the mission of the Chick-fil-A Bowl is to be the most charitable bowl game in the country. We take it very seriously, and we have dispersed $1.2 million this year to charitable and scholarship donations. We also have given $12 million since 2002, and this year we already have a $100,000 scholarship under the Chick-fil-A Bowl endowed to Auburn University. We are going to add to that, but the Bowl will give $50,000 and add to that endowment and Chick-fil-A will match that, so we will add another $100,000 to the Chick-fil-A Bowl endowment here at Auburn University.
"Lastly, before I provide the invitation, we want to remind everybody that we will also be hosting Auburn again to kick off the college football season in 2012 versus Clemson, and that will be the rubber match, as Auburn won last year and Clemson won this year, so we are looking forward to kicking off the season next year with Auburn back in Atlanta.
"Now, what I would like to do is extend the official invitation in a letter form to Jay Jacobs to invite the SEC representative, Auburn University, to play in the 44th Chick-fil-A Bowl."
Jay Jacobs, Auburn University Athletic Director
"That's very kind, Gary. Thank you so much for being here, and we accept the invitation on behalf of Dr. (Jay) Gogue and our board of trustees at Auburn University. We are excited about playing in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. A couple of things, one is that we all appreciate the philanthropic heart of Chick-fil-A. Here, just locally not far from here, they have a WinShape home where they have a home for children who don't have a place to live, and I know that's close to Mr. Truett Cathy's heart, and we appreciate that very much. Also, the $100,000 gift that they make to the general scholarship fund at Auburn University. Auburn University has set a priority for giving students scholarship opportunities and, certainly, this $100,000 will certainly go toward giving some young people a chance to come to Auburn, so we thank you for that.
"We are excited about the opportunity to play. We have two young teams playing. One will be wearing blue, the other will be wearing orange, so it will be a fun night. Gary mentioned the ticket sales. Our donors had the opportunity to buy tickets until midnight last night, so sometime today we will open up the few tickets that we have left for the general public or for donors to buy additional tickets. We will be getting that out, so we encourage all of you to go to the Auburn site to buy tickets and support Auburn Athletics in this bowl.
"Again, thank you. We accept the invitation and look forward to a great night on New Year's Eve, unopposed on ESPN national television. War Eagle, God bless and thank you."
Head Coach Gene Chizik
"On behalf of Auburn and our board of trustees and Jay Jacobs and myself, we had a team meeting Tuesday to kind of talk through the details of the bowl game, and they're fired up. Our football team is fired up. Our fans are fired up, our coaches, everybody is very excited about this. Really, one neat thing, as I've kind of done a little bit of research on, is that you play in a lot of different bowl games over your life, and it's really neat to be playing in one where, we tell our team all the time that you aren't put on this earth to be served, but to serve, and it's really cool that that's what a large part of this bowl game. So that's really neat, and in doing my research on that, I think that's extremely cool for our players too.
"Our football team, as I said, our coaches, myself, we are just thrilled. It's going to be really neat that it's close where our fans will obviously be able to have a great New Year's Eve, and to be able come out and watch a great football game. I know the history of the ACC vs. the SEC in this match up traditionally over the years has been kind of a neat match up. There haven't been a lot of points that have separated these teams on most occasions. That being said, we are excited about it, and I want to thank you. Our players are very humbled. Our university is very humbled that we get an opportunity to play in a great game, and we get the opportunity to play against a great opponent. I think it will be a really nice match up, and doing some homework and looking at Virginia some, I think that its two teams that are going to be very similar in nature, which will be good. They're a great representative. They've had some great wins, a win on the road at Florida State and a win on the road at Miami. They've had some great wins this season. We know they do a great job coaching. They have some really good players, so it is going to be a great challenge for us, but again we are looking forward to getting back into the practice mode and getting back into preparing to win another game. That is what we are doing, so it's a great opportunity for us to get back out on the practice field, and we are really embracing that opportunity and every opportunity we get. Again, we are excited. We will practice here before Christmas and then we will turn them loose and go meet in Atlanta. I know we will have a great four or five days there with what the Chick-fil-A Bowl representatives have planned for us. So again, I think that all ties into a neat bowl, and it's going to be real exciting for our players, so again I want to say thank you, and we are very much looking forward to it."
On if the bowl game will affect the timeline for hiring a new defensive coordinator...
"We found one, me, for this week. Just real quick, a quick snippet about that, I'll be serving as the defensive coordinator for the bowl game. I don't put timelines out there for any of those types of issues. We're always going to take our time and do our due diligence when it comes to finding the right fit for Auburn, so we'll do that. But, I will be serving as the defensive coordinator for this game."
On if he fears losing out on any possible defensive coordinator candidates if he waits too long to make a hire...
"Again, we are going to do our due diligence, and we'll identify who those people are that we feel like are potentials for us. It doesn't mean we won't be working in that direction, but we'll do our due diligence, and, again, we'll make sure we have the right guy whenever that is."
On how his responsibilities change being the defensive coordinator...
"We'll work through the structure of all that, but obviously my time consumed is going to be a large part with that as we know. But, again, I will be involved as I always am in other aspects as well. We'll put that structure and how that is going to work together. We are not quite there yet, but we are going to start practicing next week, and we will have it all in place by then."
On who will coach the linebackers...
"Again, we are kind of working through that, the details of everything right now aren't necessarily in place, but we will have those in place, obviously, by the end of the week."
On if he will not name a defensive coordinator replacement before the bowl game...
"No, I'll never say that. I'll never say that, but it would be really hard for a guy to come in here and be the defensive coordinator in a week. Again, this is the plan we have, and we feel good about it, and we'll be working diligently in that direction. Again, I'm not going to put a timeline on any of that."
On his approach for the bowl game...
"My approach is that we want to win our eighth game of the year. That's our first priority. No question about it. Everything that we are going to do is going to be based on what we need to do to get our eighth win. If that entails young guys getting worked in there more than normal, then so be it. Obviously, we would like to take any extra time we have to develop the rest of our football team, but at the end of the day we've got one goal and that is to win our eighth game."
On Auburn's quarterback situation...
"We have several numbers of practices. We have a window of time to practice all of our young guys, so whether it's quarterback, or corner, or guard, or tight end, it doesn't matter. We'll work the guys and, at the end of the day, we are going to play the guys that give us the best chance to win. That's at every position."
On if there are any players who he knows will not be available for the bowl game...
"There's none that I'm aware of right now."
On the possibility of the bowl game building momentum going into 2012...
"I think there's no question that's certainly is the case. Have we had that conversation at this point in time? No, we have not. We have talked through exam week and leading up to the bowl game and what bowl game we are going to, but that will eventually be a message because it is important. It's not the tell-all tale of what's to come as we know that, but for us it's important to get our eighth win. For us to get our eighth win and win 30 games in three years, averaging 10 a year, that's a big deal for us, so that's where we want to get to."
On if he will have anybody temporarily involved with recruiting until he fills the defensive coordinator position...
"We are working through the details of that, too. Those are all part of the equation and, again, we do not have anything solidified completely yet. There's different variables out there, different options, so we are working through those, and we'll get to them pretty quick, but we're not there yet."
On how Auburn's defense will be different with Chizik operating as the defensive coordinator...
"I am going to make sure that the first thing that we put out there is a team that is ready for whatever Virginia gives us, so whatever that looks like that could be different, it could be the same, it could be a little of both. It is all going to be dependent upon once we break Virginia down and have a great feel for what they are trying to do offensively, then, obviously, we are going to put on the field what we think gives us the best chance to stop it."
On Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn interviewing for other jobs...
"I've got a contingency plan for any of my coaches that happen to get other jobs. That's what you do as a head coach. You always have a short list of every position on your staff that you could have to fill, so that's no different than anybody that would leave on our staff, so I've always got a short list. I think as a head coach, if you talk to most head coaches, they always have that available years in advance."
On the criteria he will use in selecting a defensive coordinator...
"My criteria is that I want to get a defensive coordinator at Auburn that fits Auburn the best and can stop the opponent. I don't know where he might come from, but those are two very important components of the guy I would like to hire."
On if any of the players who have been injured will be available when practice begins...
"We hope so. There could be. There are some guys that are right on the edge there where you hope they might be able to practice or start practice. We'll see how they are progressing as we go and then we will have to make a decision from there, but there are a couple of guys that have been dinged up, banged up that might really be able to come back and contribute."