JAMES FRANKLIN (Vanderbilt head coach)
“First off I want to thank the BBVA Compass Bowl. We’ve had a great experience. Everything has been done in a first class manner from the luncheon today to the Civil Rights Museum, to the hotel, we’ve been treated extremely, extremely well and we are unbelievably grateful and appreciative for the opportunity.
We are really excited about the game. We talk all the time as a program and for us, it’s about this family being able to stay together as long as we possibly can. These guys right here, Jordan Matthews who’s a true senior, and Walker May who is a redshirt senior – we’ve only got so much time left with them. We’re going to appreciate every minute we have – that’s in meeting rooms, in the hotel, on the football field. Both of these guys have had unbelievable careers for us and we are so proud of them. Both of them have their degrees and have graduated from Vanderbilt. They’re true student-athletes and great examples of everything we’re trying to do, and both of them are going to leave a legacy.
You think about what’s really happened in these guys’ short period of time; I think if I’m correct I am Walker’s third head coach that he had in his Vanderbilt career. Walker’s first two years they go 2-10 and the fact that these two guys and the rest of the seniors and the rest of that team were able to persevere and put us in a position now to go to three-straight bowl games. Last year we won nine games; Vanderbilt hadn't won nine games since 1915, and to have the opportunity on Saturday to put two nine-win seasons together is really special. Our coaching staff recognizes that it’s all about the players. We couldn't be more proud of these two guys.”
What a win on this kind of stage would mean for the program moving forward
“I think the fact that it is a Saturday game really helps in terms of people traveling to the game, all our fans and alumni all over the country being able to get here really helps. We’re also excited because it gives us an opportunity to connect with our huge alumni base, which is very, very important. One of our biggest challenges since we arrived is perception – changing local perception, regional perception and ultimately national perception about what Vanderbilt is and what it stands for. A game like this gives you an opportunity to do that in a tremendous venue.”
I think the other thing that’s exciting, as we all know, is that the SEC takes so much pride in general in their conference. If you look around the country, whenever anybody from the SEC or a fan of the SEC is watching an SEC game, they are typically routing for that SEC opponent. I know we’re going to have the whole state of Alabama supporting us as well against Houston.”
TONY LEVINE (Houston head coach)
“First of all, Happy New Year to everybody. I see some familiar faces. I appreciate everybody being here this afternoon. It’s an exciting time for us. We talked about this weeks ago that this time would come quickly. Before we left on Tuesday we talked about it again in our program that this week would fly by and it certainly has. We have a great time here in Birmingham. The hospitality has been outstanding. We have had some opportunities to attend some events in the really, relatively short time that we have been here. It has been tremendous for our student-athletes, staff, and coaches, as well. We are looking forward to the game tomorrow. It is going to be a great challenge for our program. We have a lot of respect for Coach Franklin, his staff; the job they have done there and certainly student-athletes at Vanderbilt and the season they have had so far. It’s going to be a great challenge and one we are certainly looking forward to.”
On being the only bowl game being played that day and being broadcast on ESPN
“Well, it is a great… I use the word opportunity. It will give us great exposure. There are 35 bowl games. I believe we are playing in the 33rd of the 35 bowl games. It is always an honor to play a bowl game in January. Again, the way it works out it we are the only college football game tomorrow. It will be on ESPN, 12 p.m., noon kickoff. A great opportunity for us to really showcase our student-athletes. We look at it, to a point, as a reward to our hard work, dedication that they put in this semester. Again, it’s going to be fun to go out and show everybody what Houston football is all about.”
On what kind of name Vanderbilt football has
“Vanderbilt football has a great name. Again, I always smile when there is a matchups, whether it is bowl season or not, at any level and you see it on the ticker. For instance, all-time series or the last time these two teams played in 1929 and this team won. To say Houston has been in x amount of bowl games and Vanderbilt has been in seven, it really has no bearing on what the outcome of this football game tomorrow. We have a tremendous amount of respect for Coach Franklin, his staff.
When you talk about Vanderbilt and the season they have had, some victories come to my mind off the top of my head the wins they had over Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee. Even the four that they were short on were very close games, as well. We have a great amount of respect. The thing you do as a football coach when you’re evaluating an opponent is, regardless of history or tradition, you put the video tape on. Certainly this time of the year you have a lot with them playing 12 games. They have very, very talented student-athletes in all three phases; offense, defense, and special teams. There are many reasons why they had such a tremendous season this season. You look at last year, they won nine games. I said this earlier; it is going to be a great challenge for us as a program. They are in the Southeastern Conference, everybody knows that. People can argue that it is one of the top, not if the top, conference in the country. It is something we are certainly looking forward to. It seems like long ago that we played the day after Thanksgiving in our final game of the regular season. I like the preparation we have had up to this point. I like the focus of our student-athletes this week.”