Kevin Sumlin: Thank you. First of all, thank you for [everything]. Texas A&M’s extremely excited to be here at the AT&T Cotton Bowl. I can’t tell you after the year that we had to come to Dallas [is great]. The hospitality’s been fantastic at the [Hilton] Anatole. I want to thank our practice facility and SMU and Highland Park, those guys putting up with us the last couple days. For our fans, the location, the venue, everything that is going on in our time slot Friday night with the viewership nationally it’s going to be a great atmosphere at Cowboys Stadium. And as I said, we’re excited to be here and looking forward to playing.
Bob Stoops: Thank you, Peter. Like Kevin, I would just compliment everybody, Tommy Bane, Rick Baker, all of you that’s associated with the Cotton Bowl. You do things in a first class manner. It’s been a fabulous week that way. Practice at Cowboys Stadium or staying at the Gaylord Texan, fabulous hotel, everything has just been fantastic. The players have really enjoyed it, so we appreciate all your hard work and our players have really handled themselves great this week in meetings, practice, all that. They understand it’s a big challenge facing Texas A&M. Kevin has done a great job there. I congratulate him on a great year here this year as well, so our guys are excited about the challenge of it, looking forward to it as our fans are. Again, I think everybody knows, I believe, with the game sold out on the first day. So, we’re gonna have a great number of fans that are here and excited about the game and the venue. I know the players are, and so we’re also just looking forward to Friday.
Question for both of you: Bob, you kind of threw Kevin under the bus on the recruiting of Justin Blackmon. Could we address that, and also...
Stoops: Really, that’s the first question?
But also I wonder if you guys could talk about being as close of friends as you are, you guys have a lot of recruiting battles. You kind of stolen each other’s players over the last couple years. Is that uneasy for you guys as coaches to be involved in stuff like that?
Stoops: I like Kevin, but business is business. I mean we’re still friends, but you got to do your job. So, as long as we’re not doing anything unethical. And so we understand that that’s just the competitive world we live in.
Sumlin: Yeah, there’s no doubt. You know, like he said, as long as you’re not doing anything unethical, you’re friends. It’s like playing golf. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. You might get upset a little bit, but you’re gonna come back to it. That’s just the way it is.
Stoops: Oh, there’s nothing to talk about there. Are you kidding me? That’s a long time ago.
You make a lot about you have so much extra time to get ready for an opponent in the bowl game. Do you really add that much? Is there time to add some additional offense or defense or do you pretty much have to hold to what you got?
Sumlin: You know me. Even if that was the case, I wouldn’t tell you. No, the time factor from this point to the 4th, I think, has helped us a little bit with all the ordeals that are going on. It gave us some time. You know, that four days past New Years has been helpful for us just because there’s so many guys running around all over the place [in] early December. So, I think how you manage that becomes important and players put in the work. When I was at Oklahoma, the later the game if you do stuff too early, players get bored. You got to keep them interested. And like you said, I think also the way things are done here at the Cotton Bowl outside of football practice allows you to focus on what you’re doing because other kids are having a great, fabulous time and being treated in a first class manner. So, that all fits together.
Stoops: Like any time you play, you can add a wrinkle or two. I think everybody does when you have this amount of time. But you do sometimes even if you’re on a weekly basis, you have a wrinkle or two that you just kinda add to fit what you’re doing. I think early on, for instance, moving forward early on in practice you either work on some things that you plan on doing next year that you may not even put on the field in this game with some of the younger players. So, you know, for instance those are some things we did early on with some of our quarterbacks that maybe are more run based, can run the ball as well as throw it so start tinkering with that.
Kevin, when you got to College Station and you got to know your personnel, did you realize what you had in Johnny Manziel or did you have to wait till fall on Saturdays to find it out?
Sumlin: Well, based on the fact that we didn’t name a starting quarterback until two weeks before the first game, I don’t think in the spring we had an idea. You know, we talked to him in the spring and just about taking care of the ball. He’s obviously very talented, but there were a lot of things that he needed to work on from a ball security standpoint and he continued to work through that in the summer and through two-a-days. I mean you never really know, particularly with a freshman and so many new parts going into a game. But the first day that we had a game day type atmosphere with everybody there and we’re playing Florida, Johnny responded early in the game. You had to feel like he had a chance to be a good player. As things played out the rest of the year—you didn’t know that was going to happen—but as well as he played, I think he’ll be the first one to tell you that he can improve and work and improve. And that’s probably his best characteristic, that he’s honest with himself and he’s probably a little harder on himself than we are, and he’s a great player.
Bob, you’re—just noticing on this video board that’s scrolling the statistics—you’re second in all-time wins at OU. And I got to thinking about it, did you ever envision that you’d pass Bud Wilkinson and Barry Switzer? I mean half a season away. Did you ever, when you started your coaching career, that you’d be the winningest head coach at a major college football program powerhouse like Oklahoma?
Stoops: No, I can’t. I don’t really operate that way of looking long term. I have high expectations. I expect a lot, but I don’t sit there and [do that]. It’s just not how I think, to envision things like that. I’m kind of a day to day, week to week, month to month trying to get better [kind of person]. You know, as a program, as a team and as opposed to, oh, what might happen 15 years down the road. It’s just I think in our business you’re just daily and weekly trying to improve your program and you don’t have time to think of those things. I sure don’t, so I don’t even think about it now. I’m just trying to think about Kevin and A&M here in a few days.
Were you kind of blown away by the fact that you are, though, when you look back at it?
Stoops: Not blown away wouldn’t be the term. I’m still playing and competing, so there’ll be time to think about it somewhere down the road and even then I don’t think much of it. That’s just not liability. You know, I do it because I enjoy the players every day. I enjoy the challenge, the competition, the butterflies come Friday night. So, that’s what you’re after.
For you Coach Sumlin, you talked a lot earlier in the season about how people were doing at A&M and you had to change something about the culture. So my question is twofold, one: what did you feel you needed to change about the culture, and two: why was that so important for you going into that job?
Sumlin: You know, the first thing we did was we didn’t talk about it very much, what happened in the past. So, it seemed to be what everybody wanted to talk about externally, but internally we just didn’t talk about it. And I think in order to—any time you have to get over a hump or clear a hurdle, you gotta win a game in a certain fashion, you know, in a come from behind. Come from behind win at Mississippi, Ole Miss, a lot of those times our seniors [were] guys that had lost a bunch of games like that and to go on the road and win regardless of what you say as a coach, you’ve got to be in that situation to be successful. And I think when that happened, a lot of things changed for our team.
Kevin, as an assistant working for Bob, what did you take away from his day to day preparation that helped you, your journey as a head coach and Bob, what did you see in Kevin?
Sumlin: You know, I think he just heard it talked about a couple minutes ago: how you do things day to day, that you’re building the expectation level. I think coach said that two weeks ago when we were talking about the original press conference. But you could hear it just a couple minutes ago. I think the expectation level of everybody, starting with him, of everybody in this building, coaches, players, is a big, big, big factor. It starts with the coach and all that and how you do that with the involvement of your familes and your own lifestyle, it is a big deal because it’s not like that anymore. And to be successful, to have the amount of success he has had and to do it with the number of coaches that have come out of the program and become head coaches, the number of families that are still close is a testament to how he does it. And winning games is a big part of that, but the other part of the culture and the relationships that go on there are an even bigger part of really the atmosphere that he created or that he creates now.
Stoops: Kevin, you see it in what he is doing now. He is an incredibly bright coach. I knew that. He is competitive, great worker, and I think what Kevin, the best things he brings to Texas A&M or what I always thought is the way he relates with his players and players want to play for him. And he has a way, he’s really brought attitude, I believe, too, to his team. I thought the same thing when he was with us. You know, he brought that attitude and relationships with the players. That is what you need to be successful and compete at a high level.
You maybe touched on this a little bit at first in regards to the longevity question, but it’s really hard to maintain in college football, even for some of the great programs out there. You’ve done a really good job doing that, being consistent over the years and a tied conference championship this year. What’s been the secret at Oklahoma for that long term success?
Stoops: Well, it is difficult. There are ebbs and flows to all programs. You look over the last 14 or 15 years, we have been fortunate to maintain a strong level of championships and bowl games. I credit a great administration. We have a great President in David Boren, a great Athletic Director in Joe Castiglione, who has given us great support. I’ve had great assistant coaches like Kevin Sumlin. We have had good solid players. Fortunately, I believe, too, we have done it the right way and so we’ve been fortunate to maintain a pretty high level of success.
Bob, this is kind of a hindsight question. You coached two Heisman winners in bowls. You faced a Heisman winner in Chris Weinke. Do you think that—how much of a distraction is it coming into bowl preparation having these guys go across the country and all the things that are involved with that trophy?
Stoops: As Kevin said, when you play a later game, it is beneficial to that player. It is a distraction early in December, but then that fades away coming into bowl preparations. I’m sure Kevin has done the same thing; you manage those couple of weeks as to what his obligations are. You go ahead and start to minimize those so that he can concentrate on playing ball. There probably is a bit more made of it than it actually does affect the guy. Again, I think if there was an earlier bowl game it may be a bit more problematic.
Coach Sumlin, Coach Stoops has always said he doesn’t like playing against former coaches he’s been with. What are your thoughts on that and will this be agonizing for you in a couple days or will it be fun?
Sumlin: I am with him [on that]. When it was first announced, I told people, ‘Oh boy.’ You look at the game, and I think Bob said this too, you look at our game as far as matchups go, as far as excitement for the country and for the region, it is probably as good a game as there is out there during bowl season. I think that has been represented by the ticket sales, how quickly that happened and the time slot we have. Eventually those things happen. I go back to the analogy you had earlier, with the first question, you want to play and we don’t make the schedule but that doesn’t stop us from being friends. Once the game starts we are both trying to win it and after that we will go back to life as usual. But I think for our fans and our players, for the first year when we have gone to a different league to have this matchup again this quickly, it is a great deal.
This is for Coach Stoops. Coach, Kevin has to hire a coordinator. You’ve done that obviously a few times in 14 seasons [and] had success. Can you talk about has anything changed about hiring offensive coordinators and what did you learn from coordinators?
Stoops: For Kevin, he has already done a great job hiring those guys. You want someone that is going to fit your style of players. Their offense obviously has been very successful. I bragged a lot about how he has played an entire SEC schedule and they’re third in the nation in total and scoring offense against all those defenses. I’m sure he will find somebody. We have always tried to find somebody that fit our players and the way we want to play. I’m sure Kevin has his ideas.
Question for Bob. Do you feel more comfortable maybe than you ever have with this particular team if you get into kind of a shootout in a bowl game? It seems this team has reacted real well in that situation this year.
Stoops: Well, we have been in a bunch of them. Our players have played in some tight situations in the last several weeks and have responded well. They have competed all the way to the end of those games. You never know how it is going to go.
Bob, the SEC’s won six straight national titles and seems to be winning the marketing war. How important is it just to beat an SEC team, just sort of slow some of the momentum that goes with that thing?
Stoops: I don’t look at it that way. It all is propaganda and what the media does. We need to win for other reasons. I’m not worried about the media war. I am sure they have lost some of those games already, so I don’t get into that stuff.
Coach Stoops, talk a little bit about that commercial. I realize you had a commercial [with AT&T].
Stoops: Hello…Give AT&T a pub break there. Well, it was actually they approached me about it and it was going to be during one of our off weeks. If it would have conflicted with our practice or work schedule, I probably wouldn’t have been able to do it. It was on a Thursday evening during an off week. I went up to Putnam City and I was there from 11 p.m. till about 1:30 a.m. for the “Hello.” That is how bad I am. It took two and a half hours for that one take. Overall, I felt recruiting exposure and putting the program in front of people never hurts, as long as it fits your schedule.
What about the voice over?
Stoops: The voiceover, I don’t know if—they made me say hello about 50 times. I believe they used one of those and clipped it in, so you’ll have to ask them. I’m not the editor.
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