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December 7, 2014

Paul Chryst

Steve Pederson

Mack Rhoades

Brant Ringler


BRANT RINGLER:  Thank you, and thank you everybody for being on the call today.
We are very excited about this matchup we perceive between the Houston Cougars and the Pittsburgh Panthers.
When you wake up this morning not knowing who your team is going to be on one side most likely, your mind wanders to the last several days knowing that you're going to be at large and who that could be and then you have to watch the playoff committee go through their picks and the trickle‑down effect and who will we have.
It's exciting when a day like this comes about, that we can finally find out who we're going to have, and then when we do find out that it's Pittsburgh and the historic traditions of that program, I couldn't be more elated to have them and have them play the Houston Cougars, which have become friends of ours over the years.
We have not had them since 2009 but now they are going to be back in our return game and we'll have a new stadium for both teams.  Our stadium was renovated the last couple years, $164 million stadium.  We have a beautiful game date of Friday January 2 unopposed on ESPN, and we have a new title partner in Lockheed Martin as our sponsor of the Armed Forces and all we do for the Armed Forces, which hopefully both these teams will put their arms around and be excited about all that we'll have going on at the game for Armed Forces.
But I want to say congratulations to Mack and Coach, and I want to say congratulations to Coach Chryst and Steve Pederson, the AD, for the great success that their programs have had this year and we look forward to a great match‑up.
THE MODERATOR:  Obviously we started the season with the American Conference on one side of the equation and the second part was Army, obviously they did this get Bowl‑eligible.  The backup was the Big 12, and so now we have an ACC team.  Walk us through the progression of that.
BRANT RINGLER:  We have always tried to be affiliated away little bit with the academies just based on our event, the Armed Forces Bowl, but Army was not meant to be this year and we had a Big12 backup and that wasn't meant to be.  So we knew we were going to be at‑large, and all the different factors that go into that created the opportunity for Pittsburgh to be in our game.
The ACC is a great conference and we wanted to make sure we had a conference that was part of the power five.  It elevates our game, and so we are excited that Pittsburgh was that team that was selected for us.

Q.  Can you talk about Lockheed Martin as your new title sponsor, moving from one defense contractor to another one, it seems very kind of seamless I guess.
BRANT RINGLER:  Bell Helicopter was a great partner for great years, and with sequestration and everything that went on, it was time to transfer the flag.  And Lockheed Martin here, the head of the aeronautical division here, and they also have the missile and fire command, fire control division out of Grand Prairie, and they both stepped up.
Lockheed Martin is one of the largest defense contractors in the world, so we are excited about having them on board and they have been very up front in having their people engaged, from building a giant float for our recent parade that was done here in our city to having their employees buy 6,000 tickets within a week to the game; as well to all that they also do for the Armed Forces in our community and around the world.
So we couldn't have asked for a better partner to step in and take over.  So they have been great for us.

Q.  How was it that your backup position with the Big12, how did that not materialize, because I guess they had two teams that didn't get into the playoffs, and it seemed like more would have been available to you.
BRANT RINGLER:  Well, they had seven teams, and two of them played up into the system with TCU and Baylor.  So when Oklahoma State won, you thought there might be an opportunity, but when the two teams played, with the system, it kept us at‑large.
Like I said, I'm just excited about this matchup.  We have two great programs, two teams that are playing well, Pittsburgh coming in with the last two victories that they had against quality teams and opponents and so they are trending upwards and we look forward to having them come down and enjoy southern hospitality.
THE MODERATOR:  Steve Pederson, your thoughts about coming to Texas and playing in the Armed Forces Bowl and playing in Fort Worth.
STEVE PEDERSON:  Well, we're excited to be headed to Fort Worth in January.  That's going to be great for our football team and we're excited.
I guess I would start off by saying since we are coming to Fort Worth and playing at TCU, congratulations to Coach Patterson and that team, an unbelievable season and they have been a fun team to watch and I know everybody is proud of them.  I've got a very proud graduate, my basketball coach, Jamie Dixon, a TCU guy, who certainly has done a wonderful job for us.  So we know a lot about TCU and we know a lot about Fort Worth.
We are excited to come in there.  I'm glad to have a chance to be with Mack a little bit who is a friend of mine, and I think we'll have a great time here in Fort Worth.
And of course the fact is, this game an Armed Forces game I think is so significant, and I know from talking to other people, experiences for our players will be really terrific and so that's I think an important part of this.
We had a season that was one of those seasons where we made so much progress and we had so many good young players and we finished the season with two strong victories, including a really tremendous performance at Miami to clench the Bowl bid; and Coach Chryst and his staff have done a terrific job.
We have got the ACC Player of the Year, James Connor, is our running back, and we have three first‑team all ACC players, including Tyler Boyd, our wide receiver, and T.J. Clemmings, our offensive lineman, who is an absolutely tremendous player.
And so we have got some exciting things that we bring to the table and I think we're anxious to go to a little different place than we've been before.  We played in the Sun Bowl a number of years ago but it's been a long time since we've been to Texas.
We know how important football is there and it's going to be an exciting time for our team.  You'll love Coach Chryst and our team when they get down there.  I'm excited these guys have another chance to play together we have got a group of seniors who have really committed to doing good things here and have worked hard.  And I'm glad they have a chance to have a whole different experience than they have had before in terms of Bowl games and I think it's going to be great for them all the way around.
THE MODERATOR:  How did your Sunday start?  Where do you think you were going and what was the process like for you?
STEVE PEDERSON:  It's interesting, because the system was so different this year, I think you always wonder what's going to happen on that particular day.
But because there were so many moving parts, differently this year and the way it was laid out, starting at 12:30 with an announcement of some changes and then some things happened again at 2:45 when they announced the host Bowl matchups and pairings, when the rest of the ratings came out and those changed again from what we kind of anticipated, even when teams had not played games.
And so everything kind of was jumbled, and I would say literally we had a conference call of our athletic directors at ten after five, and nobody knew for sure what was going to happen.  But we knew we were going to end up in a good place and we're thrilled with this, and appreciate the people at ESPN who were tremendous partners in the ACC with the people at ESPN, and they have been very good to us and we're glad to be partnered with them in this game, as well.  I think there's a lot of good things about it all the way around.

Q.  You've gone west, you talked about the Sun Bowl and you had the great run to the Fiesta Bowl several years ago.  What kind of showing should we expect from Pitt fans coming this direction?  It is kind of far from your neck of the woods so to speak.
STEVE PEDERSON:  Well, I think we'll have a good following.  I guess I never know until ‑‑ now we're just starting tonight to be able to sell Bowl tickets and go online.  And of course this was not a game that originally was on our Bowl lineup; and so in terms of presale and so forth, we don't have any presale for in game.
But I think people will be excited.  There's a lot of direct flights between Pittsburgh and Dallas and a lot of opportunities for people to get there.  We have a lot of Pitt fans in that area, and I'd say anybody who is a Cowboys fan and a Tony Dorsett fan; ought to put out glue and gold and come out that day and cheer for us anyway.  So we've got a group down there that we hope we can rally around us a little bit, too.  And so I think we'll have a good showing and I think our people will be intrigued at coming to a different place.

Q.  With all the shuffling that happened this afternoon, were you concerned you might not have another Bowl game in the ACC, having one more team in an available spot?
STEVE PEDERSON:  I think like with anything, I'm one of the guys that until it's all done, you never know.  I felt strongly that with the success we've had and particularly in the latter part of the season here, going 4‑4 in the conference, winning the last two games like we did playing right to the wire with both Duke and North Carolina, that we would be a very appealing choice for people.  And of course having the ACC Player of the Year, too.
But you never know until it's all done.  And when there's only so many slots and more eligible teams, sometimes things just work against you.  There's contracts and a place for certain games, and so you really just never know.  And so I guess I'm one of those, until I knew it was confirmed late afternoon, I guess you never rest until you get there.
And really the most important thing to me was that I felt like that both Coach Chryst and our players deserved a chance to have another opportunity to play together and to have a Bowl experience, and that's the most important part of this.  I'm glad that was able to happen and that they were going to have this opportunity again, and in addition to the additional practice time that we get by going to a Bowl game.

Q.  How is it Pitt was chosen, if chosen is the right word, to be the team that is not going to an ACC‑affiliated Bowl?
STEVE PEDERSON:  The way they tried to look at this, there was an attempt to not have us make a repeat appearance in a game that we had already been to in Detroit.  And then I think it just came down to what's the best possible kinds of matchups and how this all fits together.
And really I think through the league office and the Bowls together, they decided this was probably a good fit for us.  And I think it is in a lot of ways.
So we're just happy to have an opportunity, and at a certain point, games are pretty similar.  Maybe it's just getting an opportunity to have a little different kind of Bowl experience than we would have had if we had gone back to the same place, for instance.  We'll always make it great and always try to do what we can.  But this will be a whole different deal in terms of schedule and when we practice and so forth.
The fact that it's a January 2 game I think is completely different.  This is kind of like preparing around a New Year's Day game and I think that will be unique for us, too, and I think our players will enjoy all of that.
THE MODERATOR:  Coach, thanks for hanging with us.  Welcome to the teleconference.  Just your opening comments about coming to Fort Worth and playing Houston in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl.
COACH CHRYST:  I'm personally am obviously very excited and looking forward to playing Houston and playing at TCU.
I know our kids, since the time we were able to let our players know where we were going and like everyone else, didn't know.  But what was it, 5:15, 5:30, tell our players and then talking to them, they have been shooting me texts.  And our players are excited, and I think that's the biggest thing is that when you play a season, you earn the right to play another gameand (inaudible) just keep learning along the way.
So I think we grew as a team, and there was times that we had growing pains.  But I'm proud of how we finished and I think that that's the key is to pick up and keep going.  We'll have an opportunity with this team and for us to play our best play offensively.
I think like James Conner, our running back, who had 1,600 yards rushing, was the conference Offensive Player of the Year, ACC Player of the Year.  He and Tyler Boyd, our all‑conference receiver, both are true sophomores and our other‑‑ I feel like our offensive line got better as the year went on.  It's led by Matt Rotheram, who is a four‑year starter and who is a third‑team All Conference and T.J. Clemmings who is a tackle we have that was first‑team All‑Conference player.  Our quarterback, Chad Voytik, he's a sophomore and I felt like Chad continued to grow and progress as the season went on.
So I feel like that we've got some pieces that kind of started to come together and we'll certainly be challenged by Houston, which as you try to just do some quick research, and certainly the strength of them is their defense.
And then for us defensively, we have got I think four seniors on that defense, and we've been challenged at times and risen to the challenge.  I thought we played our best game defensively in many ways against Miami and really those last two games, probably played the best back‑to‑back.  So I like what we have been doing there, and our special teams, played a big factor in our last two games.  Tyler Boyd, one of our returners, we have two freshmen and sophomores as our specialists and they have been good throughout the year.
And so we are a team that is still growing and we need to be.  I like and appreciate what we have done to get to this point and yet we have still got a ways to go to where we want to be.  And that's where you're also appreciative of this opportunity.  Steve was talking about the extra practice opportunities and the chance to go and play a good Houston team.  Those are great for your program and that's where you're quite thankful today.
THE MODERATOR:  What are you going to be doing for three and a half weeks?  What's the schedule for your team?
COACH CHRYST:  The truth of it, maybe it's the theme.  You weren't quite sure, and I was out on the road recruiting, so your time in the airplane and whatnot, you know, had schedules kind of for the ones you anticipated.  And then almost missed calling on the conference call because I got the manual and was reading through it and trying to put that schedule together.  Certainly you want to maximize our kids.
They are just starting finals this coming week, and so we won't do a lot until the weekend.  Let them finish up the semester and then look at the practice opportunities and then also give them a chance to be able to get home for a little bit.  And then when we come down to Fort Worth‑‑ because when we come back, our classes will start pretty soon.  They will start the following Monday.
So really in the process right now of putting the schedule together.  But it sure is fun to be able to do that and then to know where you're going and excited about that.  I've been able to spend‑‑ my brother worked in Dallas for a little bit so was able to get an idea of Fort Worth over there.  Looking forward to that.  One of our coaches, a big part of our program, Bob Jenkle (ph) worked at TCU.
Our kids are excited to be going to Fort Worth, and so we'll practice, and certainly learning more about Houston and giving the players a little bit of time to celebrate the Holidays with their families.  But then get down to Fort Worth and we need to play our best game of the year.
THE MODERATOR:  Anymore questions for the coach from Pittsburgh, Paul Chryst?  Well, Coach, you did a good job, you answered all the questions, and we look forward to seeing you on the 15th of this month for the announcement party and when you get here after Christmas.  Any other final comments?
COACH CHRYST:  I appreciate it and certainly look forward to every bit of it.
THE MODERATOR:  We have Mack Rhoades from Houston.  Mack, welcome.  Looks like Houston is coming back to Fort Worth and the Armed Forces Bowl for the fourth time, and your thoughts.
MACK RHOADES:  We are excited to be affiliated with the Bowl game and the Armed Forces, and I think that makes this game special and certainly the title sponsor sponsorship by Lockheed Martin.  Brant and his staff do a great job.
In Bowl games, certainly one part of it is the extra practice time that you get for your young men, but it's about the experience.  We're excited that our student athletes are going to get to, again, experience the great hospitality and all the wonderful events, and again, it's just a first‑class Bowl game.  And certainly located in Fort Worth, we have got a great alumni base there in the Dallas ‑ Fort Worth area.  So we are excited about that.
We hope to pack the stadium with the color red and as everybody knows, our whole recruiting base, it's the state of Texas and we have the majority from the State of Texas.  So it makes it easy for their parents and families to attend the game.  So again, we are excited to be part of it.
THE MODERATOR:  Obviously you had some news from within your program, and going into it, what's the situation with your football team right now?
MACK RHOADES:  Yeah, and I certainly appreciate the question, and you know, like every year following the season, I sit down with our head football coach and talk about the future of the brogue.
We are coming off a tough emotional loss and then certainly with the Bowl announcement today, we decided not to do that today.  But we'll sit down in the next 14 hours and I'll have a very candid conversation with Coach Levine and we'll talk about the future of the program.  If we have to announce anything after that meeting, we will, and I'll leave it at that.

Q.  I know there's a lot going on, do you have any worries that the team will be distracted in the game or there will be any types of distractions in this game that could hurt their performance?
MACK RHOADES:  No, not at all.  I think young people are resilient and again, they are excited to be part of this game.  We're playing really a quality opponent in the University of Pittsburgh.  We are excited about that, about playing somebody from the Atlantic Coast Conference.  Six of the seven teams are headed to a Bowl game, so it's a very competitive division.
Coach Chryst has talked about James Conner and the ACC offensive Player of the Year.  So that will be a tremendous challenge for us.  I believe this is Pittsburgh's seventh‑straight Bowl game.  I've got great respect for Steve Pederson and just their entire athletics program, and certainly Coach Chryst.  We'll be focused.  We've got a great challenge in front of us playing against, again, a quality opponent, and we'll look forward to that.

Q.  I know you already addressed it, but like so a decision on the future of the head coach has not been made yet?  You have not made the decision on what direction, or have you made the decision already?
MACK RHOADES:  No, again, I'm going to leave it at the last statement I made.

Q.  Following up‑‑ in terms of I've already made a decision?
MACK RHOADES:  I'm sorry.  I didn't hear the full question.

Q.  I was going to ask you, just to publically give you an opportunity, I heard your opening statement about your situation but in regards to the reports that are out there, premature in terms of that you have already made a decision?
MACK RHOADES:  Yeah, absolutely.  As we speak tonight, Tony Levine is our head football coach.

Q.  And just the opportunity to go to Fort Worth, geographically, a huge role, the fan base has generally traveled to both games inside the state.  Would you expect the same support this time around?
MACK RHOADES:  Yeah, absolutely.  I don't see why it wouldn't be any different.  I know our fans are excited about playing.  The date of the game I think works terrifically well for everybody.  We play the second to last game of the season at SMU on a Friday right after Thanksgiving, and we had a great terrific turnout there.  We expect the same and even better for the game on January 2.
THE MODERATOR:  What would be the schedule for you for the team?  Are you in finals right now?  What's the schedule for the football team for the coming three weeks?
MACK RHOADES:  Like Pittsburgh, this week is finals week and so we're going to make sure that we give our young men every opportunity to do well through finals week.  And then we'll sit down with Coach Levine or the coaching staff and figure out the remainder of the schedule.
But really this week was meant and intended to give them off and maybe a little bit of rest from football so that they can focus on their finals.

Q.  I know last year there was a student package where students were allowed to travel for 50 bucks.  Do you foresee another deal for the students to travel on a cheap deal on a bus or anything like that?
MACK RHOADES:  I'd prefer to not use the word cheap‑‑ but yes, we are working with the players and we'll be putting together a package for our students to travel up safely and have a great time there at the Bowl game.
THE MODERATOR:  Mack, thank you very much, good luck and we'll look forward to seeing you on the 15th.  Thank you.
The game will be played January 2 at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth on the campus at TCU, 11:00 A.M. kickoff, televised by ESPN for the 12th straight year, and we'll also have the Armed Forces radio network.

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