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December 3, 2017

Mike Nealy

Glendale, Arizona

SCOTT LEIGHTMAN: Good afternoon, everybody. Thank you for joining us, especially on such short notice. I'm the Senior Director of Communications here at the Fiesta Bowl organization, the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl, joined here with our Executive Director Mike Nealy.

We do have a back stop because of our Cactus Bowl. We have about 15 minutes of Q&A. If there's anything you need afterward, please feel free to give us a call or e-mail.

At this point, I'll turn it over to Mike Nealy, our executive director.

MIKE NEALY: Thank you, Scott. Thank you for joining. I'll be very brief.

We're excited we have a matchup. We're running fast. Calls are coming in furiously. I hope we have enough tickets for everybody. I will turn it over for questions.

We're excited to host Penn State again after a 20-year absence, and Washington for the first time in our Fiesta Bowl. They have visited us with the Cactus Bowl a few years ago. We're excited to have two great teams. I'll turn it over for any questions, please.

Q. Mike, I was just wondering how early in the process did you target Penn State? And were you -- was it discussed at all with the Cotton Bowl kind of -- if it was, quote, unquote, moving USC-Ohio State to there when everybody kind of expected that's what was going to happen.
MIKE NEALY: A good question. If you recall, the committee, after ranking the teams, it's the committee's job to place the teams into the Bowls. So while we knew Penn State was on the list and on our radar and certainly excited to have them as a host, that was the decision made by the host committee.

So, yes, we were expecting potentially Penn State, Ohio State, or really any of those top teams under the new system. But very excited to have Penn State join us this year.

Q. Along the lines of the Penn State question, when it came to Washington, what was kind of that window? Was it right then when you knew it? Or had you had, I guess, a little bit of time to kind of figure Washington was going to be in the Fiesta Bowl?
MIKE NEALY: The time that we had to know if Washington was a possibility was when they announced top rankings and we knew that Washington went into the No. 11 slot. So that opened up, and we knew that was a possibility. But we really didn't know until the announcement was made with ESPN.

So we had a short window that we knew that Washington was -- of course we knew that there was a possibility of them moving up, being the solid team that they are and what happened over the weekend, but excited to see that they dropped into the 11th spot and then were asked to play in the Fiesta Bowl. So we're excited.

And while people are thinking of questions or before, maybe I'll jump in here a little bit just to remind everybody Penn State, the last time they came to the desert here was in 1987 in the game against Miami, which is a well-known, historic game. So we're excited to be able to host them again.

Washington, with Coach Petersen -- actually, Coach Petersen came down here with his previous team and came down here with Washington, I think three years ago, to play in our Cactus Bowl. He certainly is familiar with the Valley and our organizations. I know, in speaking with both organizations in the past, they quote our hospitality that we're known for.

Of course we have weather to deliver, and we're excited, as I expect they are as well, to be coming to the Valley and for us to be able to host the two teams.

I'll just note as well that our phones are ringing. Tickets are robust sales already. So we're excited, and I hope -- really as I mentioned before, I'm hoping we have enough tickets for the fan base that's going to be coming in.

Q. Mike, were the last two of your games involving Ohio State, were they sold out? And did you, even though it wasn't your decision, did you at all have any concerns about Ohio State coming out there for a third straight year?
MIKE NEALY: Certainly no concerns with Ohio State. Their fan base, obviously, is very strong. So even though they had been out here several times in recent history, we knew that their fans, they travel, and they were going to come. As far as sell-outs, we have the ability to adjust, add additional seats. So we were full and have been full in each of the years of the New Year's Six.

So to answer your question, we fill up the stadium. We would have welcomed Ohio State, of course. It would have been unique to have a team here three or four times in a short period. But I'm sure that would have worked out as well. But very excited to have Penn State, still in the Big Ten country there. Put them in a Pac-12 matchup, and we're looking pretty good.

Q. Mike, a little bit of kind of an off-base question. Of course, last time Chris Petersen was in the Fiesta Bowl, there's what happened with Oklahoma State and the Statue of Liberty. When you just kind of think about that sort of moment, what's that mean for you guys to have another Petersen team in the Fiesta Bowl? Are you expecting something else kind of that surprising? Or what do you expect to see from Washington and Penn State this game?
MIKE NEALY: Well, I certainly expect a great game. That's a historic game and a historic play, of course, in our history. It is not forgotten. So that certainly comes into your mindset when a Chris Petersen team is coming.

But the strength of both these teams, we know it's going to be a great game. I'd hate to be the odds makers on this one, but I'm going to sit back and enjoy. I know it's going to be a great game. I'm just looking forward to an outstanding game that I'm expecting.

SCOTT LEIGHTMAN: Thank you, everybody, for joining us. Like I said, we're looking forward to having all of the media on a national basis and from Washington and Pennsylvania out here at the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl.

You can look for more information from us coming out. If you have any immediate questions, my e-mail address sleightman@fiestabowl.org. And you can always find us at fiestabowl.org or through social media @fiesta_bowl.

Our media day is scheduled for the 28th of December with two days of coordinator availability and player availability preceding that. Team arrivals, information is still to come after we finalize that with the two participating institutions.

But unless there are any other questions, at this time, we say thank you, and we'll talk to you soon.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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