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December 29, 2017

Mark Richt

Miami Gardens, Florida

MARK RICHT: Thank you very much. Well, we've had a good almost a week of -- we've had a good time with the bowl events. That's been great. Where we've been staying has been great. I mean, the Orange Bowl committee in general has just done a wonderful job of welcoming us, and a lot of people say, well, you're at home, what's the big deal? Well, the big deal is if you see where we're staying, none of our guys live at the beach, and we're living on the beach right now, which we're enjoying. We're practicing at Nova University, a place we don't normally practice. It's very much like a normal bowl for us and all the bowl activities that we're doing are things that our guys don't normally do on a daily basis.

As far as the bowl experience, it's been awesome, and to get to know that you get to play in your home stadium, Hard Rock, we're very excited about that, and I'm sure our fans are excited about that. We'll have a Cane Walk, I'm sure at 6:00, and we'll roll in like we normally roll in for a home game.

We've had some tremendous evenings this season in Hard Rock Stadium, and we want to have another one.

We know we have a tremendous opponent in Wisconsin. I've been saying it all along, the more film I watch, the more impressed I am with them. I'm a big guy on just fundamentals of blocking and tackling and playing hard and doing your job and doing it well, and that's all you see from them. They are a great team. You don't win as many games as they win without being that type of a football team.

I think it's going to be one heck of a battle. I know our guys are excited about the opportunity to compete. That's one thing about our guys is they do like to compete. It ought to be one heck of a ballgame.

I hear the weather is going to be beautiful, and everything you could hope for for an Orange Bowl, we're going to have.

Q. It's ancient history by now, of course, but those seven or eight or nine days, whatever you guys ended up spending in Orlando, I don't know how much better you got at football those days, but how much closer did that team get, and ultimately how valuable was that experience as far as this team becoming what it ended up being?
MARK RICHT: Well, we kind of pride ourselves on building team unity from the very beginning. Once the season ends January 1 it's a new team. So from January 1 until your season begins in September, you're just trying to build that very thing. You're trying to build team, camaraderie. We believe if you work hard together and you count on each other to get things done and the drill work we do and the practice sessions we do that you tend to build trust.

I think if coaches communicate well with their players, I think you build a lot of trust and a lot of team unity, and when your coaching staff gets along and cooperates with each other but competes hard against each other, I think the players see that, and that builds unity, as well.

When the hurricane came, to answer your question, and we had to decide what are we going to do with this thing. Here's a category 5, the biggest one that anybody can remember, coming right at us. What people around the nation don't understand is you can't get ready for a hurricane on Wednesday and it hits on Thursday or Friday. I mean, you need a week at least to prepare for that type of thing.

And so we're like, all right, what's the best thing to do. What's the best thing to do for our families and for our players' families, and what we decided was to let -- to kind of cut bait early enough, I think it was like a Tuesday or something, before that one game with Arkansas State, I believe, and we just called a team meeting and said, here's what we're going to do. We're going to let everybody decide as a family what is best for you, and we're going to help you get where you need to get, and we're going to make sure everybody is as safe as possible.

Some of our kids are local. They needed to be with their mom. Guys needed to help their family members through this thing.

I think the fact that we kind of shut it down when we did, we put everybody's well-being ahead of some kind of ballgame, I think everybody appreciated that. I think the coaches appreciated it. I think the players appreciated it. I think everybody involved with our program did. And that's a tribute to Blake James and his leadership, our athletic director, Jen Strawley making these decisions. But I was 100 percent with it.

So anyway, we spent I don't know how many days where it's no football, it's just get through this hurricane thing and watch what direction it's going to go and all that. People are going up this direction, that direction and the storm starts turning right at them.

So finally, we get to Orlando, as you mentioned, and mainly because we couldn't go back to campus. Campus was still shut down. We couldn't practice. We couldn't find enough hotels in South Florida really to get everybody in one spot, so Orlando was the spot we could get everybody together, and then just try to go back to normal football preparation.

And what we learned pretty fast was we weren't in the kind of football shape that we had developed into before the storm.

But I think as far as the unity of the team, I think everybody got a chance to spend a lot of time together in close quarters, and I think everybody was at peace that we all got to take care of business through the storm, and because of that, I do think it helped us grow stronger together as a team.

Q. You mentioned Blake and Jen; the storm, they don't deal with these things in Madison, and Paul Chryst and Barry Alvarez, they opened up their training table, their team rooms, to FAU. What's that say about them?
MARK RICHT: It's great. There's good people everywhere in America, and everybody knows when there's an issue and some type of catastrophic storm coming or whatever it may be, everybody is like what can we do to help? What can we do to help? Even when we went to Orlando to Wide World of Sports, they just opened their doors to us and said, hey, I don't think they charged us a penny. They were just like, you guys have a need and we have the facilities to help you, and we're going to help you.

Even the hotels from what I understand, there's no price gouging and all that when we had to house that many people for a week and all that kind of thing. From what I heard, everybody was just wanting to help.

Obviously opening their everything, all their facilities to Florida Atlantic was awesome, and I'm sure they were prepared to house them as long as they had to before they could get back in town.

Q. One of the things Manny brought up the other day was just kind of there was a little bit of wide-eyedness in the ACC Championship for the guys. It took a little bit of time for them to settle down because that wasn't a stage they were used to, and he talked about games like the ACC Championship, games like the Orange Bowl are ones that are going to prepare this program to take the next step. How does this help the maturation process, this game against Wisconsin to building the program to where you want it to be?
MARK RICHT: I think what Manny was saying is true. We're in a bowl that's one of the greatest bowls -- well, it is an iconic bowl in our country. So here we are playing in it, playing against a great team, a team that's going to challenge us in every way, shape or form, offense, defense, special teams, as coaches, the whole thing, a big stage. So all those experiences add up to guys that will have a greater comfort level when it comes around the second time. Obviously we've got some seniors that won't be here with us. We've got at least one junior that has declared that he's not going to be back with us but for the most part we've got probably 85 percent of that team is going to come back along with the kids we are coming in. I think the more experiences we have like that, the more you can have a comfort level with it. You can describe things all you want, but until you live them out, sometimes you can't learn a lesson until you go through the trial.

Q. You coached against the Badgers probably a lot longer ago than either one of us would care to remember --
MARK RICHT: It's been a while. I'm trying to remember who won that game.

Q. Has this program evolved much? Wisconsin doesn't change a whole lot. Do you think Wisconsin has evolved much from that day?
MARK RICHT: Well, I think -- I don't know if they've ever won 11 in one regular season ever. I think that's -- I think they've got 11 victories.

Q. 12.
MARK RICHT: 12 now, so they've got 12 victories. I think this is the first time they ever started 12-0 in the history of the program, so I think that's evolved into something very special.

I like the way they play football. They line up. They know what they're going to do. They're going to come after you. There's not a lot of mystery for anybody. It's kind of a matter of who's tough enough to win this game. Who's disciplined enough to win this game. Who's resilient enough to win this game. It's been a great formula for them. I think that it's some things that all coaches strive for.

But yeah, I think -- can I compare that game way back or that team way back when, I don't even remember when we played when I was at Georgia and say there's a big difference. I think there's a big difference in record and how they go -- what a great job they're doing.

Q. You mentioned the seniors briefly; what kind of impact have Chad Thomas, Braxton Berrios, all of guys, KC McDermott, what kind of impact have they had and what is their legacy leaving behind?
MARK RICHT: Well, I think the buy-in. I told the seniors last year and the upperclassmen last year, if you buy in, that's the greatest chance we have of having success. Are we perfect? No, as coaches. Do we have all the answers? No. But if we say this is how we're going to do it, if everybody buys in and you get some leadership from within the ranks, meaning within the players, if it's not a team that the coaches always have to motivate, you can only go so far. Teams that go far are the teams that have the motivation from within. Guys that hopefully don't have to be kicked in the rear at all, but sometimes guys got to step up and motivate, and when players start doing it and players know the standard and they hold everybody to the standard, without the coaches having to do it, it's great. And there's some times when the players know the standard that what the coach should be doing -- like Chad, for example, if he sees something that -- I mean, one time, I guess it was a Sunday night practice, I called everybody up at the end, and normally we get on the line and run some wind sprints, and I don't know how it left my brain, but most guys would be like, hey, we're not running today. He's like, Coach, we forgot to run, and I'm like, oh, yeah, that's right, so we hooked up and we ran. Not one guy said boo because Chad is the one, or he's one of them anyway.

I think just the buy-in, and then they saw a level of success that they hadn't seen during the time that they were here, and I think that was a blessing to them.

Q. 25 months into this thing here with you, you're the longest tenured coach in the state of Florida. What's it say that you guys all of a sudden are now the standard for continuity among FBS schools in the state?
MARK RICHT: That's not a super long time, but I have been very blessed, you know, 15 years at Florida State. There was one year in the middle of that I was at East Carolina University, and then 15 years straight at Georgia. I'm used to continuity. I'm used to stability. I enjoyed that as a position coach and a coordinator under Bobby Bowden at Florida State. I loved that.

I think in order to stay somewhere a while in this business, you have to win enough to stay, and you have to choose to stay, because opportunities do come up. So any time opportunities came up for me throughout my career, I always measured, is my family enjoying this experience, am I enjoying this experience. I was never chasing a title. I was never chasing to be a coordinator. I was never chasing to be head coach. I was chasing a quality of life for my family and an enjoyment of coaching the guys that I've recruited. So I've never asked for a raise, I've never asked for a bonus, I've never asked for anything. I'm just thankful that I've had the opportunity to coach and do what I do, and I always try to -- any decision I've had to make in my career, I try to put it to prayer and just do what I think God is asking me to do. That's kind of been my goal since '86 is just try to live a life that God would be pleased with, and that's what I do.

Q. Obviously the last two games didn't go the way you guys wanted, so how big is it to get the taste out of your mouth --
MARK RICHT: Oh, it'll be big. No one likes to lose one game, let alone two in a row. We won 15 in a row. We kind of got used to that, and maybe too used to it, I don't know. We just couldn't get it done the last couple games, and it's not fun. Losing stinks. By far the most funny think about football is winning. You can say what you want, but going into the locker room with your team and celebrating a victory to me is the most fun that there is.

This bowl is a great bowl, but if we don't win it, it won't be my favorite. If we win, it could be one of my favorites.

You know, we could obviously finish in the top 10. That would be big. Get 11 victories, which would be nice. So I mean, there's a lot of things. But if you look at the things that Wisconsin is playing for, they've got some pretty strong motivation, as well.

Q. Do you get used to winning?
MARK RICHT: Well, you win a lot, and were we as hungry to win the 16th game in a row as we were the fifth game in a row? I don't know. I'm not saying we weren't. We showed up trying to win. It's just like anything else, I remember some years I was at Florida State, and I think we went to the Sugar Bowl three out of four years, and it's like, we've got to go to the Sugar Bowl again. You're just like, what are we saying here. So I think sometimes you can not really appreciate things until you lose them.

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