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January 8, 2008
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA
PAUL HOOLAHAN: Good morning, everybody. Certainly want to thank you for being here for the beginning of the end of what has been an incredible experience and really say how appreciative we are that you joined us to be part of this incredible celebration of college football.
I don't think I understate the fact that for this city, for the Sugar Bowl committee, for the state of Louisiana, the stakes were high. Coming out of Katrina, having to go to Atlanta, we had lots of challenges to face.
This obviously stood as the biggest and most demanding challenge that we had to date, probably in the history of this bowl, which, as you know, started in 1934 and we will celebrate our 75th year next year.
What I would like to say is the city came together in a way that makes me truly proud to have the opportunity to lead this great organization. It was a challenge that was sent out to everybody top to bottom, from the shoeshine man to the person at the very top. And everybody met that challenge, and I think exceeded expectations, and this is an important statement, it's an important statement to the country that New Orleans is back and ready to perform and to put on the classic big-time college events that we're known for, professional and otherwise.
And I hope when you go back, you'll have an opportunity to tell the respective people in your communities that New Orleans did it in New Orleans style and in New Orleans fashion. Because it's an important event for us today, it was really a litmus test, as you know, and we know the eyes of the country were on us, and we know we had to perform.
And I think that great credit goes out to the entire community, and we're very happy today to be able to crown for the 20th time the national champion in our bowl and for it to be LSU, Coach Les Miles, just makes it an achievement beyond belief.
So we're very, very excited, very appreciative of all the support you've lent us in these two trying years. You've been with us. I know it's been tempting to write the other side of the story. Hopefully today you can write the good side of the story, and we appreciate everything you've done.
THE MODERATOR: Before we begin the press conference we have a few awards to hand out. First will be from the Associated Press. Presenting on behalf of the AP will be Mike McQueen, the New Orleans bureau chief.
MIKE MCQUEEN: Coach, I'm Mike McQueen, bureau chief for AP for Louisiana and Mississippi.
I want to congratulate you on the victory last night over Ohio State, and we want to say on behalf of the voters of the AP poll, which, by the way, is the oldest poll, that we present to you the National Championship Trophy and wish you the best of luck and congratulations.
COACH LES MILES: Thank you very much.
THE MODERATOR: Next we have the Football Writers Association of America, president Ron Higgins, president of the Memphis Commercial Appeal.
RON HIGGINS: On behalf of Football Writers, the 900 members, it was a damn strong football team. And Les proved to the nation that to beat Ohio State, all you gotta do is go to Baton Rouge, you don't need to go to Michigan (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: Next we have from the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame, Steve Hatchell, president and CEO.
STEVE HATCHELL: Good morning, everybody. In 1947, the National Football Foundation was formed by three men: General Douglas MacArthur, Grantland Rice, the sports writer, and Coach Earl "Red" Blaik.
The idea was there are great aspects of football that needed to be promoted, leadership being a big part of it. They commissioned this trophy designed by Tiffany's, 1947, and it's been ever since that span of time presented to the national champions.
The ideals that MacArthur wanted was to preserve the past, promote the present, prepare for the future in football and the great things that football does. And this trophy was to be emblematic of that.
We just celebrated 60 years of our existence and we are really thrilled and very honored to be here today. And on behalf of Archie Manning, our new chairman, the board of directors of the National Football Foundation, we are honored that the next 60 years begins with a new national champion, which is the LSU Tigers and Coach Les Miles.
THE MODERATOR: And finally presenting the Coaches' Trophy, BCS coordinator and SEC commissioner Mike Slive.
MIKE SLIVE: Coach, on behalf of the BCS and all the institutions and conferences that make up the BCS and on behalf of your association, American Football Coaches Association, it's my pleasure to present you again with the Coaches' Trophy, emblematic of the national championship, and that we're proud of you. This is a special occasion because this is a nice way for me to leave as the BCS coordinator to have you win our national championship.
So, Coach, congratulations, my good friend. Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, if you could open it up with a few comments now that you've had a few hours to soak everything in.
COACH LES MILES: A year ago we were at the Sugar Bowl, and we were treated extremely well, enjoyed the hospitality of the city, understood that Katrina had just occurred and that it was the first Sugar Bowl back. Fortunate to be LSU versus Notre Dame. We enjoyed the city fully.
The Sugar Bowl committee did a great job. And with Paul Hoolahan and his crew, I can only tell you that this was the extra game. And we noticed no difference. The service was tremendous. We enjoyed our week. And certainly it was a big-time venue.
It was very respectful of college football and all that it has to offer. And I want to say thank you. Thank you from LSU and for arranging a venue as strong as this so that the great game of college football could be displayed.
I want to congratulate Ohio State. It's a quality program. Coach Tressel's averaged 10 games in his seven years there. A tremendous team. Very talented, fought and clawed and competed extremely well.
And we were fortunate to win. Certainly enjoyed competing against them.
Our football team's a pretty special group of men. They understand what being pinned down means. They understand what it takes to come back and fight and overcome hurdles.
I think this game was not unlike other games we played all year long, and it wasn't unlike upsets in the schedule that required our team to overcome.
And they just kept performing. They kept competing. And, again, very fortunate to finish the end of the season. Number one, it's interesting: The day before the game, I came in here, had a nice little press conference and somebody asked me what it must be like, did you give any thought to raising the crystal ball.
And I thought for the first time about doing that. And it was hard on me. And I did not handle it well. And then I tried to think it through; in fact, if I did have the opportunity to hold that crystal ball, what it might mean. And I couldn't really embrace the thought. I went back to my team and I told them in an impassioned plea to focus on the next 48 hours. Because I had lost focus for about 60 seconds about holding up this trophy.
And I didn't want them to have that same experience. And they looked at me like I had lost my mind, because I came back there hot. And I was barking. And that team never lost focus. They just had a coach yank on them a little bit, that's all.
Very thankful to LSU. Very thankful to a great school, a great community, a great state. How fortunate it is for me to represent us, represent this team, represent these people. I'm very humbled by the position that I currently hold.
I'd like to say thank you, too, before I turn it over. There's so many people that make this style of achievement possible. And it's cliche and you probably don't print it, but it's a fact: We have such great support at LSU for our players. There's medical support. People, highly trained professionals that work endless hours and demand excellence of themselves and give it to our players.
There's weight, strength, training staff. Michael Barnett and his crew at Sports Information, our information leadership at the school. This does not come together easy. Great coaching staff, great team is just a piece. It really must marry with a collective effort. And it's easy at LSU. Everybody pulls in the same direction. Everybody wants for the same goals. And those goals: Graduation, 100 percent graduation, and national championship.
This team, this senior class, has that opportunity still. So very thankful.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. Coach, the crystal ball certainly has some company this morning. What's the feeling like being surrounded by trophies and being the unanimous No. 1 team in the country?
COACH LES MILES: It's a wonderful feeling. I'm happy for my team. I'm happy for the school. It's nice that there's no indecision, that it's one national champion.
And I have to thank college football. I have to thank them for their procedure, for their efforts. It's not easy to follow and vote and follow and vote and follow and vote, and it's a long process, starts early and goes late.
I can only tell you that at LSU, when we were voted into the game, it was our strongest desire to honor that with our best effort. And that's what this team did. So to college football, to what would be and could be split factions on a national championship and the fact that everybody is agreed, that it is LSU, I'd like to say thank you.
Q. As you watched film and prepared for this game, how confident were you that you guys would be able to do what you wanted to do and that you would win this game?
COACH LES MILES: I have confidence not necessarily in the final outcome; I had confidence in how we would play. I knew that we would play well. I knew that our guys are competitive. I knew when you put Hester on the field and hand him a ball he would break tackle. I knew Matt Flynn would be heady and make plays. I knew Early Doucet would make catches and his health renewed.
I felt like our defense would slow Ohio State, if not stop their running game. There were some ways to attack this team. And our coaching staff saw those and we were confident that we had a good plan, that that all comes together during the game and the final score.
So I was confident that we would compete extremely well.
Q. You're normally very composed with us in the media, but you finally achieved a life-long goal of every coach last night. Was there a point at some point during last night's festivities where you let it all wash over you, it really dawned upon you, and how did it make you feel?
COACH LES MILES: I don't know if I'm ready to say that's all hit me just yet. So somebody called and said something, one of the radio media asked this question. She said, 25 years from now they're going to call you into Tiger Stadium and they're going to talk about the great '07 team and the national championship team and won't you be proud of that and that day. And I certainly said I would. I have been proud of this team before we won and certainly after.
But I'm not ready to be that guy yet. I just only hope I can live 25 years from now.
Q. Coach, could you comment on the impact you think Bo Pelini's had on the program and also what qualities you feel might help him as a head coach?
COACH LES MILES: I think Bo has a great passion for football and players. I think that he's really given a lot to our football program. And we're certainly going to miss him. I think he'll be a very, very good head coach. He has all the qualities, intelligence and competitiveness and the ability to get along with players that you need.
So, no, he'll be a great coach at Nebraska. The only thing I can tell him is just we look forward to facing him in a game just like this years from now.
Q. All year long you guys have talked about how it's not just 22 players that make up this football team. Last night Craig Steltz, a Metairie native, goes down, Coleman comes and takes his place. Is that just another example of how guys off your bench have come in and this team really has not missed a beat?
COACH LES MILES: That's what happens in championship teams. The next guy in the game steps up and makes plays. Harry Coleman, it was number. It was his night. He had to step up and display a responsibility to his team at that position. And that's what he did.
And it happened repeatedly throughout the year. It happened when we lost Early Doucet. It happened when we lost Matt Flynn. It happened at a point when we lost Hester a couple of times. A number of defensive players, Dorsey, Tyson Jackson were in and out, where guys have to step in and play. That's what great teams do.
Again, I've said this before, I think there's certainly some very talented men on our football team. I don't know if there's not more talented teams, but I can promise you this, this by far and away is the finest football team this year and certainly one of the finest football teams I've ever been associated with.
Q. Coach, in Big Ten country, folks are beginning to wonder if and when they're going to win another national championship, especially when they're playing against an SEC team. There's also that trend of Ohio State losing to SEC teams in bowl games. As a former Big Ten athlete, can you talk about that trend a little bit, why do you think it's happening now?
COACH LES MILES: I can only tell you that there for a while we would go to the Rose Bowl at Michigan and we would lose to the Pac-10. I don't know. It didn't seem to make any sense to me then.
I suspect that those things can reverse at some point in time. I haven't given much thought to that being a serious issue. Certainly as long as those statistics benefit the SEC and us, we are inclined to agree.
Q. I apologize for asking this question on what's supposed to be LSU's day, but a president in your conference has called for an eight-team playoff to decide the national championship. Do you have any feeling what it would be like to go through an eight-team playoff to be sitting where you are right now?
COACH LES MILES: You know what, whatever the rules are is fine with me. I can tell you this: A year ago, an eight-team playoff, we would have fared pretty well. It might have been our second trophy. So I look forward to whatever setup there is.
I can tell you that a year ago we finished pretty strong. A year ago we played in the Sugar Bowl and we played a nationally ranked team and fared pretty well. We didn't say anything, because you know why? Because it's about this game, it's about the championship game. And I would think that there's time for proposals and there's time for adjusting the schedule.
But it might not be today.
Q. Now that you enjoyed this for about 10 hours, I guess, just talk about next year, what you lose, what you return?
COACH LES MILES: I have the next year plan right here. Last night -- seriously last night about 2:30 I put the next year plan down until about 4:30. Then Mason woke up (laughter).
The next year plan, okay, first of all, we expect to be a very strong football team. We expect that we'll have a great recruiting class. This recruiting class that we're currently committed to and working with will allow us to compete for national championships, for conference championships and do the things that we've done since we've been here.
And I can promise you it's a little early to say that we had it all figured out. But the goals will be the same. The goals will be 100 percent graduation and a national championship. And I suspect this team will fight like heck to get that done.
Q. Is Mason going to be your defensive coordinator?
COACH LES MILES: The question is about the defensive coordinator, and, no, my four-year-old daughter is not a candidate. She's on scholarship at the Miles family and she's got a great job being a kid.
I have guys on my staff that I'm considering. I'm looking at options. When I'm ready to let you know there, I will. But I can tell you we are committed to having a strong defense here. This defense will not change. And it will be called aggressively and you'll be familiar with it.
Q. Coach, it was announced in the press box that Steltz may come back in the second half, was there no way he could play and how is he for like the Senior Bowl and whatever NFL workouts?
COACH LES MILES: I think he'll be fine for an NFL workout, but I think there's a point in time that there's a temporary injury that it's smart that if you -- you risk future injury if you go back in the game. So that's all that was. He'll be fine for the NFL. He's going to be a great NFL prospect. There's a guy that will play in the NFL for a number of years.
Q. How hard was it to keep him out of the game? Was he trying to get back in?
COACH LES MILES: If it had been left to his heart and his mind, he would have been in the game. But it was his shoulder that we kind of needed to keep him out. And our medical staff, again, we're going to make wise decisions for our players. We're not going to put them out there if they have real risk to injury.
Q. When you're sitting in your office or wherever over the summer and you're thinking this might be our year, what is it that goes into that? Is it the talent you have coming back, is it the experience level, or is it the schedule that you feel like is going to shake out pretty well for you the next fall?
COACH LES MILES: I don't know. I've kind of been wrong two or three years, because I really kind of thought that this would be our year the first two as well. So I just think it ends up where this team in this particular instance saw it being their year as well. And they exceeded our expectations. They're a very committed group of men. Very fortunate to be their head coach.
Q. There's a desire in sports to bring up the "dynasty" word, Miami had a good run there, Southern Cal has had a very good run. You now have two national championships in five years, 56 wins I think for the senior class. Where do you think LSU should be perceived at this point?
COACH LES MILES: Well, I think it's a pretty comfortable generalization, without using any words like dynasty, that if you want to play for a conference championship in one of the most prestigious conferences in the country, if you want to pursue a national championship, this certainly is one of those schools where -- it's the only school that has two BCS championships.
It certainly gives you an opportunity to display the fact that if you're a young college guy and you want to play for a championship, you want to play for a championship team, LSU's a great pick. Dynasty, I'm not worried about a dynasty. We're worried about next year.
Q. On Sunday you said you kind of were searching for how to answer that question about what would go through your head if you lifted that trophy. What did go through your head last night?
COACH LES MILES: I have to be honest, it's not sunk in. It really hasn't. I enjoy this team's accomplishments. I enjoy it for our staff. I enjoy it for our school. I probably enjoy it for my wife and my kids.
I enjoy it for my background, the fact that I was at Michigan with Coach Schembechler and some people will remember me fondly back that way. I think I probably enjoy it for them. But for me, honestly, I haven't got there yet. I hope I don't get there for a while.
Q. Coach, you came here with Katrina right after your arrival. Turned down the opportunity -- or I don't even know if the word is turned down, but didn't entertain the opportunity to go back to your alma mater. I don't know if the word is destiny, but do you believe in like a destiny, a calling, a bond? What was it with Les Miles and his family and Louisiana?
COACH LES MILES: Well, I can only tell you that the people of Louisiana have treated my family, myself so warmly. There's such a wonderful passion, a backdrop to this football program, that it's very special. And I think anybody would really be attracted to it. Certainly we are as a family. And certainly I am as a coach. Yeah.
Q. Just reflecting behind all your trophies?
COACH LES MILES: They're not my trophies (laughter). Behind are all your trophies.
Q. Behind all your team's trophies. Reflecting back on the year, two triple overtime games, you throw a pass with one second left --
COACH LES MILES: I throw a pass? That was Flynn that threw the pass (laughter).
Q. The LSU Tigers are down ten points at Alabama, six minutes left, you guys rally and then you -- a 27-point underdog wins to get you guys into the game. Is this the wildest and just storybook season a team could ever have?
COACH LES MILES: I think that's how championship seasons come together. If you look back, I can remember an Ohio State team that beat Miami for a national championship and probably won games at an average of by four points. I mean, it just had countless games on the road against Iowa and some other Big Ten teams. And really just somehow found a way to win. And played a Miami team as a very big underdog. And played defense and ran the football and won it.
So I just think that there's a champion. There's no -- it didn't come with the helmet. It comes with the person, the guy that wears the helmet. And I think Flynns and Hesters and Dorseys and Steltz and Highsmith, those guys are champions. And they wouldn't be denied.
Q. After the game last year, a number of Florida players felt they had played better teams during their SEC days than they got a game from Ohio State. Now that it's over for you, I'm wondering if you feel like you had more challenging games in the SEC or if you had tougher games in the SEC than last night?
COACH LES MILES: I think that running back Wells was as talented a back as we've seen. I think that defensive line that Ohio State had was representative of quality defensive line as we've faced. And I think that linebacking crew may well have been the best linebacking crew that we faced, with a real quality secondary at defense, was the No. 1 defense in the country. I suspect that they were as good a defense as there was.
I can tell you that we played healthy to Virginia Tech. And we got healthy, really, the next time was for this game. And so maybe we played better than we had all year and we played a team that was representative of the best there is.
Q. Obviously last night there was some NFL alums with LSU ties at the game: JaMarcus, Brady, Marcus Spears, Corey Webster. Marcus said after the game that one of the byproducts of LSU winning is the NFL pays a lot more attention to the program. If you could just kind of comment on that, how four first-round picks last year, several first-round picks probably coming this year, just kind of starting a football factory there?
COACH LES MILES: Well, I don't like that word, "factory." I think it's a place where a lot of quality athletes can be attracted. And I think if they come here, they come here -- certainly if they're recruited by me, they're going to come here with the idea that they're going to get their degree and play championship football.
When they get here, when they're going to play in the SEC conference, which to me is as competitive and as quality a conference as there is in this country, and that it not only challenges you intellectually in school, but will also challenge you physically to compete. And I think that it makes a good player, if he has the potential to be a great player, a great player.
And so I think that in this conference, certainly at LSU, that the NFL will always be around. The NFL will always see our players as guys that understand the speed of the game, the most competitive style of play is reflective of the conference that they played in.
So I don't think there's any question that as this school, as we continue to achieve, NFL will only be attracted to our players.
Q. I guess seven years ago you were getting ready for your first head coaching job at Oklahoma State. Can you picture back then where you would be this quickly or how your coaching career has come in seven years?
COACH LES MILES: Absolutely not. I had no idea. I got into coaching because I wanted to help young men do something that they had, that I always felt was very difficult. And that was get a degree of choice and play championship football.
And I certainly wanted to be a head coach. It was always a desire of mine to be the head coach. Went to the Dallas Cowboys and hoped that I could find a spot. And when I went back to Oklahoma State, I certainly enjoyed my time there. The people at Oklahoma were wonderful to us. We won. We improved. We had some competitive teams. But I wanted to have the opportunity to win a national championship. And I was introduced to LSU by Skip Bertman and Charlie Weems and Richard Gill and a number of men that were on that committee. And I've always known that LSU had that kind of ability.
So I really had a difficult time saying no. And once I got here, the opportunities were here. And something probably from that point forward I can see us winning. And I don't know that I could ever see myself standing in between these trophies. It's just not something that I toyed with regularly.
Q. With your decision to stay at LSU and winning this title, so many LSU fans and, frankly, people in Louisiana feel like maybe they're no longer the stepping stone to the next big thing. Maybe this is the big thing. What do you say to fans who say that you're responsible for a new level of pride here?
COACH LES MILES: I can only tell you that LSU is no stepping stone for anything. LSU is a destination. And this is a wonderful place. It has everything, from the school, the city, the football team, the recruiting areas that are close by and that quality athletes would be attracted to. The weather. It's significantly different than the Midwest. This is a wonderful place. There's no reason for people to leave. This football program is in great shape and I want to be here for a long time.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you very much.
End of FastScripts