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December 31, 2008

Brian Kelly


JASON ALPERT: Coach, you're now a little more than 24 hours from a BCS Bowl game. What does it mean to your program to have gotten to this point?
COACH KELLY: Well, I think it's about respect. It's about credibility, anytime that you can make it to the Orange Bowl and a BCS game. But it's also for us important that we represent the Big East and continue for what has been a great three-year run for Big East schools in Bowl play. So it's important for us to win the football game.

Q. At this stage of the evolution of your program, is it more important to get to this game or to win this game?
COACH KELLY: (Laughing) You know, I think I could answer that question in different parts. Certainly locally, as you know, building a fan base, building your program, winning a Big East Championship and getting here obviously gets you a lot of momentum. But that's not enough for me, personally, professionally, and I believe that's not enough for our football team. We like to play and we like to win.
So winning the game for us, it's in our DNA. So for me to just finish it by saying, hey, getting here is great for fan support, we want to get here and we want to win the football game.

Q. First time coming to a BCS Bowl game, how has the fan turnout been and what do you expect and how important do you think it is that they show up?
COACH KELLY: Well, it's quite busy, obviously. It's unlike any other Bowl game that I've been to and our players. So clearly all of the things that go along with being at a BCS Bowl and being in the Orange Bowl in particular, it doesn't get any better than this. And with that come a lot of responsibilities, a lot of things that our team is required to do over this week. I think we've done a pretty good job of balancing it out.
But the support and the way that we're going to travel, which is very good to me, that we're going to have 14,000-plus down here, means that we've got the right kind of support.

Q. This being your first BCS Bowl game, strictly practice wise, how has preparation gone this week?
COACH KELLY: I thought it's gone -- you know, again (laughing), you want to be in your own environment and there's a comfort level as coaches that we all have when we can control everything. We're control freaks when it comes to that. You don't get the control that you want when you come to a BCS Bowl game. There's just so many other opportunities for distractions.
But having said that, our kids got a chance to understand distractions and how they've got to focus on the game when we went to Hawaii. So from that standpoint, although there are a lot of other things going on, I think our kids have handled it well, our preparation has been solid, but most importantly, we did a lot of our work in Cincinnati before we got here. So we weren't putting in the game plan, we weren't doing those kinds of things, we were just going over what had already been laid down in our time in Cincinnati.
We didn't spend as much time -- you hear this all the time, you get extra practices and you get the young guys a lot of work. We didn't do that as much. We really focused on Virginia Tech and our game plan, so when we got here, we didn't feel like we were behind it.

Q. The long day tomorrow for the coaches or the players, do you think it'll drag? Do you think it'll go quickly? How will you guys handle it?
COACH KELLY: Well, the good part about it is we're used to playing at night. We play most of our games -- ESPN has gotten us some late games, so that's not a concern at all to me. I think actually getting them a good night's sleep tonight and having some time where they don't have anything scheduled is actually pretty good. I'm glad we're not playing at noon to be quite frank with you. I think having that time, some downtime where they can really lock in on the ballgame, the schedule works out pretty good for us.

Q. Frank said that the Hokies are switching hotels tonight to give it a normal Friday night pregame sort of feel. Are you guys doing anything like that to sort of seclude yourselves a little bit?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, we are. We're moving hotels, as well. We're moving into what we would consider just a quieter environment. It's going to be pretty busy at the hotel, so we're going to certainly get our kids in a more quiet environment so they can get a good night's rest.

Q. Secondly, I'm sure the Hawaii game was scheduled before you got there, of course. Is it one of those deals that could go either way? Is it an advantage that you didn't have a full month off and that you're still relatively sharp? Or when you combine travel, finals, holidays, Bowl prep, has it been a lot to squeeze into two and a half weeks?
COACH KELLY: It is a lot, but I would rather have the shorter period between games because things change so much. I think what we've seen is if you look at the end of the regular season, defenses were clearly a little bit ahead of the offenses. There were a lot of close games. They weren't very high scoring. Now you get into the Bowl games and you're seeing points all over the place, high-scoring games, and I lot of that is because of that layoff. So I'm glad we had that short layoff so we can keep our guys sharp.

Q. When getting ready for Virginia Tech's defense, ranked seventh in the nation, I believe, can you go back to your game against Oklahoma and take anything out of that? Or is that too long ago?
COACH KELLY: They're different styles defensively. Their style of defense and what they do is extremely unique to a spread offense. As you know, its base roots are in the eight-man front. So configurations of coverages, and I don't want to get -- you know the defense because you follow it, but there's a lot of different things that go along with preparing for Virginia Tech's defense than other defenses that you see during the year. It might look the same, but I can tell you, for a guy that's been in the spread offense for a long time, there's a lot of different things that I have to prepare our offense for that we don't see during the year.

Q. People might not know, but you're leaving the hotel essentially because P. Diddy is moving in. Do you know anything about P. Diddy, and might you hang with him tonight if you weren't involved in this football game?
COACH KELLY: See, I don't know how you've got "P. Diddy." To me he's "Diddy." (Laughter.)

Q. My bad (laughter).
COACH KELLY: We've got a busy hotel. Jamie Foxx was in the lobby the other day, and I didn't know who he was, either, until one of our players pointed him out, so I need to get out and get a life I think really what this is about. You know, it's the Orange Bowl. It's exciting. You're going to have those kinds of things. But I won't get a chance to see the show.

Q. What's the biggest difference between having a good year and having a good program?
COACH KELLY: Oh, I think how you handle yourself away from the football field, coaches, head coaches, players. Frank Beamer has got a great program. When you think about Virginia Tech, you think about how they handle themselves both on and off the field. That to me is the difference between a good team and a good program. Everybody feels good about what we do on a day-to-day basis; that's the difference.

Q. Does just reaching a BCS game change the perception of your program, or do you need to add a win in a BCS program to change the perception the way you'd like to see it go?
COACH KELLY: Well, it's an ongoing process for us relative to changing the perception. One win or loss won't take away from the work. It's winning; winning changes perceptions. 21 wins over the past two years is a good start. I believe, and correct me if I'm wrong, has Virginia Tech been in 15 consecutive Bowl games?

Q. 16.
COACH KELLY: There is no other perception than success when you go 16 straight. So this is a journey; this is a process for us. We think we've made great strides. There's a long road ahead of us that we'll have to continue to work on.

Q. In the mid-1990s were you cognizant of kind of the rise of Virginia Tech during that time?
COACH KELLY: What I remember is that everybody wanted Frank Beamer to be their football coach. I remember there was a period of time that he was rumored to go to BC, and again, I'm speaking as I'm thinking about it, so I could be factually wrong, but that was my understanding is that you had a coach like Frank Beamer that everybody coveted when there was an opening. But he stayed there, and he continued to build their program, and with that continuity came success. That's how I remember Virginia Tech, and obviously I think that's why they're back-to-back champs. They've kept the coaching staff in place and you've kept the head coach in place, and they've continued to win.

Q. I'm curious what your thoughts are on the early signing day for college football. I think it's going to go in front of the NCAA in about a month. I know you guys had about 20 commitments by August of this year, and I'm wondering what your thoughts are on that issue.
COACH KELLY: I'm a strong, strong, strong proponent of an early signing day.

Q. Why?
COACH KELLY: Early commitments, transparency in the recruiting process now puts kids out in a position where they're being scrutinized on a day-to-day basis. If we did not limit text messages, kids might not get through class without 30, 40 text messages. It's intrusive to the point where we have to take action.
The one thing that football has done, college football, I think that's great, that we have not lost the touch with the high school coach. We don't have AAU, we don't have those things; we have the high school coach. And when these commitments are made so early, which they are now as you mentioned. We've got 20; I think we're probably in the midpoint of where everybody else is. It puts a lot of pressure on the coach to maintain the word that the kid gave at 18 years old. So that's why I believe that if we had an early signing period, it would take a lot of the pressure off the coach and the kid once he had made that commitment.

Q. I want to follow that up. Just to play point-counterpoint with you, why would any coach not want an early signing period? Can you fathom that really?
COACH KELLY: Sure. I think that there's clearly some programs that are going to be in the hunt right up through February for the guy that's got five visits to USC, Miami -- did I do good there, Miami, threw that in there; Florida, Florida State -- oh, South Florida, too.
So my point is for that guy that's got the five visits, clearly they don't want to end that thing early. They want to be in the mix and have an opportunity. But that's a small percentage of the guys in my opinion.

Q. Knowing what sort of political fan you are and how closely you follow that realm of life, this season with all that was going on with your football team, were the campaigns a neat diversion for you to follow, everything that was happening?
COACH KELLY: Other than Obama having a rally at Nippert Stadium and taking one of our practice opportunities -- by the way, he's going to have to pay us back for that I would think. Other than that it was a part of what was part of my life, I really didn't spend much time focusing in on it. I was just as confused as everybody else, I think. It was part of my life, but I really didn't spend as much time other than being a good citizen and voting; that was about it.

Q. You've talked a lot about wanting to represent the Big East, and I'm wondering why that's important to you, and even with the success that the league has had in Bowl games this year and the last couple years, is it still in some ways kind of a fight for credibility for you guys?
COACH KELLY: I don't think so. We're 11 and 2 in the last three years in Bowl games, so you can compare us to whoever you want. You can say we're not this or we're not that, but we've won 11 out of 13 games, and we've still got three on the board that we think that we can be successful in. If we're fortunate enough to win our next three -- we'll be pulling hard for Pittsburgh against Oregon State; we'll be pulling hard for Connecticut against Buffalo; and of course our situation, that's 14 and 2. I don't think we need to compare ourselves to anybody; we can let the numbers speak for themselves.

Q. I know you've probably covered this a million times, but when you came here under the circumstances that you did with the Bowl game and all those things, how difficult was it, or what kind of challenges did it present to maybe win over those guys to your style, your personality, all those things?
COACH KELLY: Well, it's pretty clear that if you have a group of kids that just lost their head coach and the new guy walks in, you're going to be met with a great deal of skepticism; is this guy here to just step to the next level, is it a steppingstone for them. So your room is going to be a bit skeptical about what you're saying.
So what that game did for us more than anything else is it let us get into a game situation in two weeks with our players. They could see our investment in helping them win a game. It's a lot better than just talking about it. When you get a chance to do it, when you get a chance to motivate in the locker room, when you get a chance to call from the sideline, plays, it gives you a dynamic that we were able to build on in our first year. So we built a bit of trust with our guys in that first year, and it helped us to a ten-win season.

Q. Just to follow up on something you just said, do you feel like you're firmly entrenched at Cincinnati, that it is not a steppingstone to maybe a more prestigious job?
COACH KELLY: Oh, absolutely. The University of Cincinnati has made a commitment that wasn't there in the past, and that is, number one, we're now in a BCS conference and get a chance to play for the Orange Bowl. Conference USA didn't have this opportunity. We get natural rivals now where we can play a West Virginia and a Pittsburgh and a Louisville. We now have an opportunity to keep coaches, and we can continue to build a program that really had very little traction nationally.
So it's pretty exciting from that standpoint that we can be in a place that our future is in front of us. It was a steppingstone because all those things weren't in place before I got to the University of Cincinnati.

Q. Do you ever come down here for spring break when you were a kid?
COACH KELLY: (Laughing) I did, but I think something happened where my memory for some reason (laughter) -- I can't put it all together. I know I was here. I know I ate food late at night. Other than that, I can't remember. Thanks (laughter).

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