Dec. 9, 2011
Houston, Texas -
BIG EAST COMMISSIONER JOHN MARINATTO
On the University of Houston joining the Big East
"I want to formally welcome the University of Houston to the BIG EAST Conference. I want to take this opportunity to personally thank President Renu Khator and Athletics Director Mack Rhoades for their support throughout this process. As I said on Wednesday, it has been great to see these great institutions express their interest and enthusiasm in the BIG EAST Conference. The University of Houston was among them and immediately became of interest to us because of, but not limited to, their competiveness in their athletic program, their media, and student alumni base. The University of Houston is a part of a fine set of institutions that we formally accepted on Wednesday. They represent a very important step in the evolution of the 32-year history of the BIG EAST. Our five new schools will increase our overall footprint. It is a truly national conference. This is by far the largest footprint in the country and by expanding into all four U.S. time zones we will be able to schedule football games back to back to back to back."
"After such success this year we saw how great the Houston football program can and will be under the auspices of the BIG EAST Conference. We expect Houston's move to the BIG EAST to revive dominance that we saw back in the days of Phi Slama Jama. With its rich tradition, investments in facilities and adding membership into the best basketball conference in the country, it will reassure the University of Houston among the elite programs in of all of college hoops. I will close with saying how excited I am to have the University of Houston among our newest members of the BIG EAST Conference. We look forward to our long-term partnership beginning July of 2013."
On the most attractive aspects of adding UH to the BIG EAST
"We began to study our television negotiations about a year ago. We talked on how we would position ourselves, and one of the first things we talked about was market places and obviously Houston has one of the top 10 market places in the country. The caliber of their athletic program added to that. Also the rivalries that we would be creating were a big factor. As we talked with ESPN about our new television plans, that was also a very big piece of it."
On UH's plans on building new facilities and how that factor played into your invitation
"Facilities play a huge part in every school's design for their future. The commitment Houston has shown has played a significant role. As I mentioned earlier, I was listening to the pre-press conference event and listened to the talk of new facilities; it reiterated how much of a platform this will play for this University. Facilities are so important. Every school falls back on that."
How on-field success contributed to inviting UH to the BIG EAST
"The University has been in bowl games six of the last seven years. This past year has been a magical ride. Every so often every school has one of those. It was very important and what we were looking for. Our conference is very unique and over the years we talked about this. The thing we do have to do is ensure that we are able to compete at the highest level. Houston's success in football and basketball and all other sports is put into the mix. This, along with television and marketplace, was put into consideration. All of these combinations brought this consideration into play."
On what facilities will be used for the football and basketball postseason events
"The football championship game will be discussed with all athletic directors and we will determine where the best spot will be. Ideally, I always looked at New York as the place to do it. (As for basketball) We are the only conference in the country that has a permanent home for our basketball conference championship. We will continue to look to hold our basketball championship at Madison Square Garden."
DIRECTOR OF ATHLETICS Mack Rhoades
On travel budget concerns
"We studied it closely. Right now, Conference USA is widespread. Our travel budget will increase but it will be offset with our new conference revenues. The fact that Boise and San Diego State are football-only means we won't be having to travel there in our other sports."
On the overall picture for future facilities
"We are building a new football facility. We have some work to do, especially on raising additional money, but we will begin that process. To design a new stadium and a project of this magnitude could take anywhere from six to 12 months. We feel that it is important to get started immediately. As Chairperson (Nelda) Blair mentioned, we will hopefully break ground within the next 10 months."
On the financial status of the football facilities
"As we mentioned before, we have $45 million in firm pledges and we are working hard to finalize those signatures. We also have about 15 million in verbal pledges. We will continue to try to raise money. The announcement of the BIG EAST, the success of our football program and the broadening of our fan base definitely helps this process. We are confident that we will be playing in a new stadium soon."
On naming rights and the overall cost of the stadium
"We are still working on naming rights. Without any other funding sources, if it is all just private funding, we will have to get to the 80 or 85 million mark."
On head football coach Kevin Sumlin
"When you have success people will come after your coaches. We are not the only institution that deals with that. We will continue to monitor it and make sure that Coach Sumlin understands that we want him to remain as our head coach. If that is not the case then we will shake his hand and tell him thank you for the great job he has done here. That is a fact of life and what happens everyday in intercollegiate athletics."
On Hofheinz Pavilion renovations
"Hofheinz needs to be right behind the football stadium renovations. I have been through the process of building a new football stadium. It is a lot of work. As we begin this process, we will continue to look at the basketball arena. The basketball arena will follow shortly after. The basketball arena will not be a new structure, but will be newly designed with renovations."
On the financial growth by going to the BIG EAST
"Nothing is for certain until the TV negotiations play out, but we think it will be north of eight figures. So financially for us it will help. The BIG EAST will look at it strategically. I think it lengthens the ability to put together a dynamic television package."
UNIVERSITY OF HOUSTON CHANCELLOR AND PRESIDENT RENU KHATOR
On having a unique perspective of the BIG EAST
"I was Chief Academic Officer at the University of South Florida before we got into the BIG EAST. Once we got into the BIG EAST the exposure that we got nationally made a huge difference in the talent we recruited and the benchmarks we set. I always believe that when you go into an athletic conference, it is not just about athletic competitions, but also about academics. We have some great competition in the BIG EAST so this means we have to increase our academic achievements in terms of our retention rates, our graduation rates and our awards. I am looking at all of that. I can honesty say that at the University of South Florida it made a huge difference. We are here in Houston, which means we have a double advantage and look to be a different place in the next four years.
HEAD FOOTBALL COACH Kevin Sumlin
Opening statement on the move to the BIG EAST
"I know a lot has been said and you could feel the excitement in that room. As an athletic department, as a football program, I can tell you that a move to the BIG EAST, an AQ conference, gives you a shot in the arm; not only from an exposure standpoint, but a recruiting standpoint and the ability to compete at the highest level. As we look at it as a football program, I think the move to the BIG EAST not only helps grow your fan base, it helps energize our recruiting and gives us more exposure; exposure that we worked very hard to get playing in Conference USA. From a national standpoint and a football standpoint, I think it adds another dimension to the level of play your team is expected to compete at, and a level of recruiting. Just from the energy in that room, you can tell the excitement level of everybody at the university."
On how the departure of current BIG EAST teams will affect the conference
"I don't look at it as departures because we weren't apart of that. You have to look at it for the league that you're entering based on the members that are current, the addition of Boise State and San Diego State, obviously two really good programs. SMU, who has been pretty strong the last couple of years, and Central Florida were some of the better teams that we faced in our own league. To add them to teams like Cincinnati, who was fourth in the country a couple of years ago, Louisville, who has had a really nice run as a program and growing, with these additions, it's a really good league. From a competition standpoint, you're going to be able to play against some different people from all over the country; I think there's some television appeal to that. When you're talking about South Florida, who has been as high as No. 2 before, going down to play in a fabulous facility in Tampa, our kids will be excited about that. All those things add into a really competitive situation and a competitive league."
On how the move to BIG EAST will help pitch to recruits
"It (helps) that when you win your league, you're playing for a BCS game, that's an automatic qualifier. That's not the case with Conference USA right now. That's as big as you can get right there. You look at the bowl tie-ins with the BIG EAST and the automatic qualifier, I think that becomes a huge statement to a kid who is being recruited. Over the course of the last four years, the ability to say `Hey come to Houston and we're going to win' is one thing, but to say we're going to play for the same basic BCS scenario that Big 12, SEC and Big 10 schools are going to play for is a big deal because as you start to compete, better guys want to play for it all."
On does this raise concern of the speculation of the loss of AQ with BIG EAST
"No, I'm dealing with the conference as it is now. I'm not looking at teams that are leaving. I think the addition of Boise and their BCS points, our BCS points, Cincinnati's BCS points, I think from all indications that I've gotten is that there is going to be more than enough credibility in that league to maintain AQ status."
On will moving into an AQ conference be enough to keep him at Houston
"There's not one single thing. An automatic qualifier is a big deal. The ability to have an even playing field in recruiting that kids can look at it and say `Yeah, I have a chance to go their and win and play for a chance at a BCS bowl.' I think that is a big deal for recruiting and is a big deal at attracting coaches and retaining assistant coaches. When you look at where your program is and where it can be, you're trying to raise the ceiling as high as it can be, and maintaining that AQ status raises the ceiling for the University of Houston. That's a great thing for not only me but our assistant coaches and our players."
On what Sumlin would like to share regarding his position
"I will tell you this, and I'm here to talk about the BIG EAST today. Based on everything's that has been reported over the last week, I have been pretty consistent in what I've said. People have reported things that we all know now were not true, so I'm not talking about it anymore. It doesn't really matter what I say because I walk off the field (last Saturday) and there's one report, another report and there have been three or four reports in the last week. It doesn't really matter what my response is because people are going to write what they want to write, so I'm not talking about it."
On the conversation about his future at Houston with Athletic Director Mack Rhodes
"We had a conversation earlier this week when I got back from the National Football Foundation Awards. We talked a little bit about the direction that we're headed, recruiting and the general area of the program. That's where it is now and we have practice today."
On the speculation and recruiting
"We haven't had any de-commitments. Like I said, on Friday when people were telling me I was going somewhere else, we got another commitment before we played the championship game. From that standpoint in recruiting, we haven't lost anybody. My communication with Mack (Rhoades), Dr. Khator and our team has been consistent. Those people understand the lay of the land and what's going on. So for me to keep commenting on this doesn't really matter because people are going to keep writing their own stuff."
On the excitement about new facilities
"I am extremely excited about that. I was wondering when we were going to get to that. I think what's lost in this is the facilities piece and the stadium piece. I think that speaks to what is necessary (for us to do) to compete at that level. Anytime as a coach you have that ability to move from a non-AQ conference to an AQ conference, that's a big deal. Any coach in America that when they say `new stadium', is going to get excited. So all of those things add up and they really make a difference in recruiting, the quality of student-athletes that you're able to attract and also the difference in retention rate of assistant coaches. All those things add up to what makes a program. The combination of those two are extremely exciting."
On if he sees himself as the Houston Head Coach next season
"That's exactly what I said. I've always seen myself that way and I don't think that anything I've said or have talked about, has been any different. "
On his feeling of retaining assistants
"I've answered phone calls from all kinds of different schools and search firms about assistant coaches on our staff. Whenever you have success, that's going to happen. Not only for the head coach, but for assistant coaches and that's no different from anywhere else in the country where I've been. There's been guys that have moved on from here. There have been guys that moved on from where I used to work, at Oklahoma, to obviously coming here. We have a talented group of guys and as I've said, it's never been a one person situation, never will be."
MEN'S BASKETBALL HEAD COACH James Dickey
On the move to the BIG EAST
"There have been so many people that have worked so tirelessly on this effort for a long time but I certainly want to thank everyone from Dr. Khator to Mack Rhoades and their staffs about their tireless work. This would not have been accomplished without their leadership. I think it's a great day, a historic day, for our University and certainly for our athletic program. Being a part of one of the premier leagues in the country, certainly on the basketball side, one of the great basketball leagues for a tremendously long time, Hall of Fame coaches, great programs and outstanding players, (is great for us). We think this is a going to be tremendous for our university, our athletics department and certainly for our basketball programs."
On being a part of the BIG EAST Tournament at Madison Square Garden
"I've had the opportunity over the years to play in Madison Square Garden. It's a great venue. A lot of historic players have had the opportunity to go to New York and play at that arena. I've had the opportunity over the years to watch it on television. I know it's a great advantage. We're all looking forward to it at the appropriate time. We've got a lot of work to do to finish up Conference USA the next two years. We appreciate what they have done for us and what they have done for the school, but I know when the time gets here, it's going to be an exciting time. Hopefully we'll have a chance to play in New York before then and get some games scheduled in the Garden before that tournament. It's certainly one of the great events during championship week."
On expansion of recruiting base
"We're going to continue to sell what we have, which is a great university and a wonderful city and now to be apart of the BIG EAST, it certainly just enhances the opportunity for national exposure, to be on television, to compete against some of the premium powers. College basketball is going to be tremendous. We've never tried to limit ourselves, but we're still going to stay with the philosophy of starting at home and within the state, first.
On the loss of the three schools that won't be in BIG EAST Conference long term
"The BIG EAST has always been a very strong basketball conference and continues to be. Look at the evidence. Last year, the national champion came out of the BIG EAST. Change is sometimes difficult and for those people that are BIG EAST fans I can understand the disappointment, but I still think it's going to be one of the premier basketball leagues in the country."
WOMEN'S BASKETBALL HEAD COACH Todd Buchanan
On the move to the BIG EAST
"It's just a historic time and moment for this university and, obviously, specifically the athletic department. I think it would be completely remiss without starting by thanking Dr. Khator, Mack Rhodes and his entire staff for putting us in the situation. My excitement is incredible for the opportunity to be able to compete and coach against some very good friends and colleagues across the country and travel is amazing as well. We're certainly incredibly excited about it and welcome it with open arms."
On future recruiting
"I think that Coach Dickey hit the nail right on the head with Mack's vision and Dr. Khator's vision, of us not just being good, but being great. No offense to any conference throughout the country, our job is to get the best student-athletes in this country into this university and play at the highest level, regardless of the conference affiliation. I think that with a name and a brand (like the BIG EAST), arguably, the best in the country, that will provide us a vehicle in recruiting and a whole lot of other areas to knock on doors and maybe kick some doors open and have opportunities that we wouldn't have otherwise. It's like having Christmas come early."
On expansion of recruiting base
"Our philosophy will not change, first and foremost, with obviously taking care of home base and that's the city of Houston, the greater Houston area and the state of Texas. This process will provide us with a vehicle in recruiting. With that being said, do we recruit major cities with significant talent in New York, Chicago and Miami? Do some of those areas come into play now more so than they would have? Absolutely."
-- UHCougars.com -