Nov. 7, 2000

An interview with: COACH BOB DAVIE

JOHN HEISLER: Couple quick notes. Kick-off this week is at 3:38 eastern time. South Bend is on eastern sometime for the next six months. Those of you on the satellite will have about five and a half minutes from the Air Force game at the tail end of our conference today. Our Sunday wrap-up will be at 1:00 this week.

The women’s basketball AP Top 25 will come out this afternoon. As best we can tell, Notre Dame will be the only team that will be currently ranked in the Top 20 in football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball for this week.

Coach Davie is here, make some opening comments, take some questions.

COACH DAVIE: You spend so much time focusing in on your day-to-day deal of football, I was joking with the coaches. As some of you guys know, we meet in the stadium every day. That gate swings open at about 6:30 in the morning, see all of us coming in. At 10:00 that night, that gate swings back open, see all of us coming out of there.

A day like today, you talk about the real game , today is the real game day. You kind of associate everything with football, at least if you’re in this profession. You can’t help but think driving over here just how much not just George W and Al Gore have sacrificed and invested, how much has gone into their campaigns, but everybody running for office.

Kind of like football, you work so hard, you put so much into it, there’s so many stories of things that have happened that nobody ever really knows about, but you know about. All the sacrifices, all of the investments by people, a lot of people that you never hear about. It kind of always comes down to that bottom line. It’s what happens on that score board. You certainly appreciate how hard people have worked.

I look at the schedules those guys have kept, not that I follow it closely, but just all the time those guys have put into things. All of a sudden it comes down to today. They’re going to tabulate those votes just like you tabulate at the end of that game. There’s going to be a winner and there’s going to be a loser. Just all the things that have gone into it.

I think, without getting too philosophical, it really is about the preparation for the games. It really is about putting yourself in a position to be successful. You enjoy that as much as you enjoy the actual game sometimes. I think that’s why, just to kind of tie this all together, why I’m so excited about this team.

Who knows how this whole thing is going to turn out in the end – none of us know. Mike Sherman is one of my best friends, maybe my best friend. I stayed up last night and watched that Packer game. It comes down to Minnesota kicking that field goal, Gary Anderson is the best kicker maybe in the history of football. Snap gets bobbled, go into overtime, Green Bay has it third and five, they throw what everybody thinks, including what I believe to be an incomplete pass. Next thing you know Antonio Freeman goes into the end zone, the Packers win.

I guess all of us realize it comes down to the bottom line, comes down to the outcome. What you really appreciate about the whole thing is the efforts of a lot of people and the investment people have made. I think this football team we have, I think we got a special group of guys. It’s easy to come up with cliches and things, talk about a lot of different things, tweak things, twist things to make a great story. I think with this team, I feel genuine about that.

I think it’s really a close team. I think it’s a team that’s worked extremely hard. I also know it’s a football team that every week is going to go out there and are going to battle. But I like where we are. I don’t know how this whole thing is going to end up in the end of November but, dang, you like being in this position just to have so much to play for and so much to shoot for.

What you feel good about, you don’t know what the score board is going to say, but I think we’re going to take our best shot as a team. I think we’ve got a work ethic, a bunch of unselfish guys, a bunch of guys that don’t do a whole lot of talking, but they go out there and work hard.

This week it’s going to be another battle. You look at Boston College, they’re 6-3. They’re a good team. I mean, they’re the 13th ranked offense in the country, they’re 13th in scoring offense, big offensive line that I think is really talented. Their two runningbacks, both No. 1 William Green and No. 35 Washington are both outstanding players. Their two wide receivers, 11, Dewalt, and No. 84, Jamal Burke, both big-play guys. Jamal Burke caught a big one. Their tightends, about three of them that are talented. They have a big fullback. They’re the real deal offensively. They’re really good. They’re as good as anyone we’ve played on offense.

Of course, I think Tim Hasselbeck is out. I don’t really know. I understand what it means to lose your starting quarterback. Once again , I don’t pretend to know everything about Boston College, but I don’t think it hurts Boston College as much as it hurts some other teams.

I think Brian St. Pierre has been there a long time. He’s basically a junior. I know this spring, Hasselbeck did not take a snap. He had surgery. They actually thought that St. Pierre may beat Hasselbeck out the way it was written. He’s played in every game, started the game for them. Good player, really a good player.

We’ve got our hands full. Defensively they’re solid, they are really solid. You look at pass efficiency defense, they’re rated real high. They’re like they are on offense, they’re a high-execution team, don’t make mistakes, they don’t beat themselves.

Playing them at home, I’m anxious to see the atmosphere in our stadium. Playing a little bit later in the afternoon, it will be a tremendous atmosphere. I think sometimes with the seniors’ last game, we haven’t talked a whole lot about that, we’re not going to talk a whole lot about that. We’re going to once again just focus on our performance.

I don’t think motivation will be the issue this week. It’s a big football game, as you know. They’re all big. Certainly having a chance to play at home with so much at stake in November, it’s where you want to be, the kind of group of players you want to be around going into it.

We’re pretty healthy. Clifford Jefferson I don’t think will play. Hopefully he’ll be back for Rutgers. Severely sprained ankle, still has a boot on. Other than that, you know, for this time of the year, we’ve lost two impact players in Arnaz and Grant. We’re nicked up and beat up probably like Boston College and everybody else. But I think we’re going to have everybody else out there playing.

We can take some questions.

Q. There’s speculation in the media about Arnaz, the possibility of moving him to another position when he comes back.

COACH DAVIE: Where did all that speculation come from?

Q. Did you start it (laughter)?

COACH DAVIE: If he was healthy, he’d be our starting quarterback.

Q. I’m sure he would be. Looking at the way the quarterback position is evolving, is there any possibility, would you look at that possibility next year with the way the situation is evolving?

COACH DAVIE: You know what, I think that’s so hypothetical, there’s so many things that would have to happen. The only way I can answer that is if he was healthy today, he would be our starting quarterback.

I can’t look ahead to the spring. That situation will change. Right now that situation hasn’t changed. He’s the quarterback. I mean, he’s invested so much time in it himself, I think he’s really good. I think he adds an element to our offense that not many guys can add. I’m just disappointed he got hurt because you can’t see how far he has evolved. He threw the football so well in summer camp, it’s a shame.

Not trying to be evasive. That’s not even an issue right now. That’s not even thought about or discussed. Sure, it’s going to be discussed because he’s so athletic, but that’s not an issue right now.

Q. You’re undoubtedly facing a situation where it will be an issue at some point.

COACH DAVIE: You know what, if those young quarterbacks make that kind of development and can pass him up, I think it would be a win-win situation for us because that means those young quarterbacks would have to be really good.

Once again, that’s all just great conversation right now. That’s not even been discussed.

Q. Aside from that fact, where is Urban Meyer in terms of his development as an assistant coach? If you were put in a position where you had to replace Kevin, is Urban ready for the responsibility?

COACH DAVIE: Let me say this: i first of all think it’s great that Kevin Roger’s name is being mentioned. Once again, there’s been no official contact. We all know how sometimes, Kevin knows it better than I do, sometimes the names that are first in the media are not the names that are on that list at all. I mean, that’s all the reality.

I hope his is because I think he’s going to be a great head coach. Urban Meyer also has an opportunity to be a head coach. He’s been contacted by Bowling Green, already met with Bowling Green. He’s an outstanding coach. I love him. I love him. I mean, I think he brings a lot of things. I think he’s a difference maker. But there’s some other guys on the staff that I feel the same way about, as well.

I’ve got no reservations about Urban Meyer being a head football coach. I have no reservations about him being an offensive coordinator. He has a tremendous future.

Q. Were you a little bit taken aback or surprised last year when the whole pep rally thing blew up, Tom O’Brien reacted angrily to your comments from the night before? Reflecting back on that, were you surprised on that?

COACH DAVIE: I was shocked by that. To talk in that post game conference, be hit with some comment I made at the pep rally, you know, it’s not something I got bent out of shape about or put a whole lot of thought into. You’ve got to use what you’ve got to use to motivate your football team.

You know, I think anyone that goes to our pep rallies realizes that you’re put in a dilemma as the head football coach. I mean, you’re going to get up there. If you don’t say something, you’re going to get — people are going to howl about that wearing blue and gold. If you get up there and say too much, then you’ve got the other people.

You know, what I decided to do is not worry about any of it and get up there and just say what I feel like saying, let the chips fall where they may.

To answer your question, yeah, I was surprised by that. I think anybody understands that in a pep rally, that’s what a pep rally is. I certainly wouldn’t make a big deal about what somebody said at their pep rally. But I don’t have any problem with somebody else using what I say at a pep rally. I don’t think in the end all that matters. It wasn’t something I lost any sleep over.

Q. I have a question about recruiting. Your thoughts on maybe the possibility of the talk among the coaches of an early signing period, whether you thought that was a good idea or bad, why and why not?

COACH DAVIE: I don’t like it. I don’t like it because I think it just puts additional pressure. I don’t really like an early signing date. I think already there’s so much pressure put on admissions across the country that you’re trying to get junior transcripts in when a young man still has a whole senior year left of football. I think at some point they ought to go play their senior year.

To be honest, I wish the whole process would slow down and let us coach through the season, let seniors play through the season. There will be plenty of time for recruiting after the season. I really don’t like it.

I think it puts everybody in a situation where there’s a competitive thing in your summer camps now. Obviously we’re doing the same thing. I think from the academic standpoint, to say at the end of your junior year that kids are ready for admittance, particularly at a place like Notre Dame, we’re faced with that now where obviously people are able to make offers to kids that are at the end of their sophomore year, halfway through their junior year. You still have a year and a half of school left. A lot of guys haven’t even taken test scores yet, don’t even have a documented test score. I would hate to move that process up any earlier than it is already.

Q. That said, do you have a problem with recruiting kids who have committed to other schools, and vice versa?

COACH DAVIE: I don’t really have a problem with it. I don’t think that there’s really an unwritten rule that says you can’t go recruit kids that have committed, like the kids that commit to us.

I think the bottom line is players should go where they’re really comfortable and go where they really want to go. Sometimes players have a change of heart. I think that’s one of the unfortunate things about having an earlier signing date. Here you are having a guy sign before his senior year in football, what happens if the team he signs with doesn’t have a great year? What happens if the team that he was skeptical about signing with did have a great year? They change the coach after that year and they change their offense, you got guys locked in.

I think until they sign on February 2nd, whatever the date is, it’s really open game. I don’t beat guys up over the morality of making an early commitment. The bottom line is, go where you want to go. I’m going to be better off as a coach if you really want to come here. It’s not so much getting them to sign, it’s getting them to go where they really want to go and the best place for them.

Q. (Question regarding Boston College.) This team has been a thorn to you guys. Do you talk to the players about that?

COACH DAVIE: Not really. I think all those things take care of themselves as far as the motivation. When you get yourself into a situation like that where you’re creating motivational things, it’s kind of like me before the season getting up there and saying it’s us against the world, nobody picks any of you guys as pre-season anything, nobody predicts us as pre-season anything. That all wears off. I’d much rather talk about the things I talked about starting this conference off by how much we have invested and how much we’ve worked.

I don’t think you let outside people control your motivation for you and wait to see what’s going to be said. I’m not going to motivate my team because somebody said this or something happened four years ago. It’s about what we’ve done and what we’ve accomplished, what we’ve invested. I’d much rather take that approach. I think you’re going to be a lot more consistent. I think your football team will appreciate that more.

Q. Brian St. Pierre is a good quarterback. Stylistically, how is he different from Hasselbeck from what you’ve seen on film? How will your defense have to adjust to him?

COACH DAVIE: I think, first of all, Tim Hasselbeck is really good, really good. What he did last year in our game has been consistent with what he’s done this year in the games. He runs well, he scrambles well. When he runs the option, he’s a weapon. Throws a deep ball extremely well.

Brian St. Pierre seems to be a little bit taller. He throws the ball well. He’s pretty mobile. I’m not sure he runs the same way Tim Hasselbeck does. He can run. We recruited him. Not a whole lot of difference.

The bottom line, we’re going to prepare, whether it’s No. 2 or No. 7, like it’s the same number. I don’t see a change. Brian St. Pierre has come in in games this year, nothing seems to have changed. Who knows what they’ll do, but I don’t see it changing very significantly.

Q. After the quarterback draw worked so well last year, how do you defend against that? What made it work last year?

COACH DAVIE: You know, first of all, they gave us some empty formations. We scrambled around and had a hard time getting lined uptight. It’s something that, first of all, took us a little bit by prize surprise. Second of all, I don’t think we did a great job getting coordinated on how we adjusted to it. It was difficult. They had a good plan. That was number one.

Number two, the guy running it was really good. Really, he can run and he’s strong. He reminds me of Jarious, Hasselbeck reminds me a lot of Jarious as far as running the football.

It was a combination of things. They got us out of alignment a few times, spreading the field. He took off and ran a couple times, made some good runs. They ran the option on us. They got us on the option, too. There was a period where we could not tackle that quarterback. That was the biggest thing in the game other than the deep pass on third and 16.

Q. (Inaudible) ranked 12th in the polls. Hypothetically, if there was a playoff system, they took 12 teams, do you feel your team would be in a good position, health-wise? Would this be a year you would really want a playoff to be able to get some of that back?

COACH DAVIE: I’d like to wait. If we could start it right now, you know, I’d feel like we could take our best shot. Three weeks >from now, as we know last year so many things happened in November physically, emotionally. Who knows when all the dust settles. We’ll find out three weeks from now.

Right now, I like our team. Not that I’m saying we’re a team that can walk out there and beat anybody in the country, but we’re a team that I think is very hungry, a team that’s getting better, a team that you look forward to watching play every Saturday. Right now I feel pretty good about our opportunities.

If you watch college football like you do, all you got to do is sit there Saturday and look at the games and you see Washington State and Oregon, you see Arizona and Oregon State, just go right on down the line. You look at Memphis, Tennessee. That is every week. That’s not just talking about parity, that’s what it is.

Other than looking at Florida State, maybe Oklahoma, when you look at Florida State and what they did to Clemson, that was a clinic with a bunch of good clinicians, different guys out on that field. Certainly Oklahoma with what they’ve done offensively. When you look at Texas, something like third in this country in defense. They put 63 on Texas.

Who you picking for president?

Q. I think Bush in terms of popularity. I didn’t vote for him, but he’s coming out of woodwork (laughter).

Q. Anyway, talking to Dan O’Leary, he didn’t think at the end of the season he could play more games in a playoff physically. Is that something that is going to hinder the playoff process?

COACH DAVIE: I think my stance on the playoff thing would be, here at Notre Dame, it’s difficult, it’s a grind. There’s academics, as we know. I don’t know how you compare One-A-A playoffs with our level of playoffs just because every week, obviously with the media, as a player, as a coach, I think for me it’s a different situation between One-A-A and Division I just because of the magnitude of each game and the demands of each game. I think it’s different.

I love One-A-A, but it’s different. I don’t think playing 14 or 15 games as Notre Dame and Florida State, the places where so much goes into each one of those games from all the other standpoints, as well. You’re taking a team here, every Friday night you’re going 30 miles to Plymouth. Every Friday night before that you’re going to the pep rally with your football team. It’s a grind. It’s a grind. It’s different.

Then how it impacts academics, where do you play the game? Are we going to play in Notre Dame stadium in December? All those things. I mean, plus, the bottom line with me, I’d rather spread it around a little bit.

There’s something about half the teams that play in Bowl games, even though some of the Bowl games you’re not sure of the names year to year, how they change. At least half the coaches, players, alumni feel pretty good about winning that last game.

When we were at Youngstown State, Delaware wins the National Championship. I played in One-A-A semifinals, but I lost. I’d rather say I played in the Weed Eater Bowl. We went to Shreveport and played in the Independence Bowl.

Why are you sarcastic about that (laughter) ? You big city guys, I tell you, man (laughter).

Q. Considering the amount of yardage your defense has allowed in the last two games, anything special you addressed?

COACH DAVIE: It’s kind of embarrassing, first of all, to give up points and yards kind of in bushels the way we’ve done it. When I say that, we’ve also done some really good things. That’s probably why it’s a little bit embarrassing.

In periods of those games, certainly if you take the last three where we’ve really at the end of the game given up points, if you look at the Navy game, Navy had 80 yards or something going into the fourth quarter. West Virginia, what, 42-14? At the end there, just kind of — then the Air Force game.

But I think looking at it, it’s been three different kinds of situations, but it’s still a situation where we need to improve on pass defense. I mean, that’s still our Achille’s heel, just like it was back before a game was ever played here.

Sometimes when it gets down to late in the game, you’re behind, they’re taking advantage, they’re throwing the football every down, maybe it is one of your Achille’s heels.

I don’t think it needs to be more dramatic than it is. There’s times in the games we play very well. It’s at the end of some football games when people are just airing it out on us, we seem to break down a little bit.

The Navy game was different because we had busted assignments. The West Virginia game, I honestly thought we got tired. The Air Force game, I thought they made some great plays.

I’m not sitting here making excuses saying if we’re not getting tired, they can’t win. We can’t win if we keep doing that. It’s a concern. It’s a concern. More pass rush at times, we need to get off (inaudible), we need to have a linebacker third and 12 against Air Force who is supposed to run a blitz. The game is over if we win the blitz. We open the floodgates a little bit. We can control it.

It’s not that we’re under-talented, it’s not that we’re snake bit, not that we’re out of shape. We just got to go close it and make some plays.

Q. You had some success at Michigan State, you liked the blitz. West Virginia, I think you referred to as maximum security or maximum protection team. Air Force, I don’t know, two sacks maybe. Boston College. (Inaudible) you can put pressure on them?

COACH DAVIE: Boston College has given up four sacks all year. Boston College is a maximum protection style team. They’re geared for that. Not that they do that every time. They do a lot of verticals, but they also can keep people in and max up. They’re difficult. I mean, they’ve given up four sacks all year, which is amazing. They run the ball well, too. It’s hard. Boston College is a hard team to pressure.

Q. How nice was it to have the week off and to see things kind of fall the way they did? You obviously jumped up, became BCS eligible, four spots in the ranking.

COACH DAVIE: What you’re saying is you’d kind of like to have another open date, move up four more spots, ride this thing like that (laughter).

An open date this late in the season from a health standpoint I think was very significant for us, something we really needed. You get a little nervous about having an open date, though, late in the season. Seems like an awfully long time since we’ve played a game now. The first open date went a little bit faster.

It didn’t impact me a whole lot, what happened. I see that being college football right now. I realize for us that’s kind of like it was before the season, with all the talk, kind of a different mode. The bottom line was we controlled our own destiny, whether it was before the season or whether it’s right now. We can sit there on Saturday and watch all the football we want, but it comes down to us going and playing those next three games. I can watch all I want, we still have to go play. We can talk about it all we want to talk about it, but we still have to go play.

I looked at it just as a chance to get a little healthier, maybe a little better week of preparation. I know we have to go play. None of it matters anyhow, what other people are doing right now.

Q. A year ago you beat an Oklahoma team that had a good team. This year they’re No. 1. Do you look at that and use that as proof of what a leap your team maybe can make next year? How close is this program to being in that No. 1 place again?

COACH DAVIE: First of all, I think Oklahoma, what they’ve done, is remarkable. I spoke to RC a little bit, they’re getting ready for Oklahoma. Josh is really, really good. Oklahoma, everyone that’s followed them, I remember when the Oklahoma job was open, and I remember RC saying, “Whoever gets that job, that’s a great, great job because they have one talented football team.” A lot of things were in place at Oklahoma. They’ve done a tremendous job.

Oklahoma, John Blake recruited at Oklahoma. He recruited a bunch of good players there. You get Josh, you just explode with that different scheme. I do think they’re in a different league than we’re obviously in as far as week-to-week, maybe who they play.

Certainly when I look at our football team, you do look at beating Oklahoma last year. You do look at playing Nebraska this year and how close it was. I mean, I think we’re pretty good. I think we’re pretty good. I think we can really, really be good next year. I mean that.

We got a lot of football to play this year, I’m not already talking about next year, but I think next year can be our best football team probably since I’ve been at Notre Dame, definitely since I’ve been head football coach at Notre Dame.

Sure, I mean, that’s the motivation, that’s the motivation. There’s a lot of football this year, this year becomes next year almost, too. That’s why you want to finish so strong. You want to finish strong because there’s so much momentum going from one season to the next. Sure, it’s about this year, but I think it also springboards you into next year.

Q. (Inaudible). Is that because of what he overcame? What was behind that decision?

COACH DAVIE: It was really because of what he contributed to this football program. In the spring, we could not have practiced without Joe Recendez. Danny O’Leary and Jabari Holloway was out. He goes every snap every day in the spring. Played good. Made some catches in the spring game. I rewarded him for his contributions to this program.

I’d be less than honest if I didn’t say his story made it a slam-dunk for me. There’s always other walk-ons that are deserving, too. We have a lot of other guys. I won’t go through their names. I think his story just made it so obvious to me that that was the right thing to do.

Q. I know they’re on the schedule every year. Maybe you haven’t noticed, Purdue is still ahead of you in the poles. Do you have any reaction to that? Head-to-head, you did beat them. That was played in September.

COACH DAVIE: I really don’t feel strongly about it. Maybe if I really researched. I’m trusting in all those different computer situations, all those different rankings. We’re probably ahead of someone who ought to be ahead of us, if we’re really honest.

I’m not saying that because we have to play them next year. That really doesn’t bother me all that much. We’re playing Purdue at home in our stadium. It’s two even teams. We kick a field goal the very last play of the game to beat them. That’s in our stadium.

I don’t really feel strongly about that. At the end of the year, obviously if we’re behind Purdue, that impacts what bowl we go too. I’ll probably have stronger feelings about that. I just know there’s so many things going to transpire between now and when I really have to be concerned about it, that’s way down my list of things I’m going to get uptight about.

Q. Can you compare the state of this team from where the team was a year ago going into the BC game?

COACH DAVIE: Not even in the same . I mean, totally, totally different situation. If you remember last year in the Pittsburgh game, we lost two offensive linemen in the Pitt game for the rest of the year. We were about out of gas. We were out of gas.

I think when I look back to last year, I thought our players went out and really played hard in the Boston College game. I’m not sure we didn’t play about as good as we were capable of playing in the Boston College game and in the Stanford game. The whole picture of who we were playing with, who had no backups, who to be on special teams. We were about out of gas this time last year.

Q. With Jefferson out, is Beckstrom going to slide up and fill his slot?

COACH DAVIE: It’s a concern. Jason Beckstrom is going to play. He played a lot at the end of the Air Force game. He got tired at the end of the Air Force game. No. 5 did some good things against him at the end of the Air Force game.

I think he’s a good player. He played last year. He’s got a big test this week (inaudible) going to play.

Q. Do you anticipate trying to work Jared Clark for a few snaps?

COACH DAVIE: We’re not going to force it. We’re not going to prove a point by putting him in a series. If the game flows where we need to put him in or we can put him in, we’d have no reservation about putting him in. I’m not going to force that.

Q. RC was a friend of the Bush family. Do you have any background with the Bushes?

COACH DAVIE: Not really. I talked to RC a lot. The Bush library is now at A&M. They had a big pig farm out behind the stadium. That’s where RC and I would jog every day. We’d go out by that pig farm and jog. Now it’s the site of the Bush Memorial Library. RC has become good friends with George Sr. They golf a lot together. They’re good friends.

Trying to figure out who I voted for (laughter)? I’m not going to spill my guts like Al did.

All right, guys. Thank you.