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Steve Sarkisian Press Conference Transcript
Release: 12/08/2008
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Dec. 8, 2008

University of Washington President Mark Emmert:
"When Scott Woodward and I started looking for a new coach, we wanted someone who could re-energize Husky football - bring us back to where we all know we belong. Work with the kids we have now and bring more student athletes into the university and we think we've got our guy."

University of Washington Director of Athletics Scott Woodward:
"We made a thorough and comprehensive search, and every time we went to the people we trusted and the people we knew in the business - with our own gut instinct - Steve's name came up and we couldn't be happier."

Head Football Coach Steve Sarkisian:
"What a moment guys. I just want to say that I'm so grateful for this opportunity - to be the head football coach of Washington. I want to thank president Emert and Scott Woodward. To me, this is one of the jobs in the country that I've cherished since I've grown up watching Pac-10 football.

"The opportunity to come to this University, to stand here in front of this alumni, the coaches that have been here before - Don James - what an amazing opportunity for myself, for my family who is with me here today. I'm just so excited to be part of this thing and to get this thing moving in the right direction again.

"First and foremost I want to thank my lovely wife Stephanie, my three children Ashley, Brady and Taylor. Their support, their effort to be part of this thing and we can't wait to get this thing going. I also want to thank the city of Seattle and the University of Washington for welcoming us. The hospitality they've provided to us, getting moved up here and getting this transition going."

"The University of Washington - 15 conference championships, two national championships, 14 Rose Bowl appearances - all of which were from around 1991 and 1998. It's 2008 and about time for us to come back and compete for conference championships and national championships. No question.

"Standing here today and looking out at Husky Stadium, I want to give you a little personal experience of when I was a player at BYU and I got an opportunity to play here my senior season. We're 14-1 and we finished fifth in the country and our only loss came in this building right here. I got sacked eight times, we had eight false start penalties. I got off the plane and went straight to the hospital to get an MRI on my left knee. The hostile environment and the electricity in the building could not be matched or replaced. Obviously that's not the way it is right now, but as I know Husky football and I know Husky Stadium can be, I know what can be. I know it's something that's attainable for us. It's going to happen quickly, it's going to happen fast, it's going to take the support of everyone involved.

"Obiously we're in the midst of a recruiting battle. We're going to jump in with two feet running forward. We're going to get the best football players available and we're going to get a staff of young, energetic recruiters that are going to know how attract players to come to a tremendous institution with a great tradition of not only football players but coaches. We're going to get players to compete, not only on the field but in the classroom.

"We're going to be a physical football team on and off the field. We're going to battle and compete. When we're in those tight games in the fourth quarter, we're going to find a way to win. No question.

"I want to thank the University of Southern California, Pete Carroll. I spent seven tremendous years of my life there. It was an unbelievable experience winning championship football games. With Pete mentoring me for this moment - it's something that is irreplaceable. He's a great man, I owe him dearly, but that doesn't mean I don't want to go out there and beat him in the third game of the season at this stadium next year.

"As we all know. There is only one place to go and that is up. We've got a tremendous football team. We've got kids that are talented, kids that want to work hard, we've just got to change their mindset. It's going to take a little time, but that doesn't mean it can't happen fast. I'm excited about the opportunity once again, I can't wait to get going, but we've got to get through these preliminary days of working through some logistics. Let's get going, let's get recruiting, let's finish up finals and let's get this program back to where it needs to be. Thank you very much.

Q: Can you talk about how you first got involved with this job. What it was that made you want to apply for it?
"Well, to me, this job has always been one that, when I was growing up this was conference championships, this was national championships -- that's all I ever knew it as. Where this program was the last few years, I knew it was capable of much more than that, so when this opportunity arose, it was something that I knew I wanted to get on as quickly as possible. I spoke with Pete about it and Pete agreed that this was a hidden gem that could be turned around quickly. When I got the opportunity to meet Mark and Scott, I realized their support, their willingness, their commitment to make this football program what we all want it to be, it was a no-brainer for me. I did everything in my power to go get this job; they're probably tired of all the phone calls they got from people on my behave, but I went after this thing full fledge."

Q: At the beginning of the year, did you think this was a year that you might get an offer like this?
"There's always been things and every job is different. Every job has a different dynamic about it and with every job opportunity I've had, I've tried to assess and look at the strengths and weaknesses. Is there the support mechanism there to make this thing successful and with this job there was no question. This is a great program, it's got a great fan base. Seattle is a great city to recruit to. The academic standards are fantastic so everything to me fell in place. We've just got to win football games."

Q: You've game-planed against this team. What do you think are it's biggest challenges?
"We need to become a faster football team. I think right now, where we're at, this football team was built on strength and bulk, and we need to get speed on defense most notably - get guys flying around the football. On the offensive side of the football, we need to protect the football better than we have in the past. We need to maximize the talents of our quarterback. And then we need to get guys around him playing up to their capabilities."

Q: What is the message that you gave to the team this morning?
"The biggest message was this is a clean slate. Whatever happened before I was here, we're starting off on a new foot in the program so I think for a lot of guys it's a chance for a new beginning. It's going to take a lot of hard work, but we need to finish up finals this week."

Q: Your first game is against LSU and then after that you have 11 games in 11 weeks. Do you want either of those things to change? Can they change?
"It's our schedule, and a schedule is a schedule. Let's go play. Obviously 12 weeks in a row, you're fighting some injuries and whatnot there, but that's the way it is - let's go play. No matter where you're at, the dynamics of the schedule are different. Sometimes you get two byes at the beginning of the year and you go for 10 weeks in a row. Sometimes you go for eight straight weeks and you get three or four byes at the end. That's your schedule, let's go play."

Q: Are you more hesitant to open this program up to fans, alums, media? There was a sense that that wasn't happening under the previous staff.
"It's extremely important. I want our practices to be fun, exciting. I want people there. I want students, alumni at practice. I want media at practice. I want people to see us. We've got 105 kids on this football team, but they aren't the only ones making this thing into what it's going to become. It's going to take this entire university, this entire community. We want people around us to feel your support. No question."

Q: You mentioned Husky Stadium and what it can be and what it was. Do you think it is a viable stadium for this program?
"No question. It's still as loud as it can be, we just have to get people out of their seats, on their feet and cheering. That's our job. We got to put a good product on the field, a good team on the field that competes, plays smart, battles, that's tuff, and that will get people cheering again. No question."

Q: What is your impression of the facilities?
"These are winning facilities, I know that. From where I've been, and what they've had and what this place is here and what we have, the facilities are great. We'll go play."

Q: What's your schedule like? You said you're going to coach USC in the Rose Bowl.
"I'm going to hit the ground running with the University of Washington. I'm going to game plan in spurts for USC to get ready for Penn State and the Rose Bowl. As Christmas time hits, recruiting hits a dead period where I cannot be out on the road recruiting so I'll be completely immersed in that gameplan for USC. I'll coach the Rose Bowl on the 1st. January 2nd and I'll be come the fulltime coach for the University of Washington."

Q: You mentioned recruiting for kids in this area. What do you say to these kids that have waivered away that this is the place to come?
"Well, I think the biggest way is to sell who we are. There is a tremendous opportunity to be part of something special. To be part of something that Husky football and this community is going to be proud of and there is a lot of opportunities for guys to compete and play early."

Q: What are your plans on assembling your staff? Have you made any contacts yet?
"Oh, I have. No question. It's going to take a little time. I'm not going to rush this. There are some guys that are going to join on board here very quickly, but we're to take our time and get the best staff available. We're not going to rush into this thing and just put 10 guys together and figure it out. We're going to take the time because we owe it to these kids and we owe it to this university."

Q: Have you talked with the current coaching staff?
"We're going to do that in the next couple of days."

Q: What are your impressions of Jake Locker? I think he's different than any quarterback you have coached.
"I think Jake is a fantastic player. I think he's one that he's got such an innate running ability that he relies on it more than he needs to. He can become an excellent passer, but part of that is my job to put him in the position to be a quarterback and not a runner. We'll do that. It's going to take time, but he's a tremendous competitor and a great leader. He's a guy that obviously we can build our program around, but he's not going to be our program. We're not going to put it all on him. We're going to take our time and develop a football team around him that he's going to be a part of."

Q: This question is for Scott. Some would say that 34 years old, first-time head coach - there are some concerns there for some of the fans. Care to address that?
Woodward:
"Yeah. Not a concern at all for me. The passion, the expertise, the toughness and more importantly this guy has been a winner in every station of his life. Whether it be as a player, a coach or as a student, this guy is a winner and that is what we wanted. President Emmert and I felt that as soon as we met him."

Q: What would you say to that Steve, 34-years old and first-time head coach?
"There's a first time for everything. As I said before, I've been mentored by the best in out profession in Pete Carroll. He has done a great job in preparing me for these moments ahead. I've been part of a football program that has done nothing but win. As a player, I think I was an overachiever. I wasn't a guy that relied on physical talents. I was a guy that learned to play with my heart and my mind. I think I'm going to bring a lot of passion to these kids. There is a lot of talent on this team, we've just need to change the way they think. I don't think it's about age, I think it's about the way we approach it - your mentality."

Q: Scott, how much does this announcement play into the University's interest in a renovated Husky Stadium?
Woodward:
"It's always a key to have excitement around the program and coach hasn't seen the bowels of the stadium yet and what we need to do to make this a safe and comfortable place to be for another 100 years. But it is a boost in the arm and we're excited about it."

Q: During the search, you made some comments that Washington fans were maybe more excited about a defensive stop than a long touchdown. Or the fact that you were looking for an experienced coach that had been there, when did things change for you?
Woodward:
"They haven't changed. You heard about him being on his butt eight times and talking about defense and we liked that.

Q: Scott, you mentioned that immediately you and Mark were impressed in your first meeting. How did the process go? And when did you ultimately decide on Steve?
Woodward:
"It's such a blur. I had a gut-feeling in meeting Steve. I would say a good idea of where to go and we talked to a few people we trust in the business and as I mentioned, it came up Steve Sarkisian every time.

Q: Steve, do you plan to retain play-calling? Can fans look at your USC offense and kinda know what you're going to do here? Or will you adjust because of Locker? Or because, unlike USC, you might be at a personnel disadvantage more often?
"I'm going to remain the play-caller. We'll still hire an offensive coordinator, but I will be calling the plays. The offense will look very similar to USC. We'll play to the strengths of what we have, whether that's offensive line, running back, quarterback, wide receiver. But for the most part, the system will remain the same. Every game is different. There is going to be games where we pound the rock. There are going to be games where we have to throw the ball 40 times to win."

Q: You talked about selling the program to recruits. How are you going to sell it to the kids that are already here?
"We're going to get them changed in the way they think. We're going to get them to understand that there is one train and it's going in one direction. If theirs is going in another, maybe it's time to move on and go somewhere else. This is going to be a program where we have 105 guys going in one direction for this university."

Q: How do you expect recruiting to go? It's already December?
"We've got a long way to go. We've still got a month and a half of recruiting to get done. There are still a lot of good players out there and we've just got to work our tails off and beat the bushes to find them."

Q: Do you have any thoughts on junior college recruiting?
"Junior college recruiting is great to fill needs. But the biggest thing to remember is they are junior college for a reason and we have to figure out why that is. We don't want to bring in a bunch of junior college kids just for the sake of bringing them in. If they can contribute immediately, then they should be here, but this isn't a time to bring a junior college recruit in here that can't help us right away."

Q: Did you consider leaving USC now and jumping in full bore at Washington?
"Yeah, it has been something to consider. Pete has been through this, and I owe it to those kids."

Q: Do you favor red-shirting or keeping the kids on the field?
"I'm never going to tell a kid he's going to red shirt. I want him to have a feeling and an understanding that the moment he signs with the University of Washington, that first Wednesday of February, he's getting prepared to play."

Q: You mentioned changing the way that players think, how are you going to do that?
"Well, I think it starts with our self-talk. It's a belief. You're either going to go out there and win football games, or you're believing that you're not. I think right now, especially the end of the season, they're thinking they're not and we need to get a belief system that we're going to win tight football games. But, you know, that takes time. It comes with playing together and practice and showing them."

Q: One of the criticism's of the last coaching staff is they didn't teach the players to play with emotion. How much is that going to be part of your philosophy?
"Well, it's huge. And I don't know what was taught here before, but it's going to be part of what we do. Emotion is a big part of college football, more so than any other level of football. They feed off of fans, they feed off of students, they feed off the emotion of the game and we need to be an emotional football team. I expect our sidelines to be electric. I expect our guys to be jumping up and down and cheering for their teammates and having fun with one another because that's what it's all about. These kids play 12 months out of the year to play 12 afternoons for three hours at a time, so when we get those opportunities we should cherish them."

Q: When are we going to get back to a bowl game?
"Obviously the goal is for next football season. If that happens great, if it doesn't, we'll work to do it the year after. If I stood up here saying anything different, I'd be wrong. That's the goal. That's what we're going to strive for."

Q: There are going to be inevitable comparisons to Pete Carroll because you've coached with him for awhile. How are you maybe similar or different?
"In a lot of ways. We're different people, just like everybody else. I've worked with a lot of great coaches, most notably Pete, and there are a lot of things that I'm going to take from him and his coaching style, but there are other things that I'm going to take from others as well."

Q: You're a former BYU Cougar, any thoughts about those other Cougars in Pullman?
"I'm excited about the Apple Cup being at home next year. It's going to be a fun experience for us. We'll embrace that game, obviously, to the tilt. Obviously, we all know the importance of that game and we'll go out there and play well. No question."

Q: Don James' recruiting philosophy was to put a wall around the state of Washington. One of the problems over the years has been that wall is crumbling, can you address that?
"The top players in this state should never leave. This is too good of an institution; this is too good of a program for any kid to want to leave so there is no question. So we're going to put a wall up around the state of Washington, around the Seattle and surrounding areas. We're going to keep them here. And when we get out of here, we're going to do a good job identifying the top talent on the West Coast and go after it and go get it."

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