Arizona Football Press Conference Quotes

Sept. 29, 2003

Interim Head Coach Mike Hankwitz's Remarks

On the Washington State Cougars:

'We certainly have a daunting task having to go up to Washington State. Washington State is a team that is playing extremely well coming off a great season a year ago. I've been very impressed with their offense; they look like a veteran, well-oiled offense. (Matt) Kegel has stepped in and played extremely well at quarterback. Their offensive line is big, and they have shown improvement in their ability to run the ball. (Jonathan) Smith and (Jermaine) Green give them another dimension because they are running it more consistently at approximately 145 yards a game. For a team that throws it extremely well, it makes it a lot harder to defend. (Devard) Darling is back; he's an outstanding receiver with great hands. They have three other receivers that have caught more than a dozen passes. They have a wealth of receivers to go to, and the quarterback has done a great job of getting the ball to the right people. They are a very challenging offense to defend.'

'On the other side of the ball, they are playing extremely well right now. From what I have seen on film thus far, they are much more aggressive this year as a defense. With the way their offense is playing, they can afford to be. They have an excellent special teams unit, and their punter is kicking the ball well. It is a veteran team, but I do believe that our players feel very good about the way they came out and responded against TCU.'

On the team's improvement after five games:

'We've been talking to them for the previous two weeks about the fact that they have been getting better, but we had not always sustained our focus and our efforts, so the progress we were making wasn't always apparent on the scoreboard. We have tried to stress to them that if we continue to work and improve, we will get better. I was very proud of the way they came out and competed against TCU. They put themselves in a position to win, and it was heartbreaking to lose it there at the end. They enjoyed playing and being there and competing. As much as I don't normally believe in moral victories, it certainly was a steppingstone for us. It is something that we have to build on.'

On the coaching staff and game-planning methods:

'I don't feel at this point that we can make major changes. I am going to continue to call defenses, and I am going to rely on the offensive staff to put together a game plan and call the plays. We have to work together, and we need to have input from every one of them. We have to be in this together. We have to identify the things that we can do well, and we have to build on those. Defensively, we have tried to do less and get something that we can do well, so we can build on that. That doesn't mean that we have to simplify so much that we don't have any weapons. We have to get some things that we can do well and continue to do those, so we have something to build on. Morale is when you feel like you are accomplishing something. We have to be doing things that we can get better at and improve upon so we can sustain morale.'

'It is a joint effort. All of the coaches have input in the game plan. Mike Deal is the offensive coordinator, and I feel like it is his responsibility to determine how they want to handle that. It is just too hard for me to be involved with the defense and try to do anything with the offense. That is the approach I am taking, and I will evaluate it as we progress. We have a great group of men, a very professional group, and I know they are going to pull together and do everything they can to end this out on a positive note.'

On personnel changes:

'I haven't had time to address that issue at this time. We have been trying to study Washington State and get ready for that, but it is something that we will talk about tomorrow. We came out of the game relatively healthy, and that certainly is a big factor.'

On the team's outlook:

'As I mentioned earlier, kids are very resilient. They were surprised, and there were a wide array of emotions. They felt very good about the way they came out and improved against TCU, so we have to take that and build on it. We are going to hold them just as accountable or more accountable for doing the things that it takes to be successful, which includes going to class and taking care of business off the field. When they come to work, we should have a little more excitement to us because of the way played against TCU. We are going to approach it day to day. We won't make major changes, but there are some minor things that we are going to try to do to help morale. We have to continue to improve if we want to sustain that morale, too.'

On accepting the position of interim head coach:

'Obviously, it was with some reluctance that I accepted the position, but I do believe that we have a chance to make something positive out of the rest of the season. That is my goal. I came here hoping that I could make a difference, and I feel like I still can do that. We are going to do everything we can to finish the season in a positive way. I believe the players were surprised, but I do believe that young men are resilient, and I do believe that they are behind us 100 percent, and they will give us everything they have.'

'I guess my reluctance would be because of my personal relationship with John (Mackovic) down through the years. Those things happen. I knew he would understand, and he has been very supportive. I've met with him twice already, and he has offered me some suggestions, and he has offered anything he could do to help. I couldn't ask for any more support from him.'

Athletics Director Jim Livengood - Press Conference Highlights

Opening statement:

'It really is a pleasure to introduce Mike Hankwitz who is going to serve as our interim head football coach. I think most of you know his background. I won't go through his resume or read it detail by detail, but he has immense experience at a number of different schools. In visiting with our staff and players, there is an awful lot of confidence in him. He has done a great job in his short time here. We asked him less than 24 hours ago to do this, and he accepted with some reservations. Certainly, he is a professional, and he's a Wildcat, and we are glad that he's here right now.'

On John Mackovic's contract buyout:

'It is not a school buyout. It is the responsibility of the University of Arizona athletic department. You can take that a lot of different ways.'

'I mentioned yesterday that I would outline where we are right now as we move forward. Let me first stop a rumor that is floating around that has to do with state funds and generated funds. As of July 1, there is no state money that goes into athletics any more at the University of Arizona. We have no state dollars that we use with regard to salaries or any other things. The rumor that has been flying around is with regards to the buyout of a coach or other kinds of things, but that is absolutely non-state dollars. It is not tax dollars. That's not tuition dollars. That's none of that.'

Timeline for search process:

'This process to hire and search for a new coach has started right now as of today. Mike Hankwitz is our interim head coach, and he will be that for the remainder of the season. We are not going to bring somebody in for the remainder of the season. Mike will be in that position, and we will see what happens after that. Recruiting will continue as normal, as normal as we possibly can. Those young men who have been committed to and who have been offered scholarships will be honored. Period.'

On the search committee:

'With regards to the search committee, I have asked Rocky LaRose, our senior associate athletics director for internal operations, to serve as the chair. We have asked 10 people to serve on the committee.'

'The process and the search will go something like this. The committee will be charged with finding any and all head coaching candidates that fit the following qualifications, but a candidate does not have to be in the qualification pool to be considered. This is what we would like to have. Priority would be given to those candidates who have head coaching backgrounds. Communication skills with student-athletes, coaches, staff, the university, boosters, alums and so on is a critical component in terms of the communication process. The candidate needs to have a proven academic track record because we are very serious about academics in this athletic department. Organizational skills and discipline go along with any high-level university position. We are asking that a person have a proven football philosophy. We will look at a candidate's NCAA compliance background because we are not going to take a chance with somebody who has not been squeaky clean with regards to the NCAA and with regards to compliance. We are asking that this individual have successful recruiting experience.'

'I have not mentioned an ending date. There is a lot of speculation of when that might be. We are not in a hurry, but by saying that, we recognize that we are going to be getting close to recruiting time. We have a lot of things going on, we have a lot of young men making decisions about visits. The contact period for Division I football starts on Dec. 1. It is my hope that we would have somebody in place certainly by that time and maybe even sooner. We are going to find the best person possible. One of the things that could be in our favor right now is that we do have time. We have time to look at a lot of people, and we have time for people to show their interest. At the end of this process, I would ask the search committee to provide myself with somewhere between three to five names of unranked candidates. I will then consult with President Likins and make a decision and select our new head football coach with a starting date to be determined.'

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