The College Football Playoff semifinal at the Fiesta Bowl held a teleconference on Sunday afternoon with the participating head coaches, Clemson’s Dabo Swinney and Ohio State’s Urban Meyer.
Following is a transcript of Swinney’s comments during his portion of the teleconference:
“We are incredibly excited to be a part of the Fiesta Bowl and to return out to Arizona. We had a little taste of it last year. I barely remember it. It was a quick trip, so looking forward to having a little more extended time and being a part of the community and being a part of a great ball game. Thankful for our team, the season we’ve had. I’m happy for our fans and our president and AD and our board and everyone that supports us in what we try to do. Again, appreciate the playoff committee and their confidence in us as one of the four best teams, and we look forward to traveling out and having a great time. I have a lot of respect for Ohio State and coach (Urban) Meyer. Had a chance to get to know he and his wife, Shelley, over the last several years and think the world of them. We know this will be a very difficult matchup. You don’t get to be in the final four unless you’re a team that’s capable of winning it all, so should be a great matchup, a great game, and once again I just thank all of you out there in Arizona and all of the work that people put in to make this a great experience and venue for both of these teams. We look forward to being a part of it.”
What kind of achievement is it for your program to get back to the College Football Playoff for the second straight year, and in your mind, what separates this team and what was the difference for this team down the stretch?
“It’s an incredible achievement. We really are still just soaking in winning the ACC Championship in back-to-back years. That hadn’t happened in 28 years around here, so that’s hard, and then to be recognized with an opportunity to be in the playoff back-to-back years, it’s a huge achievement. The only thing that would make it better would be to win it all. So, I’m proud of our guys. A lot of hard work has gone into it.
“As far as difference in the teams, last year’s team was incredibly drive and motivated to finish. We were the No. 1 seed going in last year, and this team came back with a different type of expectations on it coming off of a national championship appearance, and I think they’ve handled it well. We set out to compete right here where we are. It ended this way last year, and we’re going into the playoffs this way this year. So, at the end of the day, we know every play is a championship play from this point forward, and not a lot of room for error. So, have great preparation and excited about continuing our journey and competing.”
Yesterday after the game, a couple of your players were talking about how in some games this year, the team has built big leads and then let teams back in it. It’s something they want to make sure doesn’t keep happening. Is that something you’ve addressed or can address now during bowl preparation?
“I think ‘let’ is a big word. The other team has good players, too, and good coaches, and sometimes the other team makes some plays. I think the big thing for us this year has been — with last night really being the one different game — but we’ve won that (turnover) margin or had one or less, we haven’t really been in close games. But last night we won the margin, and it was still a close game. And that’s a credit to Virginia Tech. They’re a champion, too, and it’s not about we just let them back in. We had a big lead, but those guys fought back. I don’t think we were complacent or anything like that, but those guys made some plays and had some well-designed plays and played with a lot of fight and heart and they worked their way back into it. But at the end of the day, we finished it off, so we just want to find a way to win from this point forward. It’s not about anything but having one more point than the opponent.”
Do you have an opinion one way or the other on the format of the College Football Playoff? Would you like to see it stay at four teams, or could you see expansion adding some intrigue?
“I’ve talked about this many times. I think right now we have the best, in my opinion. I thought the BCS was good, to be honest with you. But I like the bowls. I’ve always liked the fact that there are a lot of teams out there that have the opportunity to finish on a winning note. The tradition, I love that. I think that we have the best sport out there because every game truly matters, and if we keep expanding, then all of a sudden, to me, the season will get very watered down and it becomes the NFL. You know, you lose two or three games, and well if your brand’s strong enough, it doesn’t matter, you’ll get a good shot at the playoff at the end. I think that right now, every game matters. It makes it such an intriguing season, and if you go to eight (teams), then you’re going to argue over nine and ten. It really doesn’t matter, but the main thing is something would have to chance. You’d probably have to do away with championship games. I just don’t think you can go past 15 games in college football. I think that is a lot on these guys. It’s a long season, so something would have to give. Either the championship games go away or you go to an 11-game season and add another layer to the playoffs or whatever.
“But to me, we’ve been in the playoffs every week. Every single week, we’ve been in the playoffs since the season started, and then winning the division and having to go win your championship and now having to go to the playoff, it’s just one layer after another. So, I understand both sides of it. But I’ve been a part of it for a long time, and like I said, I thought for the most part the BCS got it right. It was more of a challenge to get in the top two, but at the end of the day I think they got it right, and I think there are a lot of teams out there that get opportunities to go and win a bowl championship and finish on a positive note and build momentum into their new season. So, that’s just my opinion. I’m a part of it, and whatever happens, happens. We’ll keep playing, but I think if you go beyond 15 games, I’m not a fan of that.”