Football
Transcript From Tulane Football's Press Conference Concerning Toledo, Hutson
 

 

 
 

Oct. 18, 2011

RICK DICKSON
Tulane Director of Athletics

Opening Statement
"It's not an easy day or an easy decision, but as you know by now, we've selected to make a change in direction and that's why we are here this morning. Bob Toledo has resigned effective as of this morning after he and I met for some time. As you know, Bob inherited the task of rebuilding this program four and a half years ago in light of our situation of rebuilding really the entire program and University after Katrina. I appreciate greatly and respect the job Bob and his staff have done in those efforts. We are in a better place today because of those efforts. Mark Hutson, who is our co-offensive coordinator, as of 8:30 this morning has answered my request to become our interim head coach for the balance of the remaining six games this season. I've known Mark for almost 20 years and I've known of him for longer than that. I'm very confident of how he'll handle his responsibilities. The staff, to a person that I met with this morning, has reinforced to me their full and unconditional commitment to help shepherd our program through these next six weeks. I'm confident in that and their abilities as well. Subsequent to that, I then met with our student-athletes this morning and informed them of the news. Coach Toledo joined me in that discussion and at the end, basically we got the same response. I asked to a person to not recommit themselves unless they were truly and unconditionally committed to moving forward as one. That's been the focus of the morning and we're wrapping that up by bringing this news to you."

On where the Tulane football program goes from here
"Today, our goal is twofold. My expectation that I communicated to our staff and to our players today is really this - first and foremost come together as a family, one that will first stand up and continue to compete and give their greatest effort toward doing so. I asked the same of every assistant coach of Mark and every one of our young men in the football program to a person. The answer has been affirmative. Second, I would say to everyone out there who has interest in terms of supporting these coaches and these young men toward that effort, I say to do so. It's time to stand up and do so unconditionally. As we all know over the last week and days, Bob had become a lightning rod for criticism and attacks and things that shouldn't be part of what we're doing in college athletics. As I told the young men, and Bob agreed, by him stepping down that has been removed. It's time to come together and it's time to focus forward. And for those who have an interest in Tulane and Tulane Athletics, it's time to do that now. Put everything else aside and come together in joining us to support these coaches and young men in going forward."

 

 

On the search for the next Tulane football coach
"We have already begun the process of what will be a national search. Make no mistake, we have to find the right fit. We understand that. As you heard us outline last spring, our mission is to compete as we outlined last spring. We believe we've put layers and steps in place to position us to do so. Yet at the same time, we've also come to realize that it's time to reboot ourselves and move ourselves forward in a positive direction."

On the long-term goals for the program and its new head coach
"As we also outlined last spring, we made it very direct and very public about our intent and our efforts. We understand that it's a process. We've been through a year-long process or more reviewing every aspect of our program to allow it to achieve the goals that we've set for it. We'll continue through that process. We've begun the process of committing greater resources in all aspects of the program. These coaches know and these kids know, as I said to them this morning, it wasn't always this way where we had year-round programs and dedicated strength coaches, trainers and academic counselors specific to just this program. And that's just the start of it. We'll continue to actively plan and develop the resources to have our own home for this program. We understand the importance of it. I would say to you that it's a goal to achieve, but it doesn't stop there. The fruits or the outcome of these searches are part of the outline and we will work step by step with whoever is selected to reach those desired goals and outcomes."

On introducing Mark Hutson as interim head coach
"I'd like to introduce someone to you someone who, as I said I've known over the last 20 years and in program was there at the beginning of the rebuilding. Although I think there are many within that staff that are qualified or who have head coaching experience, Mark has been there from the beginning. He's also been in this role before of having served as an interim coach and done so successfully. He has great respect both in the coaching staff rooms but also in the locker room. So going forward today, this is our new football coach."

Mark Hutson
Tulane Interim Head Football Coach

Opening Statement
"Thank you, Rick. Rick gave you the time frame and it has been an eventful one. First off, I would like to thank Rick and Scott (Cowen) for entrusting me in a position to be the leader of this team and the staff, and to move this program forward, to bring the team together, to bring the staff together as one and move forward. As Rick had mentioned, this is my second time around as an interim...It has been a whirlwind this morning. This day is less than four hours into it. I've met with a number of people, a number of players and with the staff. Rick and I addressed the majority of the team today in a team meeting and discussed the situation with Bob. Bob has a number of outstanding qualities. He brought me to this institution. He selected me and I selected to be here. The majority of the players, in fact all of them, he brought them here. We wish Bob nothing but the best, him and (wife Elaine) both, throughout their career and the rest of the time period in working with it."

On the remainder of the 2011 season
"In talking with the players and talking to the staff, we have half a season left. We have played three conference games and there are six games remaining. Our goals are still intact. Our focus and our commitment is to beat Memphis. We have good student-athletes. They're good players. They're good people. In times turmoil and times of disarray, they have to come together right here. And for the most part, young adults are result. I look for them to come together and to work."

On being selected over other coaches on the staff
"I met with the staff, and Rick addressed that. There are a number of qualified candidates. Someone had to be chosen. I told them that if it had been them, I would wholeheartedly support them. I told them I was the one chosen and asked for their support. To a man, the offered that support in working together."

On what he told the players in the meeting
"In meeting with the players, I told them a story. Every staff member in this room chose to be at Tulane. They chose to be here at Tulane. And with that, this is our University, this is their University and we need to come together one mind, one heartbeat as one and move forward."

On how things will go from here through the end of the season
"There's going to be a lot of questions for the administration, there's going to be questions from the media, there's going to be questions from players and staff members in working toward it. It has been a quick timeframe. We'll address Memphis. We'll address philosophy. We'll address how we're going through in our involvement with the remainder of the season at a later day...but for right now, the staff will remain intact. Steve will be our defensive coordinator. John will be our special teams coordinator. Greg Davis will take a more active role. He will be our play caller and assume the offensive coordinating positions there. We'll still handle the run-game coordinating in that, and I will take a more active role in being the head coach and covering all three phases of the program. We have a players meeting at 1:15. All of the players will be there. Practice will go on as usual. Our practice will be open. The media will be invited out there today and we'll answer questions to the best of my knowledge.

On being named interim head coach
"I think every assistant coach, if they are worthy, aspires to be the head coach. Certainly, I'm no different. I've dreamed of being in that chair. I've dreamed of being in the position in front of you and addressing the team. I've had a lot of great mentors in the past, from Houston Nutt, Danny Ford, Jack Crowe, Barry Switzer, Jim Donnan. It could go on, Larry Coker, Jimmy Johnson. I have learned from each one of them and the thing I learned is you have to be yourself. You can't be someone else. As we get to know each other and as time goes on, we'll try and present that to you, we'll try and present that to this team and I'll try and present that to this staff."

QUESTIONS FOR RICK DICKSON

On if the upcoming football coach hiring will be the most important of his career
"Well, they're all important. They're certainly important in the light of what I believe my responsibility is in all faces - not just in wins and losses, but to hire people who will play very critical roles in the lives and experience of our student-athletes. Certainly this is an important one because the program is an important one to us. It's an important time in the history of the program. I think all of you know that in respect of today, we've been very direct about saying that it's time to move this program to a point and place that it's really struggled to find in over six decades. We know it's not an overnight situation, but we've said competitive and consistent. Those things don't happen overnight but we know the necessary steps, the necessary tools and the resources that are needed to do so. That effort will continue in all aspects of personnel and the hiring is part of that also."

On if he plans on using a national service to hire a new football coach
"We'll follow that same script that we have previously where we've done that. We've already started those wheels in motion this morning. That's a second priority for me this morning. Right now, beyond the continued activities towards making the stadium a realization. In the short term, we will make certain that we do as thorough and as diligent of a job as possible in identifying those prospects out there."

On if the poor press directed toward Toledo factored in today's decisions
"I don't know that if he was happy with it, but he certainly was a target of it. We started this, as Mark knows, some weeks ago when we returned from maybe West Point. I came in and addressed the staff and the team. In times like this and you're looking at a group that has probably faced more adversity than any group like us can face in the country. I've learned through my experience that you can't get blindsided, taken out or distracted by the negativity and the noise as I refer to it. And for a couple of week period there, I think certainly, in light of the fact of how they went out and competed in the week against Syracuse, we kind of felt like we cleaned the room a little bit or cleared the air because it was toxic to the point that it made it very difficult. As Bob said to me this morning, it's not good working conditions for him or the players. I think the accumulation of that over time, again, we kind of made a temporary stop-gap in that there for a couple of weeks. But with last Saturday's performance and facing another home game this weekend, it had ratcheted right back up to that point. Again, that's not what we're really aspiring to do in creating such a negative, toxic situation that coaches, student-athletes, etc., can't reach the goals that we're bringing them in here for. Ultimately, you have to constantly monitor those things and assess. It was an accumulation. We thought we had intervened and stopped it a couple of weeks ago, and then after Saturday we saw it reappear. Ultimately, that's not healthy for anyone involved, including Bob."

On the qualities of the next head football coach, including age
"Well, I probably won't call Joe Paterno. As we've seen, and Bob was included in that category too, there's coaches of all ages that have achieved high levels of success. I think aptitude and experience can come in a lot of different shapes, sizes and ages. Certainly here at Tulane, we look for somebody that first embraces Tulane and embraces New Orleans. We are what we are and we are where we are. So somebody that looks at both of those things as both unique and positive is important; somebody that has demonstrated the capability in whatever role and capacity that they've been in to contribute to and lead to high levels of success. We're not going to arbitrarily rule out what that means as far as titles and those things, but I think it's a collection of experiences and attributes that kind of revolve around all of those characteristics."

On the financial commitment of the University to get the next head coach
"I would say this without specifying any numbers or range, I don't know that in either instance of head coach or assistant staffs that we necessarily be the highest in the country or the conference. I do strongly believe that we'll be allowed to be very competitive in both at a different level than we have currently and more recently."

On if there is a coach available that could be hired immediately as opposed to waiting until the end of the season
"If we find candidates in that category, I'm sure we'll have those conversations. Nothing is going to change here over the next six weeks. Mark Hutson will lead our program, our coaches and our student-athletes. As far as the timeframe, I can tell you that we'll pretty much cover the waterfront in terms of possibilities. I would rule out any of those or certainly any of those who might be actively engaged."

On if Tulane will use a different hiring approach this time around
"I think we've tweaked some of that along the way with engaging in the last couple of a third-party service. Not so much in making the hires, but where they have most helpful has been to actively have discussion that are not appropriate for us at this time. We certainly did that in our last basketball hire in Ed Conroy. We found that beneficial in that regard and we're comfortable going down that path."

On if he feels pressure to get his next hire right
"You always do, whether you hire a bowling coach or any of these positions. It's important. Football, as we've stated publicly, is a very critical and important piece of our overall enterprise here and it's struggled for decades. In determining with that right fit and hire, it goes beyond me. Collectively, it's important on a lot of fronts."

On how he rates Tulane's attractiveness to a potential head coach
"Some coaches would look at it and see those that have struggled. But as you heard Mark say, coaches by nature are eternal optimist and see those that have succeeded. There have been fewer of those than the ones who have struggled. When you look at the overall picture, the kind of framework of where the area is, what the University itself is first and foremost, you all know that is a real asset for us and everything we do. To what the resources are what the capabilities are and it goes down layers below that to facilities and budgets and things of that nature. We're in an upward trend in all of those for us in our cycle. Again, the eternal optimist has to fair it out and decide within in that what can be different now than what it has been before. I think just from a trend or direction, we believe that for some time now that it's moving forward. It will be the first time in six years that I've hired any coach that I can look them in the eye and say you're coming to a full and comprehensive athletic program. I couldn't say that in the last six years to anybody in any sport. That's different today. And yes, we have made a major commitment to our resources development to providing the necessary facilities to recruit and develop young men and women. We have evidence of it and will continue evidence of it. It's not just words. It's evidence and things that they can tangibly see and evaluate for themselves."

On the pros and cons of hiring someone without head coaching experience as opposed to someone who does
"It factors in at some point. It's one of the factors that plays in the overall evaluation. But as we all know and including right here, there have been some very successful assistant coaches who have come in and done very well as well as head coaches who haven't done well. It can't be the only factor by any means, but it's something in the process that you have to evaluate."

On today's events after bringing Toledo back for a fifth season
"If you go back to after the season when we said we were retaining Bob, one of the things I stated was from where we started to where we were, we now believe we're at a time where a real-time snapshot can be taken and a real, measurable goal should be applied. So that's kind of the sequence that we followed. But again, look back to that time, I believe I said that the most critical piece of this was the priority of in 2007 our recruiting class was 12 maybe 13 student-athletes, 10 of which were previously committed to the previous staff that this group honored. There was somewhere in the neighborhood of two to three or five in addition. So in effect, their first real recruiting class became 08, 09, 10 and this year's class. It is very critical for this program to have continuity. As all of you in here know, we reload from the bottom, not from the side. We felt if there was a hole, a replacement, a medical disqualification or whatever it may be, that comes from underneath. To have four layers of that consecutively was critical for our program, which had nothing to do with personnel. We seem to be in a cycle, especially in this last class, that each year we were getting progressively better, progressively better inroads in the state and some continuity there. Redshirting was taking place on about a 50 percent level of each class, so we were building layers as well as depth within those layers. Those are all things that historically we haven't had. The few times in our history that we have, coupled with good coach, good support and good resources, you've seen some intermittent successes. If you look back at the 97 and 98 years, there was a four- or five-year cycle from a previous regime that was layered right, given the ability to develop and mature, and then certainly coached well."

On the input of President Cowen in the upcoming coaching hire
"As he has in many of our searches and as we get into final stages and bring candidates to campus, he and others will participate. None of these things, as you can imagine within a University, are ever one-person decisions. He will certainly have significant input at the point where we filter through a number of candidates and interviews and come to what we feel is the right collection to choose from."

On what he has learned since the last football hiring
"I've learned that in any situation when you're building program, but for us it's a totally different definition. People say we bring up excuses. No I don't. All I have to do is recite the facts of where we started. I do think it's important and I do think Bob and his staff were following the script of establishing a local, regional and state-wide recruiting base. This staff has initiated that because it had been some time since we'd had that type of relationship. It doesn't come easy. One thing I've learned in Louisiana, things don't come easy. You have to first build the relationships and the bridges, and in term at some point you start to reap the benefits. It appears that our last three recruiting classes have been relatively solid and have improved each year. It appears with the 10 commitments that I believe are in place today are continuing that trend, and a lot of that is a reflection of building those bridges and those relationships starting from inside New Orleans and throughout the state. And for us, it extends to some other markets where Tulane has some good recognition as a University, whether that's prep schools in the Northeast or others. A University like this, if it's worked in that direction, will always probably have some national appeal on that regard. Ultimately, though, you have to be strong working from inside out. That's an important piece, has been and always will be."

On what has to happen for the program to get over the hump
"Coaching and player personnel always factor in. At the same time, and I think it ties back to some of what you've seen in our history, you go back to 36 or 37 years ago that's when we had right outside our doors the largest professional or college football venue in the South. We did just have a stadium, we had the largest professional or college venue in the South and that was a huge signal of what football meant here and that went away. Over the decades, so did our recognition and our relevance in college football. First and foremost, building a foundation under this program that allows it to operate at a different level than it's ever been in recent times, in modern times for sure."

On if he feels Bob Toledo took a lot of the criticism to heart
"He did. We talked every week...I would always make a point of being here every Monday, meeting with our staff and different units and coaches. Usually Tuesdays through Friday, Travis (Goff) and I are on the road somewhere and I end up where our team is on the road or at home for the home games. So we talked throughout as we always have and as we did this morning. I was last in his office on Sunday, as I am almost every Sunday, just kind of rapping up with each other about what just occurred and what we've seen. I think the one thing I think we both agreed on was what's going on now wasn't (conducive to success). At the end of the day, I'm responsible for a lot of 18-22 year olds. I take that part really seriously, and it had gotten to a level - a toxic level - and that's not what this is about. It's something you don't stand by and tolerate, and he agreed."

On if an on-campus stadium is a key to long-term success
"I think it's a critical piece absolutely. The truth is, we haven't had our home in 36 years. I know Tulane was part of the origin and I'm sure at the time they felt that they made the best decision. You have a world-class, state-of-the-art thing being done that at the time was cutting edge. But the minute you decide to leave your own back yard, you also gave away some of that ownership, that identity and the symbolism. In this case, I think that was very evident to all. As we all know, the college game focuses around the game-day atmosphere and activity, and that's what's alluring to young men coming up and certainly the coaches who have to find these young men."

On if bringing someone in with local ties is a factor in the hiring process
"Prior to Bob, we had a coach from Louisiana. That doesn't, at the end, guarantee anything. Should it be included in the process? That's an asset if all the other categories are assets as well."

On if there is any way that Mark Hutson would be considered the next full-time head coach
"As I said earlier, I don't think you rule out any possibilities on this. Certainly, Mark and his staff have the opportunity to show some positive outcomes and would be evaluated very objectively. He learned at the same time eight other assistants learned sitting in the staff room when I turned and said that, after Bob and I addressed them, and said now we have to focus on going forward. In that light, Mark, I would like you to step up and take on the role. So he heard it at exactly the same time, although probably not under the most ideal conditions. Coaches talk about honeymoons. That's not much of one. But I know enough about him, his character, what he stands and his background. He's very eager, and I think the greatest thing is he can be effective in reuniting both at the coaching level and within the team level. Hopefully now, some of the bad air has cleared from the room that will allow that entire group to move forward in a reasonable way."

On why it has been so hard to succeed in football at Tulane
"We've mentioned a lot of them. We haven't had, historically, some of the necessary pieces of a foundation in place where we've really starting from the top where we say football is and has to be important and a centerpiece for us. We've had football and we have a history of football that goes long beyond (Chris Scelfo and Bob Toledo). We started this with a lot of our past football letterwinners and we've developed kind of a position statement of what it is we want to do and what we want to do differently. It started with that, saying that it's necessary, it's important and it has to lead the way. I think that's the start. Saying it is one thing, but you have to back it up and provide the resources and the foundation bases to allow anybody to operate from. Otherwise, it's pretty much what you've seen for six decades now. It's trying to do it with smoke and mirrors and if somebody reaches a modest level of success, even for one year or even a higher level of success, they then quickly vacate and because there wasn't a foundation it goes back to ground zero. So we're trying to re-center and try not to be at ground zero."

On if the curriculum Tulane student-athletes are forced to follow in comparison to other schools
"As you know, the one thing that changed significantly with Katrina was the loss or transformation of University College to what is a continuing studies program. It's not a full-time program in that student-athletes, as you know, have to be 12-hour-plus, full-time students at all times during their competitive tenure. That's not an option today. It's got a different focus than it did through the 05-06 school year. And a lot of the curriculums have changed at Tulane. That was just one of the changes that happened. Now, one of the things that we pride ourselves in is we recruit young men and women that do come in, do extremely well, we retain them well. Part of that exercise we started last spring was re-looking at programs that aren't safety nets or safe harbors but ones that really might have greater appeal and interest to prospective student-athletes across the board...Fundamentally, Tulane will still, and our coaches will still, appeal to, attract and hopefully recruit and develop young men and women that fit within the overall scheme of things."

QUESTIONS FOR Mark Hutson

On what makes him think Tulane can turn things around
"I've been a part of programs that did turn things around. It started with Houston Nutt in the earlier years with him from Murray State to Boise State to Arkansas. I think it's the eternal optimist. I think that's one of the reason's I'm in coaching. I think we can make a difference in young men's lives, not only in football but after when their careers are done. Certainly it's going to take a lot of hard work. It's going to take a united front, as I mentioned earlier. The things we can control is our attitude and our effort as players and coaches...We must come together in that effort and turn the program around. We have six remaining games. It starts with Memphis this week, and we will do everything in our power as coaches and players to work toward that."

On if he was surprised by today's goings on
"This was a surprise this morning, to the whole staff. Bob came in as usual in the morning and told us he had a meeting with Rick at 7:15. After their discussions, Rick came down and informed the staff with Bob in there of the moves. I did not have any idea."

On if he feels six games is enough time to prove his worth as a head coach
"It has to be enough time. That's the timeframe that's ahead of us right now. Certainly with us being focused and moving forward, our goals as I've mentioned before are still intact. That would be a bowl game and perhaps and additional game leading up to that. The opportunity is now. We regret the situation and everything that has transpired up until now but we have to move forward with it. It's an opportunity for me, it's an opportunity for the staff and it's an opportunity for the team to have a rebirth, if you will - a new season, if you will - and focus. Your question on time frame, that's the time given. It has to be that way."

Closing statement
"You asked me about the time frame. Winning is important, but I think the most important thing is the wellbeing of our student-athletes. As an assistant coach and now as the interim head coach, I am entrusted with parents' most precious possession. I think first and foremost, it's about those student-athletes. We're going to do everything within our power to be successful and to win, but I stand with Rick and Scott that the most important thing is the wellbeing of our student-athletes."

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