On reacting to the news:
I have a range of emotions – sad, angry, frustrated – and I think our players do as well. But they’re a mature group. You’d really be impressed at the way they’ve handled themselves. They feel like they’ve had something taken away from them, but at the same time, we’re really getting focused on what’s next. We owe that to these guys.
On how difficult it would be to not coach this current team:
I’ll get emotional if I start thinking about it. As a player, you work your whole life – and as a coach, you coach your whole life – to get a chance to have a team like this. This team is special. It’s special because it has talent. It’s special because it has leadership. It’s special because of the character. It could’ve been a once-in-a-lifetime team. There was just something about this team that had it.
On addressing team after news broke:
One of the hardest conversations I’ve ever had to have. To have to look guys like Jonathon Cooper in the eye, Justin Hilliard, Justin Fields, Josh Myers, Tuf Borland, Pete Werner, Baron Browning, Shaun Wade, Sevyn Banks – there’s so many guys who’ve put so much time into this program. It was an awful meeting, but the message was that in life, things get taken from you. Although it’s hard, they’ll use this as a reference point when things go bad in their life. We learn a lot of life lessons in football, and we’re going to have to learn how to work through this.
Our culture is built on fight. We got to fight to stay strong. You don’t just wake up the next morning and everything’s fine. Not when you invest this much time and effort into it. It’s not fine. It’s devastating. It’s going to take some time to heal, but as we keep putting one foot in front of the other, we’re going to get going again.
On how he addressed Cooper, specifically:
I told him ‘I can’t explain why this is happening to you.’ Life can take you to your knees. This sport can take you to your knees. But it’ll make him stronger in the end. He’s going to have a bright future no matter what. He’s an unbelievable young man who’s had an impact on this program.
On how players and parents spoke out:
From the get go, the voices of our players and our parents were very, very important. It’s one thing for a coach to sit up and say it’s safe. It’s another thing to have our players and parents speak up for the way they feel. I thought their voices were strong. It’s hard for me to look them in the eye after everything that’s been done, and we’re still not playing football. There’s been a lot of sacrifices made by a lot of people. Right now, we got nothing to show for that. That’s not an easy call.
On possibility of playing any sort of games this fall:
That’s a fluid situation. We’re still exploring all options. This thing is moving. It’s changing. We are looking at everything. I promise you that. We owe it to our kids to do that.
On how he envisions a spring CFB season:
Starting the first week of January would be the best way to go. Eight week season. That way, there’s some separation between that season and the next season. They’d get a two-for-one. They’d get to play two seasons in a calendar year, which I think the recruits would be really excited about.
On having CFP in spring:
I still think we can do that. I’m certainly not giving up hope on that.
On administrative approach to B1G meetings:
President Johnson, Gene, and I all felt the same way. We were aligned on this thing and felt strong about playing. At least delaying the start of the season until September. We all agreed on that. The safety and welfare of the student athletes took priority and they didn’t feel comfortable with us having a season. It is what it is, and now we have to move onto what’s next.
On maintaining player development this fall:
Each guy is going to have an individualized plan on how they’re going to get better and improve their skills. We have such a range of different guys in the program. We’re going to keep pounding away.
On his approach moving forward:
There’s been a lot of work to get this program to this point, and this is certainly an obstacle and a challenge. I gave myself last night to throw a pity party, and when I woke up this morning, it was back to work. That’s what life is and that’s what this sport is.