LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - This is a blog posted by Rick Hill, the Valero Alamo Bowl's Vice President of Marketing and Communications.
The blog comes from mysanantonio.com. The blog reads as follows:
The tone for Bowl Week is usually set within the first couple of hours of team arrival. Players and coaches come to town and immediately have to deal with a city, a host hotel and a practice site they may have never been to before as well as a routine that is very unlike the regular season.
Our goal is to make their first day in San Antonio as smooth as possible and Michigan State's team arrival on Sunday was one of the most routine the Valero Alamo Bowl had ever encountered. After a slight delay, their team plane landed and they checked into the hotel and headed to the practice field with ease.
Texas Tech players were scheduled to arrive individually yesterday so there was not an official welcome with the usual mariachis and committee members handing out bowl stickers. After spending the equivalent of five days waiting for delayed teams over my 11 years at the bowl (Colorado wins the prize with an 11 hour delay in 2002 due to inclement weather), one official team welcome was fine by me.
The bowl staff would instead welcome Texas Tech to San Antonio at their first team meeting yesterday at 4 p.m. Waiting to go into the meeting, we learned that Texas Tech had suspended Head Coach Mike Leach and Defensive Coordinator Ruffin McNeil would be the interim coach for Saturday's Valero Alamo Bowl. Within minutes, a slew of calls, texts and emails came pouring in and we were faced with the reality of having a game without one of its most recognized figures. Mike Leach may have graced the cover of Texas Monthly and had a cameo in Friday Night Lights in the last year, but he won't be talking about pirates at the Bowl Week events and he won't be on the Alamodome sidelines on Saturday.
Our game has featured interim coaches before as Bo Pelini took over Nebraska for a fired Frank Solich in 2003 (ironically against Michigan State) and Gary Darnell served as interim head coach for a fired Dennis Franchione in 2006 when Texas A&M played Penn State. In both cases, their teams came to play as a spirited Husker team manhandled the Spartans 17-3 and the Aggies were in the game until the final series before losing 24-17 to a heavily favored Nittany Lions squad. However, those coaching changes all occurred before Selection Sunday when the bowls picked their teams. A Bowl Week coaching change is a first for us.
The Valero Alamo Bowl's official statement on Leach's suspension is "It's an institutional matter and we'll let Texas Tech make any comments on the matter." What I can say is our staff went from zero to 60 as a slow day spent trying to sell the few remaining tickets into a deluge of calls, texts and emails. I pondered the small issues like wondering if we can return the cowboy hat we bought for Leach to give out at our Coaches Dinner to a larger one of how losing a head coach and offensive coordinator affects the on-field product.
One way to analyze the latter was to watch McNeil talk to the media after their practice last night at University of the Incarnate Word. Winding through the campus, I didn't take my usual joy in the university's impressive holiday light display as I drove up to a throng of media surrounding McNeil complete with a helicopter circling overhead.
To view video of McNeil's comments, please click here. In a tough circumstance, McNeil was impressive and brightened my mood. He had a plan for the week and wasn't overwhelmed. He didn't want to answer questions about the suspension and when one media member tried to "trick him" into answering he joked about "having two degrees." The other thing I noticed was the mood of the players walking into the locker room. They seemed upbeat and not the least bit burdened.
In the 2005 MasterCard Alamo Bowl, Oklahoma State Head Coach Les Miles was rumored to have been in discussions with LSU about their head coaching position. It was a job he would take a week after the game and you could sense during Bowl Week the players were not inspired. This was not the case with Texas Tech last night. McNeil is a player's coach and the team seemed ready to perform for him.
After the press conference, I walked the Riverwalk and visited the Texas Tech team hotel. You could sense a great appreciation for all that Leach had done for the program but there was confidence that McNeil could lead the team and quarterback Taylor Potts could direct the offense.
Ideally, our game would feature two teams going at each other at full strength in front of a capacity crowd on Saturday night. But as the great philosopher Bruce Bowen once said (more than 100 times), "it is what it is" so the Valero Alamo Bowl will go with the hand we have been dealt. Like everyone else, I am curious to see what happens.
Just days before the Red Raiders play in the Alamo Bowl, Texas Tech administration suspended Coach Mike Leach indefinitely pending an investigation into his treatment of a Tech player. Click here for continuing coverage.