November 15, 2000
"I will start with a little bit about St. Louis. They have had 39 appearances in 42 NCAA Tournaments total. They've been to 17 Final Fours and have won 10 national championships. We've had a program for nine years, so they have a slight edge in experience."
"This will be fun for our kids. We've got a very young group of kids this year. In our top 22 players we'll take with us, we have 15 kids who hadn't played a game here at UK before the start of the season. We have 11 freshmen in that group. We've done very well, and the team has come together at the right time."
"We have had a tough schedule this year. We've played three teams that were ranked No. 1 in the nation: Indiana, North Carolina and Penn State. We did quite well, so we are excited to be going back to the NCAA Tournament. Last year we lost to Indiana, which eventually won the national championship, in double overtime. We gave them a handful and hope we can give St. Louis a handful, too."
On St. Louis
"They are a very dynamic team. They have a potent offense. It's a very, very difficult place to play. They lead the nation in attendance. They led the nation last year in attendance, and there will probably be 6,000 or 7,000 people there with not many rooting for us. It will be a very difficult game and should be quite interesting."
On the team's feelings about meeting St. Louis in the first round
"There were certain places, and this is no disrespect to St. Louis, that we didn't want to go to, and that was one of them. When Stanford was on the board, my wife had to hold both my arms because I would have fallen down if we got called out of that bracket. We've already played at North Carolina, and they are the top seed in the tournament. We lost 2-1 in a very tight game, but I really didn't fancy going back there. In men's soccer, they only take 32 teams, so you are really dealing with the elite right from the get-go. One thing we are happy about is that it is not too far down the road, so we might have some people make the trip with us. It may be a little easier than going out to Stanford or the east coast. We are just happy to be there, and this team is probably too young and nave to be deflated about the opponent."
On St. Louis being the team with everything to lose
" From the fans point of view, certainly the pressure is all on them (St. Louis). They are the storybook program in college soccer in this country. Seventeen Final Fours and 10 national championships speaks for itself. So, yeah, the pressure is on them. Internally, we expect to go play well. With our players, we don't talk about winning and losing, we go about performing well and giving the effort to make sure we do the right things. That's our pressure, to go down there and perform well and give the best of our ability and let the chips fall where they may. There are not too many people in St. Louis thinking we will win the game."
On whether he expected to be at this point in only the program's 10th season
"We are very happy that the Mid-American Conference gives us a chance to compete, since there is no men's soccer in the Southeastern Conference. The MAC is a very competitive conference. There are only a certain amount of automatic bids awarded, and not every conference in America has an automatic bid. We have one, and I think that is due to the strength of our conference. We have a lot of young players, and I knew when I set the schedule that we were not going to go 16-2 or 17-1. Our goal at the beginning of the year was to get to the NCAA tournament, and we've done that. We're very happy that we accomplished that goal. We just hope to give a good account of ourselves, and see what we can do. We lost a difficult game in this tournament last year. It was a heartbreaker. We want to keep moving this program forward."
On the team's defense
"At Ohio State and Marshall, we kind of fell apart a bit. We are a solid defensive team. We always have been. We have a big problem scoring goals. We are winning our games, 1-0. I can guarantee this, if we give up two or three goals to St. Louis on Saturday, we will lose the game. At the same time, we can defend pretty well. If we get a goal early, that is going to make it a very interesting game. I don't think we will give up a lot of goals. We have a lot of young players, and it has taken them a long time to learn what it takes to play at this level."
On what he might change for this week's match
"I'll pray twice as hard as I did last week. We've stuck with young players through and through, and I think this youth thing in soccer is overrated. To me, experience is a factor whether you are 19 or 25. Experience makes the difference. We now have some kids who are seasoned and have played some good teams. Youth is not an excuse anymore. We will go with the young players who have gotten us here and stick with them."
On the possibility of the Southeastern Conference adding men's soccer as a championship sport
"Presently, we have us, South Carolina and Vanderbilt. South Carolina is the 7th seed in the NCAA Tournament. I think they have been 10 of the last 12 years. We have a good foundation with three teams. It is certainly something we would love to see, a chance to create rivalries with the likes of Florida and Georgia and teams like that. They all have good facilities, because all the schools have women's programs. So it's not a lack of facilities or anything like that. Certainly we would love a chance to compete at that level."
On whether Title IX is responsible for the lack of men's teams
"Let me just say this, Michigan just started a program. Michigan and UK are the two newest programs in men's Division I soccer, and we aren't that new anymore. I'd like to think, as a coach, that sets a precedent for some of the other larger schools. Michigan stepped in and funded its program to the hilt right off the bat. They are really committed to making it a top program. I'd like to think that someday that my young son could have a chance to play in the SEC, because in Florida and Georgia and the other states, there are some great, great players. I think it is just a pity that these kids don't get a chance to play at these schools. I am also very, very grateful of course to C.M. Newton who started this program before I was even here. He went out on a limb and stuck his neck out when most people wouldn't. Now we have a program, so for that we are very happy."