UCF Arrives In Arizona, Prepares For Fiesta Bowl
By Chip Fontanazza, Andy Seeley and Brian Ormiston // December 27, 2013
coach O'Leary meets with the media
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (UCFKnights.com) – The UCF Knights arrived to a warm welcome from the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl committee and the people of the Phoenix area Thursday. As is tradition for the bowl, the Knights and Baylor Bears were greeted as they arrived in the Valley of the Sun.
Shortly thereafter, head coach George O’Leary spoke to media members from Arizona, Florida and Texas. Many visitors to the Fiesta Bowl look forward to getting here for the weather, but it was a bit of a role reversal for the Knights.
“We took the four hour ride down here and when we left Orlando, it was about 10 degrees hotter, so we’re looking forward to the cool weather,” O’Leary quipped.
O’Leary said his team has been excited about its trip to the Fiesta Bowl for weeks. Now that they’ve arrived, that excitement level is sure to increase.
“Since they announced we were coming out here, our players can’t wait to play in the game and can’t wait to compete in the game,” O’Leary said.
“It’s been like that every day we’ve practiced. This morning, they were happy to get on the bus and head to the airport and I can tell by their faces getting off the airplane that they are ecstatic to be here. They can’t wait to partake in the festivities of the Fiesta Bowl.”
O’Leary said one of the biggest benefits of winning the American Athletic Conference’s automatic berth to a BCS bowl game is the media coverage leading up to the game and the three or four hours on ESPN on New Year’s Night.
“You can’t pay for this kind of exposure, the exposure you get from the Fiesta Bowl and the media outlets and ESPN,” O’Leary said.
“You can’t buy the type of recognition you get from a game like this. We’re looking forward to this and recruiting has greatly benefited from this. We recruit the entire country and we have a lot more people involved because of the national recognition we got this year.”
Baylor head coach Art Briles also held a short press conference when the Bears arrived just minutes after the Knights.
Briles, who mentioned his knowledge of Coach O’Leary and UCF from his time at Houston, watched UCF’s ESPN All-Access appearance (see a clip here … All-Access) recently and came away with more insight into the Knights program – and even more respect for UCF quarterback Blake Bortles.
“This guy is kind of different,” Briles said of Bortles. “I can understand why they’re winning and doing really well on the offensive side of the ball. It came through the TV to me, he’s a winner. He’s a tough kid that’s done a great job for them.”
While Briles’ offense leads the nation in scoring and total offense, his aforementioned knowledge of Coach O’Leary equals an expectation that the Knights will play well on defense.
“His teams are going to play tough defense, not going to beat themselves,” Briles said. “They’re going to make you work on defense. They’re not going to take a lot of chances, defensively, to give you big plays. We know we’re in for a dogfight.”
–Buy Tostitos Fiesta Bowl Tickets
-This will be George O’Leary’s 10th bowl game as a head coach, and has led the Knights to two straight bowl victories.
-Several Orlando media outlets will be making their way to the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, and the Orlando Sentinel and WFTV-9 were already on hand Thursday to catch the Knights arriving in Arizona.
– UCF Tostitos Fiesta Bowl Media Guide and Game Notes