Dec. 12, 2013
Bowl Press Conference | Bowl Central
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Vanderbilt coach James Franklin and Houston coach Tony Levine gathered for a press conference at the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame on Thursday to kick off promotional activities for the BBVA Compass Bowl.
In three weeks, the schools meet on the football field for the first time when the Commodores (8-4) and Cougars (8-4) square off on Jan. 4 at Legion Field (noon, ESPN).
On Thursday, a jovial atmosphere and huge crowd filled the large hall. Franklin mingled with dignitaries from the bowl, officials from the local chamber of commerce and convention & visitor's bureau and representatives from the Southeastern Conference.
"We are fired up to be in Birmingham," Franklin said. "We are excited to be playing in the BBVA Compass Bowl, and have tremendous respect for Coach Levine and their program. You look at the history of their program, their organization, what they have been able to do not only under this regime, but over the long term with their program. We couldn't be more excited about being here."
Alabama has proven to be a fertile state for the Commodores. Ten players, including starters Jordan Matthews, Chase Garnham, Walker May and Jared Morse, will return to their home state.
"The state has been unbelievable to Vanderbilt," Franklin said. "You look at not only our program right now but historically. Jordan Matthews, who I think is the best wide receiver in the country; Chase Garnham, our starting middle linebacker; Jared Morse; and I can go on and on and on. Earl Bennett was a great player from here. Being able to come back for those guys, it is sort of a homecoming. It is great for them. We are going to continue to recruit this state."
Franklin jokingly apologized to Levine when he stated he expects a large black and gold contingency in the stands.
Levine, in his second season as head coach, bragged about the Commodores and their recent success. In Franklin's third season, Vanderbilt is playing in its third consecutive bowl game - a first in program history.
"It is a great program and Coach Franklin has done a great job," Levine said. "When you think about Vanderbilt nationally, not so much in the fan perspective but in the coaching world, you think of a program that has great energy. That starts from the top with Coach Franklin. They have recruited tremendously. Their kids play extremely hard, and there are a number of reasons why they are 8-4 this year."
The Commodores return to practice next week.