The meat of the speech or the sales pitch:
We also have a pedigree, we have six schools that were BCS or old Southwest Conference schools - and joining these schools with others that were yearning to compete at the highest level has created a powerful dynamic. This competitive dynamic has resulted in great success – two major New Year’s bowl wins, 19 P6/Notre Dame wins in football over the past two years, wins over Penn State, Notre Dame, Ole Miss, Oklahoma, Florida State, Louisville twice, Pitt twice, Syracuse, VA Tech, Miami, North Carolina, NC State, Purdue, the list goes on. 32 games with television viewership of 1M or more viewers in the past two years, and our football championship game on ABC the past two years. Not to mention a men’s basketball championship in 2014, three women’s basketball championships, including the remarkable UConn 111-win streak, and individual Olympic sports champions. A Power6 resume indeed!
We have had numerous top NFL draft picks, numerous national award winners, and numerous highlights in our four-year history. We had 15 players selected in the 2017 NFL draft, 5th among FBS conferences. Zay Jones of ECU set the NCAA season and career receptions records, and broke the record set by ECU’s Justin Hardy a few years before. The credit for all this goes, of course, to our excellent players who defeat heavy odds in the form of the immensely challenging schedules we play, to our outstanding coaches who recruit intelligently and who coach brilliantly, and to our administrators who hire and support those coaches and who intelligently marshal our resources. We have a first-rate roster of coaches, and we welcome five new coaches, Charlie Strong at USF, Major Applewhite at Houston, Randy Edsall at UConn, Luke Fickell at Cincinnati, and Geoff Collins at Temple. Any anxiety over so many new coaches is easily dispelled by our conference’s phenomenal record of hiring top assistants and established veterans who have invariably gone on to great success in our league. These coaches will no doubt do the same and join our incumbent coaches to comprise as strong a group as any in college football. I would be remiss if I failed to mention our outstanding officiating crews ably led by Terry McAulay. They do a great job and are a great group.
Our next step is critical. We want to be accepted eventually as an autonomy P6 Conference because we believe we are already a P6 conference, and correspondingly we want and need a TV/media deal that recognizes what we have achieved and affords us the resources to continue to build the Conference and continue to compete successfully with the other P6 conferences in the ever-competitive college football environment. And make no mistake, we do not want simply to compete, we want to win! I again channel Vince Lombardi; who, at his first meeting with his Packers team in 1959, said “we will relentlessly chase perfection, knowing full well we will not achieve it because it is unattainable. But in the process we will achieve excellence.” That is our goal.
As I mentioned, our TV partners, ESPN and CBS, have afforded us great exposure and professional support, and we in turn have provided them with an excellent product and many outstanding moments. We provided ESPN with its two highest Thursday night ratings this past year; Notre Dame-Temple two years ago had 6M viewers. The networks and the viewing public now know we can compete and win against the best P6 competition, and as long as we continue to challenge ourselves and play top P6 opponents, we will continue to provide great value to our media partners. We have engaged our devoted fans, our communities, our 2.6M national alumni and our TV viewers.
The other P6 conferences increasingly see us as a peer conference and enjoy scheduling us. For example, we have begun to play Big Ten teams more than we have in the past. We are playing three Big Ten teams this year and 17 games are scheduled between now and 2023. We are working on scheduling more. Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany and I touch base from time to time, and the Big Ten Athletic Directors respect our teams, and consider them good intersectional opponents which are building quality football programs. Our footprint overlaps with the Big 12, SEC and ACC, and we also have a number of games scheduled with those conferences. And although the Pac 12 is more geographically challenging, we will be playing UCLA, Arizona and Stanford, among others, over the next several years. We have averaged 26 P6 games over the past four years, and our goal is to play at least half of our nonconference games against other P6 schools, and possibly more. This is ambitious, but we welcome the challenge, it will strengthen us further.