Fuente, Players Represent Memphis at #AmericanKickoff
Go Tigers!
Go Tigers!

Go Tigers!

American Athletic Conference Kickoff Photo Gallery

July 30, 2013

University of Memphis senior center Antonio Foster and junior linebacker Charles Harris accompanied head coach Justin Fuenteto the American Football Conference's Media Kickoff this week in Newport, R.I.

Following a Monday night clambake at Fort Adams State Park and the summer home of Dwight D. Eisenhower, coaches and players from the league's ten teams fielded questions from members of the media during several sessions Tuesday morning.

Fuente fielded questions in a series of interviews with print and broadcast media, as well as spoke to an audience from the podium of the Hotel Viking's ballroom and was interviewed by the American.org's radio team in interviews which were both streamed by ESPN3.

Harris became the first student-athlete that ESPN College GameDay who could sing his school's fight song while Foster said the most interesting question he was asked was what kind of music he listens to before games (R&B)

Notes from the American Athletic Conference Kickoff and Media Day

  • Memphis got a head start on coverage in Newport. Fuente sat down with USA Today Sports national college football writer Paul Myerberg Monday afternoon in the lobby of the Hotel Viking. The publication posted Myerberg's story on the Tigers online just prior to the doors opening for the media Tuesday morning.

  • One of the topics of discussion during Tuesday's media sessions was the NCAA's Playing Rules Oversight Panel's approval of a rule which calls for the automatic ejection of players who target and contact defenseless players above the shoulders (head and neck). The automatic ejection will be added to the 15-yard penalty already in place in cases of targeting. A player penalized in the first half will miss the remainder of the game; if a player is penalized in the second half, he will miss the remainder of the game plus the first half of his team's next game. While the initial call is at the referee's discretion, the play in reviewable. The replay official must have conclusive evidence to overturn the original ruling but in that case, the 15-yard penalty will still be enforced.

  • With the American Athletic Conference Kickoff is looked at the beginning of the season, the Memphis Tigers both open and then close the regular season in New England. Memphis wraps up the regular season Dec. 7th at UConn.

  • Foster gave a valiant effort at Monday's clambake, consuming three lobsters along with barbeque chicken and sides. Still, the Tiger senior did not come close to the previous record set at the annual event - seven lobsters.

    Memphis Head Coach Justin Fuente's Comments from the Podium at the American Kickoff

    Opening Statement
    "We know that we are obviously faced with an incredible challenge to build a football program while simultaneously taking a step up in competition. But we're going into this with our eyes wide open and with full understanding of what it's going to take to get the job done. And we're looking forward to the challenges that lay ahead.

    "I think our kids have made large strides in the one year that my staff and I have been there. We've seen them grow in many ways, but most importantly in kind of the fundamental principles of what a team is. And that's basically where we started, with accountability to each other and accountability to the program. And because of that I'm excited about this group of guys and our season coming up.

    "So that being said, I think if anybody's got any questions, I'll be happy to answer them."

    You are surrounded by SEC schools down there. Do you think this league will help you kind of differentiate yourself in terms of building your own identity?
    "I think so. I go back to my time at TCU. Their program was a lot farther along than ours is. But when you think about what Gary did down there in the midst of the Big 12, and he used to say to us: Guys, we don't have to be the big brand. We can be our own niche. We don't have to be to use an example Coke or Pepsi, we can be Sprite.

    "And I think that's there for us. I think we have an opportunity to kind of establish our own brand and take this conference as people begin to know more about this conference and the conference begins to earn more credibility on the football field, being a part of it and people know more about it, I think we have that chance. Absolutely."

    To that point, there's a unique opportunity here for schools like Memphis. All you have to be is the best of ten this year to get to a BCS Bowl. Next year it changes totally. You have to do the best of 55 or whatever the number is.

    Do you even go there with your players, express that?
    "To be quite honest with you, no. We have talked very little about anything other than ourselves. And I don't mean that from an arrogant standpoint, I mean that's where our focus needs to be. On our team building, on our ability to continue to get bigger, faster, stronger, and our accountability level and all those things that go to the fundamental building blocks of a team.

    "So we have spent very little time on anybody other than ourselves, because ultimately those things will take care of itself if we take care of ourselves."

    Most teams, especially when they're picked high, they say they don't pay attention to the preseason polls. Where you're picked in this league, does it matter if it's discouraging, you have this fresh start and picked where you are?
    "No, I don't no. It's not discouraging. We know where we're at and where we're going to go and what we're going to do. So I don't take other people's opinions and consider that as a step backwards.

    "We're just solely focused on ourselves. We made large strides last year. We'll make large strides this year. Where it all ends up, I don't know. But we have an older more mature defense, a younger more inexperienced offense.

    "And our challenge as coaches are offensively to get our young kids to play older than they are; defensively, get our old kids to play their age and play together. And that's our focus, and we'll go put a productive unit out there.

    Can you give us a sense of how the city feels about coming into this new venue, the American Athletic Conference, and the response of those alumni and fans?
    "It's been tremendous. I think they're anxious to learn more about it is the biggest thing. I think obviously having the basketball tournament in Memphis is a big deal. Our community is excited about that.

    "I think the Liberty Bowl, I don't mean the Bowl game, I mean the stadium, is a great venue for us to play our home games in and represent the city.

    "People are excited. People are talking about it. I think people in that city or in our city will reward a job well done. And they're excited about the direction of our football program combined with the move to the new league.

    "Now, I'm hopeful that they understand what that means, the building of a program and taking a step up in competition at the same time, but there's a lot of buzz around town about kind of a more inquisitive, what is this going to mean, what's it going to be like, as we move forward in the deal.

    "But there's a bunch of people in the city that are excited about the move."



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