Public Papers

Remarks Congratulating the Undefeated National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I Football Teams


Mr. Speaker, and distinguished Members of the Congress, Senate and House. We've got some other guests here, too, and let me single them out. The members of those championship teams from Jabbo Kenner Youth Football League, where are those guys? Over here, all right, there they are, looking good. Emiliano Salinas is here with us. Where is he? This man is the son of the President of Mexico, one of our strongest, staunchest allies. Emiliano, welcome, welcome. And did we get Wilson High School? Wilson, here they are back here, another championship ball team. And may I especially single out Coach James and Coach Erickson, who have the respect of anybody interested in sports in this country. It's great to have both of you here, Dennis, Don. And also to the players, the staffs, the friends, and the football fans here and across the country, Barbara and I just wanted to welcome you here to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

For exactly 200 years this has been the people's house, and today we welcome the people's choice, the Hurricanes and the Huskies, two great teams, both national champions. And some thought I should take the ball and go outside and try to settle this thing right now. [Laughter] No, no, my black-and-white shirt is at the cleaners. We're not going to do that. I don't need this. I've got enough problems without getting in the middle of you guys.

Let me begin with what we have in common. You guys play football, and in an election year I sometimes feel like a football. But it's then that I recall what you did this year. Flanked by you household names, maybe I should be around getting autographs because this is a star-studded occasion.

First alphabetically -- and I don't want to get into trouble -- comes Miami, number one in the Associated Press. Two years ago we met to celebrate a national title. Today we salute the Nation's current longest home winning streak, 45 games, and the longest regular season winning streak; 4 national titles in the past 9 years including 1991; only the third undefeated team in Miami history.

And what memories you've given us. Of a college known as Quarterback U, Gino Toretta, take a bow. Where is the man? All right. Leon Searcy's not here, but I wanted to single him out. He's an offensive tackle, for those amateurs around here, who wears a 17EEE shoe; they call them battleships. [Laughter] And this year we are retiring the U.S.S. Missouri, and I think we ought to commission him instead. [Laughter] But I'm sorry he's not with us.

Next we come to Kevin Williams. Kevin promised Brent Musburger that he'd return a punt for a touchdown, and sure enough, he did it. And dealing with politicians, it's always a pleasure to meet a man of his word.

And defensive end Rusty Medearis is not with us. The Sack Man, the Hurricane receivers, the Ruthless Posse, all, they'd feel right at home in Washington. And this brings me to Carlos Huerta, called the Ice Man. Carlos, where is he? Right here. All right. Ask the children he helps, in addition to the sick he comforts, and they call him simply the nice man.

And finally, Coach Erickson, who spurned ``Miami Vice'' for virtue: Witness the drills that are so self-disciplined that one player said, ``The games are easy. They're a cinch compared to our practices.''

Out west then we'll shift. No game was easy for the opponents of the '91's other co-champion in the USA Today-CNN poll, the amazing Washington Huskies. And in a way you foretold the success of that other Washington team, the Redskins, halfway across the world, making Don James' 17th season as Huskie coach his finest. His fourth Rose Bowl victory; the Huskies' first undefeated and untied club since 1915; a team which made each opponent, yes, bow down to Washington.

And in one sense, you remind me of the way we were. Thirty-eight years ago Don James graduated from Miami. Applying equal time, Dennis Erickson hails from Washington. And it's today, though, that we're here to focus on, on how the Purple and Gold turned opponents black and blue. And I think of the Purple Haze of Dave Hoffman and Lincoln Kennedy, nicknamed the ``Oval Office.'' Now, where are these two guys? I've got to see them. I can see why. And at 6 7 and 325 pounds, the Pentagon would be more like it. [Laughter] Incidentally, I want to salute your dad, a career Navy man who served in the Gulf.

And then there's Outland Trophy and Lombardi Trophy winner, all-American, Heisman Trophy finalist, Steve Emtman. Steve. You've got them all hiding in the back here. [Laughter] All right. Welcome to the White House.

And Mario Bailey. Mario, where are you? Right here next to me: 4 years, Rose Bowl heroics, six school records including receiving yards and touchdowns. And Washington's quarterback who made 1991 an ``Ode to Billy Joe.'' Passing to the 3 Smurfs, throwing a school record 22 touchdowns, Billy Joe Hobert became the second straight Huskie sophomore quarterback to be named the Rose Bowl's most valued player.

And so today I salute the only two division I college football teams to finish undefeated and untied in the same season since 1976. Teams which showed, as quarterback Joe Kapp once said, ``The greatest game in America is called opportunity. Football is a great expression of it.''

The American political system has a playoff to decide a winner. It's called an election, Presidential election this year. And as of now the NCAA does not. And yet, in the truest sense, each of you are winners: undefeated, untied, unbowed.

And so, Barbara and I wanted to welcome you here to extend our most sincere congratulations not just for winning but for the example you and especially these two coaches set for the rest of the country, to our country, the greatest, freest land on the face of the Earth. Welcome to the White House. Congratulations. And may God bless all of you.

Note: The President spoke at 1:40 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to University of Washington football coach Don James, University of Miami football coach Dennis Erickson, ABC sportscaster Brent Musburger, and former Minnesota Vikings quarterback Joe Kapp.