Remarks to the University of Miami Hurricanes, the National Collegiate Athletic Association Football Champions

 

January 29, 1988

 

The President. Well, thank you all, and please be seated. Not you. [Laughter] I don't think there's room for that. Well, thank you all very much. And you know, there was a bit of confusion around here earlier this week. It seems that when I told somebody to expect the Hurricanes on Friday some of the White House staffers battened down the storm doors and ordered up emergency reserves of jellybeans. [Laughter] And I had to explain that I wasn't talking about tropical storms, that I'd invited the best college football team in America to come by. And so, welcome, to the 1987 NCAA football champions, the University of Miami Hurricanes, and their coach, Jimmy Johnson.

 

Jimmy, I just couldn't wait to have you champs come to the White House here to offer you much-deserved praise for the skill, determination, and winning spirit that you've demonstrated this season. And from the looks of a few of your other fans gathered here in the East Room, I'm not the only one impressed, not by a long shot. The whole country honors you today, and I'm pleased to have this opportunity to add my congratulations.

 

Of course, it's never easy. Yet with Steve Walsh, a sophomore quarterback who completed 18 of 30 passes for 209 yards and 2 touchdowns, and did it against a defense which only gave 7\1/2\ points per game all season, you had the odds on your side. Steve, of course you know better than anyone how important the help of running back Melvin Bratton and flanker Michael Irvin was. [Laughter] Each of them caught a touchdown pass in the big game. And the Orange Bowl might have come out a little differently without Greg Cox, who kicked a 56- and a 48-yard fieldgoal. And congratulations, Greg, on setting the Orange Bowl record with that 56-yard kick. You know, I kind of feel that if I could just kick some of the spending bills coming across my desk -- [laughter] -- I'd set a few fieldgoal records myself.

 

Actually, I might just ask Bernard Clark, the Hurricanes' most valuable player, to stand outside the Oval Office and tackle those spending bills. Those 14 tackles that you made in this Orange Bowl are truly impressive and something to be proud of. I ought to know, because I don't know if you're aware of this, but I played football when I was in college. And I had about 14 tackles in my whole 4 years. [Laughter] I'm kidding. I'm sure it was at least 16. [Laughter]

 

Seriously, I'd like to take a moment to recognize some other sportsmen: Coach Barry Switzer and the Oklahoma Sooners. They may have lost the game, but they had a winning season and accomplished it with a lot of class. The mark of a great sportsman is grace in defeat, and Coach Switzer exemplifies this. As he said after the game: ``The best team won.'' Well, of course, let me congratulate all of you for having grace in victory, which is also important and not as easy as some people think. As a matter of fact, Knute Rockne once told his team that it really is this thing about being a good loser -- it's easier to be a good loser and smile and take it than it is to be a good winner and do it with dignity and grace.

 

So, the best team did win. So, congratulations, champs. And the Miami Hurricanes are number one! Good luck, and God bless you.

 

Mr. Foote. Mr. President, my name is Tad Foote, and I'm the president of this university, and I express our deep appreciation and our honor at this invitation. May I present just a few of my colleagues, please, sir.

 

First of all, the chairman of our board of trustees, Jim McLamore, whom you know, sir -- he is also the founder of Burger King, you have met before, and one of the leading Republicans in our part of the United States, as you know -- [laughter] -- our outstanding director of athletics, Mr. Sam Jankovich, standing right next to you, who is presenting you with a ball that has been signed by the Hurricanes; our outstanding coach, Jimmy Johnson, to my right, Mr. President; and his staff. This is the best coaching staff in the United States, President Reagan. And finally, the national champions. They're the big ones. [Laughter]

 

The President. That would be typical -- when I was playing, I was usually outsized. [Laughter]

 

Mr. Foote. This has been a great football team, Mr. President. We are extremely proud of the Hurricanes. They've won with class on and off the field. We are deeply appreciative.

 

May I take this opportunity, please, sir, to wish you the very best during your last year in office; and on behalf of our university, these young men, and all of us, to thank you for your service to the United States. And I present this to you on behalf of the University of Miami as a small token of our appreciation.

 

Our coach, Jimmy Johnson, Mr. President.

 

Mr. Johnson. This has to be University of Miami's finest hour. Obviously, we're very proud of these young men winning the national championship, going undefeated; but we're also very proud that they are outstanding young men off the field, on the field, and in the classroom. Mr. President -- and we have received all kinds of recognition and awards, having won the national championship, but without question, this is the finest honor that we could ever receive. Thank you.

 

The President. I am honored.

 

Mr. Johnson. From the number one national champions, we give this jersey to our number one, President Reagan.

 

The President. Well, thank you all very much. I don't know whether I'm going to be able to get everybody -- a handshake with everybody here or not, but --

 

Michael Irvin. Please shake my hand. [Laughter]

 

Note: The President spoke at 3:05 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. Tad Foote, president of the University of Miami, gave the President a glass trophy, and Coach Johnson gave the President a football that had been autographed by the members of the team.