The best college football quotes of 2023

ByDave Wilson ESPN logo
Thursday, December 14, 2023

This year was one of the most turbulent in the history of college football. A new round of realignment sounded the death knell for the Pac-12.

A sign-stealing investigation hung all season over Michigan, the No. 1 seed in the College Football Playoff, while Florida State, a 13-0 Power 5 conference champion, got left out of the same field because its quarterback was hurt.

Deion Sanders put Colorado in the national spotlight early in the season, before a six-game losing streak ended Coach Prime's first year, while Texas shook off its haters to make its first playoff appearance.

Jimbo Fisher got paid an enormous sum to leave Texas A&M and Oklahoma State claimed victory in the final Bedlam game after 118 years. The wildest sport in the world keeps getting wilder.

Here's the story of the season in the words of those who lived it.

Swine of the times

"They've got a Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback, so they're gonna make some things, and that's just the way it is. But we've got ourselves a pig farmer at quarterback, so we're proud of that guy, too." -- Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, on third-string quarterback Bryson Barnes, who grew up on a farm in Milford, Utah, and led the Utes on a late drive for a winning field goal to beat USC and Caleb Williams34-32

Jimbo gets gigged

"You have to be careful what you create as the monster that is college athletics. ... Unfortunately, we're in a time now, everybody's fighting over the dollar." -- Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher, whose contract called for $95 million through 2031, on realignment and schools being spread apart in different conferences

"Here's the deal. You're either moving forward or you're stuck. We were stuck. So I kind of used the analogy with somebody earlier. ... You know how you're driving down the highway, it's a four-lane road, and I drive fast, OK? I like 75-80, and somebody's in the left lane and they're going 55 and they won't move over. We were that car going 55. Something had to give. They had to get out of the way." -- Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork on his decision to fire Jimbo Fisher on Nov. 12 after he went 19-15 in a nearly three-season stretch, despite a $76 million buyout, acknowledging that "the finances are monumental."

Turn up, Bloom

"It was like a club I don't go to anymore." -- Rice coach Mike Bloomgren on the atmosphere in the locker room after winning the Bayou Bucket by beating crosstown rival Houston for the first time since 2010

Bye bye Bedlam

"It's a big deal. I mean, this is the last Bedlam. All the Oklahoma State people have put up with a lot of crap for 100 years. They've had their butt kicked a bunch. Now they're going to walk around and say we won the last game." -- Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy after beating Oklahoma 27-21 in the teams' 118th and final meeting before OU heads to the SEC

A story arc worthy of Prime time

"We got a few positions already taken care of because I'm bringing my own luggage with me and it's Louis [Vuitton], OK? ... Ain't gonna be no more of the mess that these wonderful fans, the student body and some of your parents have put up with for probably two decades now. I'm coming. And when I get there, it's gonna be changed, so I want y'all to get ready to go ahead and jump in that portal and do whatever you're gonna get because the more of you jump into [the portal], the more room you make because we bring kids that are smart, tough." -- Deion Sanders, in his first meeting with his Colorado team after being hired

"I got all my receipts. Do you believe now? ... They know I'm a winner, and we're going to end up winning. Ain't none of [the media] thought we were going to end up sitting here. You were supposed to be on the other side, interviewing [TCU] or asking me, 'What happened? You said this and you said that.' Now what? Everybody's quiet now." -- DeionSanders, after a 45-42 win in Week 1 over TCU

"When I talk to grownups, I take my hat off and my glasses off. That's what my mother taught me." -- Colorado State coach Jay Norvell, on Coach Prime's standard attire in interviews, before the Rams met Colorado

"I think we were just out there fighting and battling for hats and sunglasses. We did it, we came through, they've got to respect us when we wear hats and sunglasses and when Coach Prime does and Coach Prime was raised right and we just proved that today." -- Deion's son and Buffs safety Shilo Sanders, after Colorado beat Colorado State 43-35 in double overtime

"The Cinderella story's over. They're fighting for clicks, we're fighting for wins. There's a difference. This game ain't gonna be played in Hollywood. It's played on the grass." -- Oregon coach Dan Lanning, in a televised pregame speech to his team before they played Colorado

"I think that was a good old fashioned butt-kicking. No excuses. No nothing. Their coaches did a heck of a job preparing their team. Obviously, we didn't. I mean, that was a really good, old-fashioned butt-kicking." -- DeionSanders, after a 42-6 loss at Oregon

"The big picture, you go get new lineman. That's the picture and I'ma paint it perfectly." -- Deion Sanders, after Colorado ran for 25 yards on 24 carries and his son, quarterback Shedeur Sanders, was pressured 24 times, took 17 hits, was knocked down 13 times and sacked seven times in a 28-16 loss to UCLA on Oct. 28

"At the beginning of the season I kinda saw around the corner. I think I kinda forewarned us at the Oregon game, you better get us now, because I know what we have in house and I know what we don't have, I know what we're lacking tremendously. And that was a prelude to some things that kind of fell apart as well, that they really dominated our weaknesses. ... I'm truly thankful, this is not the first challenge I've had in my life but I know how I finish. I know how this is gonna end. I promise you I know how this is gonna end." -- Deion Sanders, after a 23-17 loss to Utah to finish 4-8 with a six-game losing streak

Auburn got Kill'd

"I probably shouldn't say this but life's short and I may not be here tomorrow, so I walked in and said, 'Hey, we just got $1.7 million to play a SEC team. So how about $1.7 million and winning the game.' So the kids, they're all fired up wondering when they're going to get it. They want it to all be NIL money." -- New Mexico State coach Jerry Kill, after going on the road and beating Auburn 31-10 for the first win over an SEC team in school history

It's good to be a QB

"Make no mistake that a good quarterback in the portal costs, you know, a million to $1.5 million to $2 million right now, just so we're all on the same page. Let's make sure we all understand what's happening. There are some teams that have $6 [million] or $7 million players playing for them." -- Nebraska coach Matt Rhule, after being asked if he was looking to the transfer portal for any quarterback help after playing three different QBs in at least five games

Farewell, Pac-12

"It's not a concern. Our schools are committed to each other and to the Pac-12. We'll get our media rights deal done, we'll announce the deal. I think the realignment that's going on in college athletics will come to an end for this cycle. The truth is we've got bigger fish to fry." -- Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff, at the conference's media day on July 21, on any worries about the Big 12 potentially poaching teams

"What we've seen is that the longer we wait for a deal, the better our options get. ... There's an underlying shift in the media market that's happening and we're long-term taking advantage of that, but short term may have provided some hiccups." -- Kliavkoff, at media day, on a potential new television contract

"I'm trying to remember what they won to affect this conference. Do you remember them winning anything? I don't remember them winning anything." -- Oregon coach Dan Lanning, on Colorado's exit to the Big 12

"I think it's been well documented that the last couple of weeks was a culmination of years of failed leadership, vision, failed implementation. It isn't one singular thing that led to the destruction of the Pac-12 as we know it. It was a bunch of decisions and failed strategies that put us in this place." -- Washington State athletic director Pat Chun, whose school was left out of the realignment derby and left alongside Oregon State without a new home

Hello, Connor Stalions

"[I] employ Marine Corps philosophies and tactics into the sport of football regarding strategies in staffing, recruiting, scouting, intelligence, planning and more." -- The since-deleted LinkedIn bio of former Michigan staffer Connor Stalions, who is accused of scouting future opponents in person at games, prohibited by the NCAA since 1994, in order to steal their signs

"I do not have any knowledge or information regarding the University of Michigan football program illegally stealing signals, nor have I directed any staff member or others to participate in an off-campus scouting assignment. I have no awareness of anyone on our staff having done that or having directed that action." -- Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh in a statement

"What's crazy is they aren't allegations. It happened. There's video evidence. There's ticket purchases and sales that you can track back. We know for a fact that they were at a number of our games. ... We've had to teach our guys a new language in terms of some signals and we'll operate different offensively. You might see us in a huddle for the first time this season." -- Purdue coach Ryan Walters, on his radio show the week his team played Michigan, on allegations that the Wolverines had scouted their signs in person

"I love the University of Michigan and its football program. And I am extremely grateful for the opportunity I've had to work with the incredible student athletes, coach Harbaugh and the other coaches that have been a part of the Michigan football family during my tenure. I do not want to be a distraction from what I hope to be a championship run for the team, and I will continue to cheer them on." -- Connor Stalions, in a statement to The Athletic, after Stalions resigned from Michigan and refused to cooperate with any investigations

"I'm a clean person, but I'm not a cleaner. Vacuums aren't my thing. I don't know anything about that." -- Michigan running back Blake Corum, after records of an LLC in Wyoming were discovered listing both Stalions and Corum as co-owners of a business that refurbished vacuum cleaners

"We are aware that other representatives of the Big 10 are demanding that you take action now, before any meaningful investigation and full consideration of all the evidence. And we both know it is not what any other member would want if allegations were raised against their people or programs." -- Michigan president Santa Ono, in a letter to Big Ten commissioner Tony Petitti, as he weighed possible punishment for UM and Harbaugh

"[Michigan] violated the Sportsmanship Policy because a University football staff member engaged in an organized, extensive, years-long in-person advance scouting scheme that was impermissible. ... The goal of the scheme was to gain an unfair advantage by stealing the signs of teams that the University's football team was due to play later in the season. Such misconduct inherently compromises the integrity of competition." -- Petitti, announcing Harbaugh would be suspended for the final three regular-season games of the year

"I want to thank the Lord, I want to thank Coach Harbaugh. I f---ing love you, man. I love the s--- out of you man" -- Michigan interim coach Sherrone Moore, with tears rolling down his face, on live TV after the Wolverines beat Penn State 24-15, less than 24 hours after Harbaugh was suspended

"Despite that noise, our locker room's in one piece. And I like that. For me, locker rooms, lot like my mom's bathing suits. Like to see 'em in one piece." -- Harbaugh, quoting "Ted Lasso" on his team's focus before playing Ohio State

Missouri head coach Eli Drinkwitz couldn't bear to let the news cycle end during interviews for the Tigers' selection for the Goodyear Cotton Bowl:

From billboards to bulletin boards

"Whoever the administrator is that made a decision to put billboards that were disrespectful for the City of Mobile and disrespectful to the University of South Alabama just needs to know that sometimes those things are great in a board meeting, but it'll get your ass kicked on the playground." -- South Alabama coach Kane Wommack, on Southern Miss billboards being put up around town with phrases like "The University of Southern Mississippi: A Major University Experience at a cost comparable to your local university." Wommack, a Southern Miss alum, beat his alma mater 55-3.

That Army rushing game sure is frustrating

"There's gotta be a better way to make a living. I apologize. That was embarrassing. God bless. Birds up." -- UTSA Roadrunners coach Jeff Traylor, after a 29-27 loss to Army

The Iowa offense saga

"It's like mortality, right? We're all going to die. Most people haven't fully contemplated that. I'm still working on it. But in coaching, you have to face that at some point, too, and the sooner you do, the better off you are. Just accept that you're mortal, and that's totally out of your control. So let's turn the focus to what I can control, where we can make improvements, and what can I do to be better?" -- Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz, in August, to ESPN on his unusual performance incentive that required Iowa to average 25 points per game and win at least seven contests for his agreement to last beyond June 30, 2024

"There aren't any style points in football. It's not like gymnastics. It's about, do you get it done or don't you? So no, I don't care." -- Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, Brian's father, on criticisms of the Hawkeyes' conservative offense

"Making this known today is in the best interest of the program and its loyal fans; it provides clarity during this pivotal time in the schedule. It is not my practice to be involved in assistant coaching decisions and certainly not to make public such a change during a season. Our priority is to put all our student-athletes in the best position to have both short-term and long-term success, on and off the field." -- Iowa interim athletic director Beth Goetz, who supervised Brian Ferentz due to state nepotism laws, announcing in October that he would not return next season while the Hawkeyes ranked 118th nationally in scoring offense (19.5) and were last in the country in yards per game

"My policy has typically been to evaluate everything -- players, coaches, all that -- postseason because in-season we've got a lot on our plates. That's been the nature of it. It's been that way since I got started full-time [at Iowa] in '81. There's just not enough time in the day. To me, it's a better time, it's a less emotional time, I can give you a lot of reasons why I've done it that way. But it really doesn't matter. We are dealing with something we have to deal with, and we will." -- Kirk Ferentz, after Goetz's announcement surprised him

"If we win, it might screw things up. That might be kind of funny." -- Kirk Ferentz, on facing Michigan in the Big Ten championship game, where they were ... shut out 26-0.

The biggest College Football Playoff controversy yet

"Florida State is a different team than it was the first 11 weeks. As you look at who they are as a team right now, without Jordan Travis, without the offensive dynamic he brings, they are a different team and the committee voted Alabama four and Florida State five." -- CFP selection committee chairman Boo Corrigan, on ESPN, on why the 13-0 Seminoles became the first unbeaten Power 5 conference champion to be left out of the playoff

"I am disgusted and infuriated with the committee's decision today to have what was earned on the field taken away because a small group of people decided they knew better than the results of the games. What is the point of playing games? Do you tell players it is OK to quit if someone goes down? Do you not play a senior on Senior Day for fear of injury? Where is the motivation to schedule challenging nonconference games?" -- Florida State coach Mike Norvell in a statement on selection day

"For many of us, today's decision by the committee has forever damaged the credibility of the institution that is the College Football Playoff. And, saddest of all, it was self-inflicted. They chose predictive competitiveness over proven performance; subjectivity over fact. They have become a committee of prognosticators. They have abandoned their responsibility by discarding their purpose -- to evaluate performance on the field." -- FSU athletic director Michael Alfordin a statement

"devastated. heartbroken. In so much disbelief rn, I wish my leg broke earlier in the season so y'all could see this team is much more than the quarterback. I thought results matter. 13-0 and this roster matches up across any team in those top 4 rankings. I am so sorry. Go Noles!" -- Florida State quarterback Jordan Travis, in a post on X

"To be fair, our crack-smoking didn't occur until after the vote" -- College Football Playoff selection committee member Paola Boivin, an Arizona State professor and former sports journalist, replying to a since-deleted post on X that said, "Oregon over Ohio state has to be the wildest thing I have ever seen. The committee is smoking crack"

But what about TikTok?

"I have DMs, I have WhatsApp, I have text messages, I have IP addresses, and I am doing everything in my power to make sure they know -- don't screw with my roster." -- UAB coach Trent Dilfer, on how he's trying to protect his players from tampering

Biff checks out

New Charlotte 49ers coach Biff Poggi didn't appreciate being asked only three questions at AAC media day.

What Would Jesus Throw?

"I tried to do too much and make a throw not even Jesus Christ himself should try and make." -- TCU freshman quarterback Josh Hoover, who threw an interception with 51 seconds left in the first half, allowing No. 7 Texas to score and go up 26-6 at halftime in a game the Horned Frogs ended up losing 29-26

Rough year at USC

"I want to go home and cuddle with my dog and watch some shows." -- USC quarterback Caleb Williams after a 52-42 loss to Washington despite throwing for 312 yards and three TDs

"We're going to play great defense here, period. It's going to happen. It's going to happen soon. There's not a reason in the world it can't. We'll continue to take the steps we have to do it, and we're going to be very aggressive that way." -- USC coach Lincoln Riley, whose team fell to 119th in total defense this season amid a 7-5 finish and the dismissal of defensive coordinator Alex Grinch

Was this directed at any school in particular?

"We're the only school in the DFW Metroplex that's in a top-3 conference in the country starting next year." -- SMU coach Rhett Lashlee, at the Mustangs' celebration for accepting an invite to the ACC, with rival TCU in the Big 12

NIL is a mystery to coaches too

"I wouldn't know the answer to that because it's the most clandestine operation of all time." -- Arizona coach Jedd Fisch, on how Arizona's NIL operation stacks up compared to the rest of the programs in the Pac-12

Bo knows babysitting

"Bo's not just our quarterback, he's also my babysitter. I walked in the house the other day, and my wife was out with some of the other coaches' wives, I believe, and Bo's in the living room. And I'm like, 'What are you up to, man?' He goes, 'Oh, the boys just finished basketball practice. They're getting ready for bed.'" -- Lanning, on his relationship with Bo Nix

Bo knows ball

"I played five really long seasons in college football. A lot of stuff has been going on from conference realignment to NIL to COVID. I think me and several other guys, our year, we're one of the few guys that got to experience normal and crazy football in college. We really experienced each year something different. Each year was something new. So, I mean, I'm going to miss college football. I know it was my goal my whole entire life to be a college quarterback, to play and win a national championship." -- Nix, after his final regular-season game after throwing for 14,989 yards and 108 TDs in three years at Auburn and two at Oregon

He can't feel it coming in the air tonight

"You look at Northwestern. They've typically had a good home record. Why? Because it can be challenging to play there. They're used to the environment. Other people may not be. ... We usually play Phil Collins and it's usually blaring, and they were asking me to turn it up today and I said, 'No.'" -- Penn State coach James Franklin, saying he wanted to prepare his team for the environment in Evanston where the announced attendance was 25,064

He relished this opportunity

"Ohio State fans are the only problem. They have a monster following, and they think the world is their bathroom." -- Steve Starkman, who owns hot dog eatery Mustard's Last Stand in Evanston, to the Wall Street Journal on new Northwestern stadium plans affecting their neighborhood

Texas fights back

"I think this team is on a mission, they've taken this mindset of being on a mission. They've kind of adopted the John Wick mentality. ... I think that they've kind of assumed this mentality of, 'Embrace the hate.' We get it. We're the University of Texas, we get it. This is our last year in the Big 12. We can sit there and be a punching bag, or we can go attack the people that we're going to play." -- Longhorns coach Steve Sarkisian on his team setting out on a revenge tour in its last season in the Big 12, at the conference's media day

"Coach [McGuire], I'm not going to put any pressure on you, but I'm gonna be in Austin for Thanksgiving, OK? And you'd better take care of business like you did right here in Lubbock last year." -- Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark, speaking to Texas Tech coach Joey McGuire in the summer after the Red Raiders beat Texas last season, at a fan event in Lubbock

"That was amazing and I think they deserved that." -- Texas defensive tackle T'Vondre Sweat after crushing Texas Tech 57-7 and watching Yormark's speech on the videoboard at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium during the game. He said "they" referred to "Little Lubbock."

"It's going to be one heck of a farewell present. They are going to come in here on senior night in the dark. I don't think they really know what is going to be coming for them. We've beaten them four out of the last five times at home. They don't have a good record here." -- Iowa State offensive lineman Jarrod Hufford before Texas came to Ames on Nov. 18

"9 yards rushing ... that's all. Don't write no check you can't cash little guy" -- Texas defensive tackle Byron Murphy II after the Longhorns beat Iowa State 26-16

"This may be a little bullish of me saying, but we'll play anybody in the country. I'm not shying away from that part. I feel very comfortable. If we get into this tournament, we'll play anybody." -- Sarkisian, after Texas throttled Oklahoma State 49-21 to win the Big 12, before they got their spot in the College Football Playoff

That's not very Midwest Nice

"Was it pass interference? What's the NCAA or Big Ten gonna fine me if I say that's a horses--- f---ing call or what?" -- Iowa wide receiver Nico Ragaini, on a play with no flag that led to an Iowa State interception of Cade McNamara. Spoiler alert: The Big Ten issued a reprimand of Ragaini, who apologized for the comments

A tradition unlike any other

"It's why we have [Paul] Finebaum, so he can motivate him every other year and say, 'Oh, his dynasty is over and this is the end of Saban.' Then we're like, 'Hey, thanks a lot for pissing him off.' Paul's always wrong on this subject, and he just did it again the other day: 'If he doesn't make the playoffs, he's not any good as a coach.' So, thanks Paul." -- Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin at SEC media days on the yearly speculation that Nick Saban might not challenge for a title, before Nick Saban squeezed into the playoff again

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