Vanderbilt, Houston coaches believe state of their respective programs enhanced by out-of-state bowl matchup

James Franklin and Tony Levine measure how far their respective programs have come by how far they have to go to play in the 2014 BBVA Compass Bowl.

During an introductory press conference Thursday, the coaches for Vanderbilt and Houston, respectively, each talked about the significance of crossing state lines to participate in the postseason contest scheduled for Jan. 4 at Birmingham.

Vanderbilt (8-4) is in a bowl for the third straight year and the fourth time in six years. The previous three were in Tennessee, the Music City Bowl (2008 and 2012) and the Liberty Bowl (2011).

The Commodores’ last out-of-state bowl game was the 1982 Hall of Fame Bowl – at Legion Field in Birmingham, site of the BBVA Compass Bowl, which started in 2006.

“We couldn't be more excited about being here,” Franklin said. “Birmingham is one of the largest alumni bases for Vanderbilt University graduates, so we expect to … pack the bowl black and gold. I apologize, but we are going to be pushed to try to get as many people into that stadium as we possibly can and to continue to do what we are doing at Vanderbilt.

"… You look at it historically, Vanderbilt had been to four bowl games in 122 years before we arrived. The fact that we have gone to three in a row, I'm very, very excited. This is a brutal conference. We still have a long ways to go."

Houston (8-4) has appeared in 21 bowl games, most recently the Cotton Bowl in Dallas following the 2011 season, its first under Levine. Prior to that it had a three-year run of in-state contests, the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth (2008 and 2009) and the Texas Bowl in Houston (2007).

“What is a little bit unique is our current student-athletes – while they have been to several bowl games – have never been to a bowl game outside of the state of Texas,” Levine said. “We would certainly like to be close to home for our fan base, alumni and students, but it is an opportunity for our student-athletes to get on an airplane one more time, come to Birmingham, spend five days here, enjoy the city and play in a great football game.

“…When you look at the opportunity to play, certainly a program such as Vanderbilt, in a January bowl game in Birmingham – it is the only college football game that day – and is on ESPN. It is something our staff, our coaches, student-athletes and fan base are looking forward to.”