Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson was given a platform to gripe about his team being passed over by three bowls that instead invited teams that the Yellow Jackets defeated this season.
Johnson, who has never been shy about criticizing when he has felt it warranted, did not air grievances over what will be his final game as Yellow Jackets coach, against Minnesota in the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit on Dec. 26.
“It’s out of our control,” Johnson said on a teleconference Sunday night. “I’m happy that Detroit wanted us to play, and there are some positive about that game. It’s indoors, so it’s going to be warm (for the game). There’ll be some fun things. There’ll be a lot of gifts. A bowl game’s a bowl game.”
After the game was announced Sunday evening, several Tech players took to Twitter to express their aggravation that the team is going to the eighth bowl in the ACC selection order despite having a better conference record than all but three teams in the league.
“You need to worry about stuff you can control, and I have no control over that,” Johnson said. “I have no control over that. I’ve heard some really good things about the bowl game in Detroit, and we’ll make it fun for our players. It’ll be fun.”
Johnson, who decided to step down as Tech coach last week after 11 seasons, said he has not given much thought about if he will approach the game any differently.
“I’ll get ready to play this game just like any other game,” he said. “This game’s not about me, it’s about the players. That’s what it comes down to, having a good time and having an enjoyable trip and hopefully playing well and getting a win. That’s what it’s about.”
Tech will be playing for its third consecutive bowl win after victories in the Orange Bowl in 2014 and the TaxSlayer Bowl in 2016. Johnson was at the helm when Tech ended its seven-game losing streak in bowl games (four of which he contributed) at the Sun Bowl in 2012.
“I know Minnesota finished the season strong,” he said. “I didn’t get to see a lot of their games and don’t know a whole lot about them. I watched them a little bit on TV when they waxed Wisconsin. I was watching that game. They’re very formidable. They’ve got a good team, and it’ll be a good challenge.”
Tech will not practice at least through Friday, as final exams are about to begin. Johnson said bowl practice won’t be any different even though it will be his last training sessions with the team.
While some coaches view bowl practice as a chance for younger players to get more training for the next season, Johnson said he looks at the bowl season as a reward for players.
“It’s more important for Georgia Tech to get through finals, especially the young guys, for those guys to get their schoolwork (completed) so they’ll be here for whoever next year,” Johnson said. “We’ll find plenty of time to get ready and we’ll have ample opportunity to get a game plan and get it all put in and get ready to play Minnesota.”
Johnson said he has had “a ton of people” reach out to him since his decision became public. He said that players going back to his time at Georgia Southern have communicated with him, which clearly has meant a great deal to him.
“For what it’s worth, I seem to be a lot better coach now,” Johnson said.