THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT TO THE NCAA BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIP TEAMS The East Room
2:30 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Ladies and gentlemen, I'm sorry that other events dictated that we started a little late today, but I want to welcome all of you to the White House, and all the people who have come from California and Connecticut: Senator Lieberman, Congresswoman Kennelly, Congresswoman DeLauro, Congressman Gejdenson. And from California, the President of -- the Chancellor of UCLA, Chancellor Young; and the officers of UConn, the Chairman of the Board, Lew Rome, and the President, Harry Hartley. I am delighted to welcome all of you back to the White House who have been here before and those who are coming for the first time, to welcome you here.
You know, we ought to get something obvious out of the way. These championships were hard on the Vice President and me. (Laughter.) I mean, the -- (applause) -- we just have to hope our ticket does a little better in '96. (Laughter.)
But some of you know, I am a near-fanatic basketball fan and I think that any serious student of basketball would have to say that this year, in the championship, not only the teams with the best records, but the best teams in the United States won the championship and deserve -- (applause) --.
I remember vividly when Tyus Edney came out of the final game with his wrist injury, and all the people were saying, well, this may be the undoing of UCLA. And I was sitting there looking at the team and I said, I don't think so. (Laughter.) I remember people -- the discussions that I've heard, year-in and year-out, about how you have to have 10 players to win the final. And in the final, when you see the really great players with their adrenalin pumping, I don't think so.
And so, I want to congratulate again Coach Harrick and the Bruins on reviving UCLA's magnificent tradition, winning their 11th national title, and I think that they've got a great future. I also want to congratulate Ed O'Bannon on being selected the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament, and the NCAA Player of the Year, for his fantastic season.
I do want to say one thing. I had the privilege of coming to UCLA and giving the Commencement Address and being with Chancellor Young a couple of years ago. I have to chide you on one thing: I've been very proud of the very outspoken and courageous stance you've taken in favor of continuing affirmative action programs, so we can -- (applause) -- but if you had really believed in spreading opportunity around, you would not have permitted both the O'Bannon brothers to be on your team. (Laughter.) Nonetheless, I forgive you for that minor lapse. (Laughter.)
I also want to say a special word of appreciation to Coach Geno Auriemma and the Connecticut Huskies for establishing the most outstanding winning record in the history of college basketball -- men or women's basketball. (Applause.)
I want to congratulate Rebecca Lobo, who couldn't be here today. We're all sorry about that. But she's representing the U.S. National Team in games in Europe. She once wrote to the President of the Celtics, saying that she'd be the first woman to play for their team. All I can say is that may or may not happen. But the Connecticut Huskies did more to make the rest of America appreciate women's basketball than any team has ever done. And they made millions of fans that will help other university teams all across this country for years and years and years in the future, and we thank you for that. (Applause.)
So let me say I'm glad you're here. I also want to say to the coach, this team came to the White House once before, and somebody messed it up and they didn't get in, even the back door. Today, they came in the front door with full honors, and I'd like to invite their coach to come up for a few words. Thank you and congratulations. (Applause.)
COACH AURIEMMA: I'm usually not at a loss for words, but I am today. But I want to thank the President and to congratulate UCLA on a great championship. Once you beat our guys, I was with you all the way. (Laughter.) That's why I voted for him; we think a lot alike. (Laughter.)
I want to thank the people from Connecticut that made the trip down, and I just want to tell everybody that winning the national championship, as Coach Harrick and I talked, changed my life and changed the lives of our players. And I think coming down here is just the exclamation point to what's been an incredible ride. And what's going to happen from here on in, none of us know, but I think being here today, being part of all this, I think it makes winning the national championship all that much more important, and I can't say enough about the people at Connecticut, the players on my team, the staff that we have, the administration.
And, President Clinton, thank you for taking the time. I know how busy you are, and I hope we can give you a couple of minutes away from the things that really take up most of your day. So on behalf of everybody at the university, thank you for having us, it's a pleasure to be here, and we're deeply honored to be part of this ceremony.
And Pam, our captain, Pam Webber, we have a little gift for you. On behalf of the University of Connecticut Women's Basketball Team, we've got a signed basketball. We've got a teeshirt because I know the President like to run. (Laughter.) And we've got a hat so that any time those other guys are throwing things at you -- (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much. (Applause.)
COACH HARRICK: Certainly, coming here tops off a magical year for our team and all the people that had an opportunity to come with us. We knew that the road to the White House went through Arkansas. (Laughter and applause.) Sorry we had to do it to the Hogs.
What college athletics really is all about is typified and exemplified by the young people that we have on our basketball team -- tremendous, tremendous student athletes, great students, unbelievable people and very fine athletes. And it's been a pleasure to have them as a part of our club. It's been a magical, magical year for us, and we just thank you for having us here.
I'd like to introduce our captain, Ed O'Bannon. Come up here and -- (applause.)
CAPTAIN O'BANNON: First of all, I'd just like to say thank you for inviting us here. It's been a long season and a very successful season. And we're proud to be here and represent Southern California, represent UCLA and represent you guys as well.
First of all, this is couple of teeshirts from Marcus Johnson that says, "Yeah, Baby" on it. (Laughter.) He's kind of -- (laughter and applause). Just a couple of things --
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. I will treasure these. Thank you. (Applause.)
CAPTAIN O'BANNON: That's my dad.
THE PRESIDENT: Is that your dad? (Laughter.) Stand up, Daddy. (Laughter and applause.)
Now, here's what we're going to do. I'm going to take a picture with each team, and then we're going to break up, take the ropes down, we'll all visit a little, okay?
But, you know, every year this is so humbling for me. Most days I wake up and I'm 6' 2-1/2" inches, and I'm halfway tall. (Laughter.) This day I'm just another person looking up. (Laughter.)
Thank you all for coming. It was a great day. Thanks. (Applause.)
END2:38 P.M. EDT