Go to Jail ... Go Directly to Jail
by Will Stewart, TechSideline.com, 4/16/96 Those of you who read this page regularly (all three of you) know that up until now, I've been Mister Happy, an upbeat, cheerful guy, talking about how great the Hokies are and how wonderful it is to be a Tech fan.
Well, this week, the kid gloves are off.
What am I talking about? I'm talking about the constant barrage of negative publicity being generated by our football team. I've seen the words rape, hit and run, assault and battery, drunk in public, and malicious wounding WAY too many times in the headlines lately, right next to the name of a Tech football player.
We've been hammered by Hard Copy, NBC Nightly News, and People magazine over the Morrison/Crawford case. I'm not going to get into what I think actually happened that night, because nobody but the combatants really know, and I'll bet that even they have differing opinions on what really occurred. It's not my place to guess out loud what happened, particularly here on the Web, where what I write can be read by anybody.
It's been a rough week for me, because I've spent the week exchanging Email with a guy who runs an unofficial web page for Syracuse football, and he had some eye-opening things to say about how the press is treating us in Boston and New York. My Syracuse buddy's exact words were:
"The press up here (NY Times, Syracuse Newspapers, Boston Globe, etc.) has branded VTech as a program that is out of control; an example of what is wrong with college athletics."
OUCH. THAT HURTS.
See, I had been living in a bit of a vacuum, seeing the negative stories, but not taking too much time to realize how they all add up to an observer far away. So hearing that was a shock to me, even though it shouldn't have been.
Now in all fairness, of course the NY and Boston press are going to say that. Number one, the press loves to glorify that stuff, and number two, I'm sure the well-heeled and genteel folks of Boston and New York can't believe that a bunch of hicks from the hills of Southwest Virginia can actually play good football without rampant corruption taking place.
But back to the subject at hand. Take a look at the following list. It's the bad headlines that have been generated in the last six months, and this list shows how disgusting Tech's behavior of the last few months looks when you put it all together.
Pretty sad, huh? Since the season-ending UVa game, aside from Tech vs. Texas, it's been nothing but Tech vs. The Law.
Tech fans have prided themselves on a clean, well-run program for years now, and we watched with pride while our teams got better and better, all without the embarrassing behavior that seemed to accompany so many teams as they rose to national prominence. Now, it's April of 1996, Tech is a big-time player in college football, and all of a sudden, our guys can't stay out of jail.
For some perspective, I look upon programs like Miami and Colorado with absolute scorn, because they were both programs that were built on renegade behavior. Miami was the team you loved to hate, for obvious reasons that caused them to finally get slapped with probation, and Colorado racked up so many player arrests in their rise to national prominence that the number of the local jail was listed in the Colorado media guide each year.
Now don't get me wrong. I don't mean to group us with Miami and Colorado, because I still think that Tech is a good, clean program. We've just got a few bad apples who are dragging everybody down, whereas in my opinion, Miami and Colorado were (or are) rotten to the core.
But when I think about the impression that everybody around the country must be getting of us right now, sure I get upset. People around the country had no idea who we were, but now, I can't help but think that the answer to that eternal question "What's a Hokie?" is becoming "It's a jailbird!" in lots of people's minds.
But what can you expect them to think? All of sudden you can't go a whole week without reading about Tech players being in trouble with the law. And since we're Sugar Bowl champs, these aren't just regional stories anymore -- the whole country is noticing.
See, college athletes, mainly football and basketball players, don't seem to understand this simple fact: when you're a star athlete, and you get to play in front of thousands of cheering fans, the tradeoff is that you have to watch your behavior constantly, because you're not just living your life in isolation anymore. You're serving as an ambassador for a major university, with thousands of fans and alumni, and what you do reflects on them and your school. Like it or not, that's the way it is.
Not to mention that the types of crimes we're talking about here are not simple "drunk in public" arrests like the kind that my friends and I had in college. The crimes that these Tech players are being charged with are crimes against other people, not just stupid, immature behavior: rape, malicious wounding, hit and run, assault and battery. Those are ugly words, and they involve other people as victims. That's probably the worst part of all this.
So here's my message to the football team: chill out, guys. I don't know the whole Morrison/Crawford story, and I don't know the whole Del Ricco/Druckenmiller story, but I can say this: when you're a major college athlete, no matter what people are doing to you, sometimes you've just got to let it go. In the case of Del Ricco and Druck, I don't know what was done to incite the fight, but I'm sure they could have walked away from it if they'd wanted to. Despite the fact that they're big, tough guys, and the very game they play is built on violence, I wish they had thought about what was going on and walked away from it. Instead, another line goes onto Tech's rap sheet.
Okay. I've said my piece.