The Difference Between Old Hokies and New Hokies
by Will Stewart, TechSideline.com, 8/5/96

Dear Will:

First, let me break out my bicycle pump and inflate Will's head just a tad more. Will, the page is fantastic and much appreciated by those of us on the outer-fringes of Hokie Land. Keep up the great work; it is very much appreciated.

Ok, now back to the issue at hand. I've had it and I can't take it anymore. All of you what-ifers and potential weathermen out there, quit crying about being in the Big East and being over-looked by the college football aristocracy. You all seem to forget one thing; when you win football games you take the power out of other people's hands and put it back into your own hands. Sure, we may have to win the Big East in order to attend a major bowl, but is that so unattainable?

Virginia Tech is a team with one foot in the national spot light, and although most outsiders don't know whose foot it is, rest assured. If we keep playing football like we've been playing and like we're capable of playing, then someday we will be the team that the others long to match. In football, as in life, good things come to those who win. So, to all you what-ifers out there, shut up and cheer. Go Hokies!

Glenn Bywater
Baltimore, MD

Glenn is specifically talking to me, folks. How do I know that? Because the beginning of his letter praises me, which is the time-honored method of disagreeing with Will of Hokie Central: praise me first, then tell me I’m full of it. That way, you get to express your contrary opinion, and because you have sucked up to me to begin with, I’ll print your letter, anyway!

Actually, I think Glenn’s letter is targeted specifically at the letter I previously printed from Bruce McKinley and my equally pessimistic reply to that letter (see "What the New National Championship Arrangement Means to the Hokies" in the Mailbag). While pondering what to say in reply to Glenn's letter, I began thinking about the psychology of being a Hokie fan, and the next thing you know, Glenn’s letter wound up in My Opinion instead of on the Mailbag page.

Glenn and Bruce are both friends of mine (which by the way is not necessary to get a letter printed. I print letters all the time from people that I don’t know), but they obviously have disparate outlooks on the “Hokie situation.” I myself have been known to vacillate from time to time between pessimism and optimism, often in consecutive articles. I’m not crazy, I just get up on different sides of the Hokie bed on different days.

So why the different outlooks from these two guys (Glenn and Bruce, and to some extent, me)? That’s simple: it’s the difference between old Hokies and new Hokies.

For purposes of discussion, an “old Hokie” is a pre-1992 Hokie fan, and a “new Hokie” is a post-1992 Hokie fan (my reasoning will become clear as I proceed). Bruce and I are old Hokies (Bruce graduated in 1986, me in 1987), while Glenn is a new Hokie (he entered Tech in January of 1995). As a group, old Hokie fans tend to have more gloomy, pessimistic outlooks on Tech sports, while new Hokie fans tend to be a more upbeat lot.

And the reason that old Hokies are pessimistic, doomsaying types is that we’ve been beaten into submission by literally decades of failures and disappointments. We enjoy Tech’s current success, but we know how hard it was to get here and that it may be fleeting. My fellow old Hokies know what I’m talking about, and I’ll elaborate more in a minute.

New Hokies, on the other hand, are still basking in the glow of the 93 Independence Bowl, the 95 NIT championship, the 95 Sugar Bowl, and three years of national TV coverage for Hokie sports, football in particular. They don’t know what it’s like to suffer like we old Hokies have.

Decades of Despair - DECADES!!

Chew on this fact: in the last three years, the Virginia Tech football team has won two bowls. In the first 100 years of Tech football (1892 - 1992), they won one.

ONE. The 1986 Peach Bowl. And that was more the achievement of one man, kicker Chris Kinzer, than it was an entire team. Without Kinzer, the Hokies wouldn’t have even been at that bowl in 1986.

The only other significant milestone of the Tech sports programs other than that Peach Bowl victory, prior to 1993, is the 1973 NIT championship, which was truly glorious, I’ll admit. If you've got any other candidates for major Hokie sports accomplishments, email them to me at will@hokie.com and I'll consider them.

In the meantime, let me remind you of some of the many disappointments and failures the Tech sports programs had to suffer through prior to 1993, the dawn of the “New Hokie” era. Bear with me, Hokie fans. It’s going to get painful here, but I’m making a point, and my ultimate conclusion will be uplifting. Also, some of the dates and numbers may be a little off in the following paragraphs, due to the fuzziness of my memory, so forgive me.

Football

There are many decades of undistinguished non-accomplishment in Tech's football history, but my consciousness begins around 1980, so I'll just start there.

  • 1980: Hokies lose the Peach Bowl to Miami.
  • 1982: the Hokies are on the verge of receiving another invitation to the Peach Bowl. Peach Bowl officials show up, invitation in hand, to attend the Tech-VMI football game. Tech loses (to VMI!!!), 6-0. Peach Bowl officials leave, bowl invitation still in hand.
  • 1983: Tech goes 9-2 and is not invited to a bowl.
  • 1984: Air Force massacres the Hokies in the Independence Bowl.
  • 1987 and 1988: after winning the Peach Bowl, poised on the threshold of greatness, the program gets slapped with probation and goes 2-9 and 3-8.
  • 1990: the Hokies lead Florida State 21-3 in Tallahassee and lose, 39-28.
  • 1991: at 5-4, needing victories in their last two games to go to a bowl, the Hokies are poised on ECU’s five yard line with a 14-3 lead. Rod Wooten throws a 95-yard interception for a TD, and Tech loses, 20-17. The emotionally deflated Hokies get destroyed by UVa (ugh) the following week, 38-0.
  • 1992: 2-8-1. The Hokies make an art form out of losing games late.

Basketball

I don't have quite that long of a laundary list of basketball suffering, but here are a few nasty memories. Again, the dates might be a little off:

  • 1984: in the Metro Conference final, in a rare appearance on national TV, the Hokies fail to capitalize, losing to Memphis State.
  • 1985: in the first round of the Metro tournament, needing an impressive showing for a good seed in the NCAA tournament, the Hokies lose to Florida State as Pee Wee Barber heaves in a 45-footer at the final buzzer.
  • 1985: one week later, Villanova wastes the Hokies in the first round of the NCAA's.
  • 1987: Charlie Moir does his best Bill Dooley impersonation and bolts from the program, leaving it on probation.
  • 1987: Something worse than Charlie Moir happens to the Hokies - Frankie Allen. After one good year under Allen, it gets really, really dark in Cassell Coliseum for a really, really long time. Even Bimbo Coles can't make the Hokies win.

Baseball

Yes, even baseball has an entry in Will's Hall of Old Hokie Agony. I know for a fact that this year is probably wrong, but the other numbers are right.

  • 1983: the Tech baseball team goes 50-9 and does not, repeat, does not, get an invitation to the NCAA tournament.

Ouch!

That wasn't much fun, was it?

Let us not forget the good things that happened in those years, because there were a few: the previously-mentioned 1986 Peach Bowl victory, knocking off UVa (ugh) in football in September 1990, beating #9 WVU at Morgantown in 1989, the 1973 NIT championship, two basketball victories over #1 Memphis State in the 1980's, etc.

But for the most part, every time the Hokies appeared ready to take it over the top, every time a Tech sports program appeared ready to rise to the next level, they simply .... didn't (I refuse to say "choke" anywhere in there).

Dawn of the New Hokie Era

There were also a few painful events that have occurred since 1993, which I'm naming as the beginning of the New Hokie era: the no-bid by the NIT in 1994 (when the basketball team was 18-10), the no-bid by the NCAA tournament in 1995 (but we all know how that turned out), the football loss to WVU in 1993, the pasting administered by Tennessee in the 1994 Gator Bowl, and the Big East all-sports "snub" of 1995.

But on the positive side, off the field, the biggest thing to ever happen to Hokie sports occurred: the football team was invited to join the fledgling Big East football conference. This actually occurred prior to 1993, but its effects weren't felt until 1993, when round-robin play started, so I'm including it here.

I'm still trying to figure that one out. I love it, but let's be honest. The Big East conferences, basketball and football, more so than other conferences, are conferences based on money, and especially on TV money. Miami was a big draw, Pitt is a former national champ, Rutgers and Temple and Syracuse represented big markets, and BC and WVU were traditional national powers. So where did Tech fit in? Why were we invited?

Who cares? We're in.

On the field, 1993 saw the dawning of a new phenomen in Hokies sports: teams that didn't gag when given the big opportunity:

  • 1993: it's the Independence Bowl, with one minute left to go in the first half, and Tech is leading Indiana by the score of 14-13. In the last minute before half time, two freak touchdowns are scored. One team is catapulted to victory, and the other team is crushed. The same as it's always been with the Hokies, only this time, Tech wins.
  • 1994: facing a big early road game against BC, a team showing the Hokies no respect, Tech rises up and definitely gets BC's attention, 12-7.
  • 1994: facing disaster at ECU, the Hokies seal a victory on two straight Maurcie DeShazo QB draws, the second of which nets the insurance touchdown.
  • 1995: Travis Jackson heaves in an improbable three pointer at the buzzer after Tech has squandered a 19-point lead. Tech goes to Madison Square Garden.
  • 1995: Shawn Smith dribbles and takes a deep breath. Swish.
  • 1995: Tech 13, Miami 7. Nuff said.
  • 1995: down, out, and done for, Tech beats UVa anyway, 36-29.
  • 1995: facing ridicule and a complete lack of respect from all quarters, the Lunch Pail Gang demolishes Texas in the Sugar Bowl. The country sits up and takes notice.
  • 1996: the Hokie hoops team rises to #8 in the AP rankings and later wins the Hokies' first NCAA tournament game since the 1970's.

For Old Hokies, This is All Too Good to be True

New Hokies, you see, are used to success. They expect it. They're so bored by it that they stayed away from Cassell Coliseum in droves last year, and the place was only filled up just a couple of times, despite the fact that a nationally ranked team (US!) was playing there. After the excitement of winning the NIT, let's face it, a home game against Duquesne is Dullsville.

And of course we won the Sugar Bowl, the New Hokies think. We were better than Texas.

(Which is true. We were.)

But old Hokies are lying on the floor, stunned. They can't move, they're so delirious. They can't believe it. It's crunch time, again and again, and this time, the Hokies are winning. Other teams are suffering the pain and humiliation of big losses, not us.

So, if I get a little pessimistic from time to time here at Hokie Central, just send me an email, like Glenn did, and slap me around a little bit. I'm conditioned, along with other old Hokies, to think like this because of years of frustration. We have a hard time getting excited. We're always holding a little back. We don't want anybody taking away our new toy.

In the meantime, I'll just put myself to sleep at night not by counting sheep, but by repeating some of my favorite numbers: 13-7, 36-29, and 28-10.

          

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