Jim Alderson, best known for his biting political commentary on the A-Line email newsletter, also brings a unique, sarcastic, and well-informed perspective on college sports, particularly (1) Virginia Tech sports and (2) ACC sports. While Hokie fans currently have very little use for subject number 2, Alderson is an entertaining and informative columnist on subject number 1. HokieCentral is pleased to bring you columns from Jim in the HokieCentral Columnists area. For even more fun, visit Jim's A-Line home page.
Part 2: The Dooley Years and Beyond
Who can forget (at least those of us who are old enough to remember) the leadership of 'Dollar' Bill Dooley? Most of us would like to, but can't. Dr. Lavery was not skimpy in the compensation department, and for a time Dooley was the highest paid football coach in the land. It was money thrown away. Dooley had also been hired as Athletic Director, and the first thing he did as AD was take one look at the schedule and decide his football coach shouldn't have to play a murderous slate that included regular games against Alabama, Florida $tate, Penn State and Pitt (back in those days when Pitt(sburgh) was still Pitt and actually won football games).
Off the schedule they went, and in came games against Richmond, William and Mary, Appalachian State and East Tennessee State. The result was a few easy wins but a lot of collective yawning, often on the part of the players, for while the nine Dooley years produced three bowl trips and 60 or so wins, it also produced three losses to Richmond and two to Wake Forest. Fans began staying away from Lane Stadium in droves, and the declining attendance was highlighted by the East Side stadium addition Dooley oversaw by signing an IOU with Tech's name on it which the Athletic Department possessed not the slightest ability to pay.
Those Hokies griping about the schedule now should know that in 1980 we went to the Peach Bowl with victories over Wake Forest, East Tennessee State, William and Mary, James Madison, Rhode Island, Virginia, West Virginia and VMI. Five of those wins came against teams that are now DI-AA; one of the four losses also came against Richmond. It's not everybody that schedules SIX I-AA teams in a year.
Dooley muddled through the Eighties with a winning ledger but with records of 7-4 and 8-3 against very weak competition that saw us seemingly always lose to some dog like VMI or Wake (the losses to the likes of Temple and M of O are hardly a new phenomena at Tech). He finally made it back to a bowl in 1984, the Independence, the highlight of which was Hokie fans discovering that we were on probation, a little news nugget that Dooley had failed to inform anyone of, even his boss. A red flag was sent up to those around Tech in a position to observe such things, and people began taking a very close look at what Dooley had been up to. What they found was not encouraging.
While Dooley had been turning out a program that seemed the very definition of mediocrity even while he was traversing the state informing us at Hokie Club gatherings what a great coach he was, trouble was popping up on every front. Attendance at Lane for any opponent other than the Hoos and WVU was dropping. Hokie Club contributions were sliding as more and more Hokies had had enough of a program that couldn't seem to beat any 'name' program in the rare times Dooley would deign to play one, but which did manage to lose at least one game a year to somebody we should have beaten like a bad stepchild.
Athletic Department financial losses were mounting, and Tech was faced with what would have been the interesting and embarrassing spectacle of a major state bank attempting to repossess Lane Stadium because the note for the addition wasn't being paid (I wonder what they would have done with it?). Dooley not only was failing as Athletic Director to oversee his own program, his slipshod management style had resulted in men's basketball coach Charlie Moir engaging in some rather questionable recruiting practices in an attempt to hide the fact that his program was slipping badly. We were in big trouble, folks.
Dooley's coup de grace finally came when people named Pamplin and Garvin received one visit too many from Dooley, begging for money to cover his mounting losses. It had also become apparent to Tech insiders that Tech was about to receive the rare and dubious double of having both its football and basketball programs placed on NCAA probation at the same time.
Dooley was sacked amid a flurry of lawsuits and embarrassing revelations that those of us roughly over the age of 30 have no desire to recount. Dooley did give us a final reward for running our Athletic Department into the ground, a 1986 Peach Bowl win. Thanks a lot, Bill. Dooley left us with a bill for $1 million, payable out to him; not a bad reward for one of the worst jobs of mismanaging an Athletic Department ever turned in. He traipsed down to Wake Forest where he again spent a lot of time informing anyone within earshot what a great he coach he was, while Wake's always precarious football situation began slipping. We were left with disaster, and more than a few Hokies are aware that Bill Dooley came close to being the last Division I-A football coach at Tech. But things were about to get better.
I vividly remember attending a Hokie Club meeting in Danville prior to the 1984 season and listening as Bill Dooley told us that 8-3 and 9-2 records and occasional bowl bids were as good as we were going to get. He was wrong about a lot of things, and that headed the list. As the athletics scandal mushroomed from Tech down 460 to the New River Valley Mall area and grew to take down even Dr. Lavery, things were happening at Tech.
For perhaps the first time in our entire athletics history, somebody actually decided to give doing the smart thing a shot. Esteemed History Professor Dr. James Robertson (also of Danville, crow, crow) was the prominent member of a committee charged with finding a new Athletic Director, who would then be allowed to hire his own football coach (Presidential meddling in football hires was not a serious concern this time around, since we didn't have a president, either).
The committee narrowed its choice to a career Southwest Conference administrator named Dutch Baughman. Dr. Robertson convinced Baughman to take over the troubled Tech program when he uttered a line that received much media play at the time: "What we have here is a sleeping giant." Dr. Robertson didn't perceive the ultimate consequences of Gettysburg any better.
Dutch Baughman's tenure as Virginia Tech Athletic Director was brief, as he eventually was himself caught up in the flotsam of Dooley's scandals. Before quitting in a huff, however, Baughman did one thing for which we should erect a statue of him outside the stadium: he hired a football coach by the name of Frank Beamer.
We all know this story. Beamer, hampered by Dooley's probation, had a tough start and as late as 1992 many Hokies wondered whether he was indeed the right man. You don't hear that too much anymore, because he was, and is. He has constructed a program that should keep us among the nation's elite both now and in the future.
While Hokies everywhere celebrate our football successes, you will excuse us graybeards a little extra pride and enjoyment. After all of the empty promises and false starts and a wait of almost thirty years, we have arrived. I for one am not caught up in OOC or SOS or various BCS rankings. I and a lot of Hokies of my approximate generation are enjoying the ride, and the view from the top, because we have indeed seen the other side.
Jim Alderson, best known for his biting political commentary on the A-Line email newsletter, also brings a unique, sarcastic, and well-informed perspective on college sports, particularly (1) Virginia Tech sports and (2) ACC sports. While Hokie fans currently have very little use for subject number 2, Alderson is an entertaining and informative columnist on subject number 1. For even more fun, visit Jim's A-Line home page.
HokieCentral.com is an independent publication and is not affiliated with or endorsed by Virginia Tech or the Virginia Tech Athletic Department. All material is Copyright ©1996-2000 by HokieCentral.com, all rights reserved.