The Frequent Flyer Division
By Jim Alderson, 2/10/00

Well, the Big East basketball divisions have been announced. Conference nabobs convened in Providence and sat around figuring out the best way to divide the fourteen teams (they might as well, since there is little else to do in Providence). After much argument, analysis and scratching of heads, Virginia Tech has been placed in a grouping with Villanova, Boston College, Connecticut, Providence, Miami and St. John's. My reaction was: Huh?

Leave it to Mikey (Jim Weaver says don't call him Trained Geese anymore) to come up with this screwball arrangement. One gets the feeling that the conference that really didn't want us drew straws and the losers had to take Tech. I suppose Mikey decided that placing us in the Frequent Flyer Division would be yet another cost of entrance. Use geography and natural rivals as criteria for divisional play? Screw that; let's pile up some frequent flyer miles.

One would think that Mikey and the other BE geniuses would have seen the intensity, not to mention the proximity, of Tech-WVU would be a natural for home and home basketball. One would also think that all of those thousands of empty MCI Arena seats easily observed on television every time Georgetown plays a home game filled by NOVA Hokies plunking down cash on the barrelhead would make sense to the conference that was created with the principle of big bucks in mind. One would, of course, be wrong. Instead we get the Frequent Flyer Division that will have Tech heading out of Roanoke to the far corners of the far-flung Big East. Airline booking agents must be doing handstands.

The first team that pops to mind in our division is UConn. Hello, thirty-point losses, at least for a while. Then there is Villanova. That is just what we need; yet another Philly arena the team can stink up. The Tech basketball team would most definitely rather NOT be in Philadelphia. The heated football rivalry with Miami does get a little basketball to spice up things (are the Canes back in basketball, too?). There is St. John's, where the Red Storm probably aren't too thrilled with the new arrangement either, as they bid adieu to short bus rides down the Jersey Turnpike on a regular basis and replace them with the logistical challenge of getting to Blacksburg. Providence is a tiny private school that has about as little in common with the behemoth Virginia Tech as an SUV has with a Yugo. The Friars must be ecstatic, as the home and home with Tech seems, at least for the first few years, to be what decides who does not participate in the BE tournament at Madison Square Garden.

This is probably not what Dave Gavitt had in mind. The first time you encounter a Providence fan at a basketball game, talk about Tech football. Their uncomprehending stares will be as if you had just broken into Swahili. I have a hearty dislike for Providence, and for a reason other than their miniscule athletic department has no place in Division I and makes them the very personification of the BE basketball school that has caused us many problems; I just don't care for a school with the initials "PC."

BC must also be wondering why the Catholic Challenge games with Notre Dame have been tossed. They are not the only ones, as switching Tech and Notre Dame makes a lot of sense to me, but, unfortunately, Mikey did not request my input. Like that's ever stopped me before.

In any event, the divisions are set and there is little point continuing to gripe about them. The best thing is for Ricky Stokes and his staff to go out and recruit some basketball players with sufficient talent to compete with these guys. I also feel that this is pretty short term, as it won't be too many years, probably around the time UConn starts cashing BE football checks that the idea of a conference where everybody is playing everything will begin to make even more sense.

And any way you slice it, being in a division with Boston College, St. John's, Connecticut, Miami, Providence and Villanova beats the hell out of being in one with George Washington, Duquesne, LaSalle, Xavier and Dayton. Frequent Flyer Division or not, let's play basketball.

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.


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