April is Upon Us
By Greg Kehr, 3/29/00

Back at the beginning of this month, ironically the last time my keyboard was talking Hokie sports, basketball was still going on, we still had football games on CBS, and the start of spring football was still over a month away. Well, the round ball season is over, we’ve graduated to the big leagues with a new television contract, and Michael Vick…I have the Downtown Athletic Club holding for you on Line #2!

Funny how that whole "in like a lamb and out like a lion" phrase lends itself to the month of March, isn’t it? At the beginning of the month, our men’s team was hoping for a solid showing at the end of their last regular season as members of the Atlantic 10. On top of that, our women’s hoops team was looking to end on a solid note, in hopes of garnering a spot in the women’s NIT. Furthermore, all the excitement surrounding our admission to the Big East for all sports had subsided, leaving in its wake the opportunity to break down every possible angle. To the common fan, this sounds like a lot of information to decipher. But to the seasoned follower of Hokie athletics, this was all old news, unwanted news, or just plain trash.

I don’t mean to sound negative. Basketball is after all, my favorite sport. But I think everyone in attendance today will agree that this year on the hardwood left something to be desired. Find me one fan of our women’s basketball team that was happy about a trip to the NIT. Sure, the season continued, and experience means everything. But the NCAA’s is where we wanted to be, case closed.

As for the gentlemen, well, they impressed me a little bit. I expected a quality team, one that could compete and beat teams like Radford and Liberty…lofty goals, I know. I was hoping for a team that would leave it all on the court every night. I didn’t need world-beaters, but I did expect exciting and entertaining basketball. When all was said and done, this team could’ve made it to the NIT…if they hadn’t lost to those pesky Radford and Liberty teams.

Herein lies the sad part of the season, the "what could’ve been" aspect. If you told me at the beginning of the year, that this squad had a chance for postseason action, I might’ve said you were crazy. I guess in hindsight that’s why this year was a case of missed opportunity.

So when I say that March came in like a lamb, it kind of did. The buzz from the Sugar Bowl had finally worn off, the new television contract wasn’t heard of, and the basketball teams just weren’t cutting it. A lot can happen in a month though, and now my friends, it’s almost April, and it’s time to roar!

Speaking of roaring, and I don’t mean Mr. Lion at the animal sanctuary on South Park, this new television contract has me a little bit excited. I for one, am with the masses that say, "Don’t get too geared up, we’ve been screwed before." But come on, this is ABC/ESPN, baby! It’s awesome, baby! It’s MVP time…Michael Vick Programming, baby!

Sorry, Dicky V. on the brain…I guess that’s what happens when you watch too much college basketball.

At any rate, this new deal, as far as I’m concerned, is much better in the long run for our university. To get the most out of any deal, a winning product is going to need to be on the field. Big plays and big stars equal big ratings and big games. As long as our team continues to play the way they’ve been known to, this is a non-issue.

Besides, I don’t see a drop-off in talent as long as Coach Beamer and Co. continues to do what they do best, win football games. CBS has long been fans of Miami…always have been and probably always will. (Allow me to digress a bit…can’t wait for those "We’re Back!" chants to start emanating from Coral Gables in the next few weeks. I wonder if they’ll mean it this year?!) We’ve seen throughout the years that Miami comes first, and we’re lucky to get any scraps. Oh, never mind the fact that they (the ‘Canes) haven’t beaten us in five years, or that we’ve gone to three alliance bowls in the last five years. Pay no attention to that, CBS. I think you are starting to catch my drift. It’s a no-win situation.

The good people at ABC/ESPN see what Virginia Tech is doing, and they know that it is good for all parties included. CBS dropped the ball; ESPN picked it up. They brought their road show to Lane Stadium twice, not to mention offered up a replacement for our mascot if our guy ever gets sick (read Lee Corso). ABC/ESPN sees the value of having an "underdog" institution (although I’d disagree with the label) playing the part of David versus Goliath almost every week.

Our football team did the unthinkable this year, making it all the way to Bourbon Street. No one else in the country, excluding Hokie fans, thought the little old gobblers from Southwest Virginia could win all those games. Well, we did! And along for the ride were thousands of bandwagon fans, looking to hitch up their wagons to a bunch of thoroughbreds. The great thing about our horses, is we have a guy named Michael Vick in the stable…a hot commodity on any ranch.

And so with that, the ABC/ESPN machine has hitched itself to the Big East and our star, in hopes that the league continues to provide well-played and exciting football. I happen to think that Tech football is well on its way to being in the upper echelon of college football for years to come. That being said, I see this deal working extremely well, for the Big East, the networks, and of course Virginia Tech.

I want to add some thoughts on basketball, if I may, in regards to next season, our first in the Big East. It seems to me that our men’s team has gone from "in trouble" at the end of February, to "OK, we’ll just forfeit" mode in less than a month. First was the Dennis Mims controversy, which to my surprise ended up with him and Coach Stokes deciding he would stay. But now we have another basketball player in hot water, this time forward Rolan Roberts.

I know I probably sound way too optimistic when I say these two can be two of the best in the Big East next year, but it’s the truth. Mims is big, he’s quick, and he plays hard. Roberts is a great leaper, has great instincts and plays bigger than his 6’6" frame. The athleticism that these two possess is something every coach not only wants, but NEEDS. The team’s chances of winning any games next year revolves around this tandem.

The Hokies still have Mims, but with Roberts' status up in the air, it's hard to say how next year is going to go. I really like Coach Ricky Stokes and I really like the backcourt of Chase and Dobbins. Add in some recruits, especially Chris Exilus, and this team isn’t bad…in another year or so. But I don’t care how good these kids are; we won’t win any games in conference next year without a Mims/Roberts frontline. Drew Smith and David Whaley are decent players, but I don’t see them striking fear into the likes of Samuel Dalembert at Seton Hall or any other big men next year!

The clock is ticking on the future of two young men, and for Mims, it appears that his time as a Hokie will march on.  As for Rolan, I don’t know if I can safely say that this will have a happy ending. I hope it does. I guess only time will tell.

There you have it, sports fans. March is going out like a lion, on a high note (minus the off court basketball problems) that is sure to sound better as the weeks roll into April, and the sound of the pigskin begins to be heard off of Washington Street.

Soon the familiar # 7 will be seen running plays on the practice field, dazzling the new freshmen and bringing smiles to every face on the field. The familiar armbands of our defensive coordinator will be motioning furiously, shaping a new defense that is sure to form into one of the countries finest. Our beloved head coach will be busy coordinating it all, adding in more wrinkles week after week, proving that "Beamerball" is here to stay. And over under the tree, if you look real close, you’ll see Lee Corso, working on his halftime dance with the Hokie Bird…just in case he’s needed.

Greg Kehr is a Marketing Coordinator for Empire Sports in New York and writes about Hokie sports from the Northern perspective.


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