Hokie Fans Have Had Enough of Vick
by Will Stewart, TechSideline.com, 7/7/04

Tuesday, in response to Marcus Vick's latest dalliance with the law, I saw a phenomenon on the TSL message boards that I call "flipping the switch." It's an expression that I apply most of the time to relationships. I came up with it back in my young, single days, when I was in and out of dating relationships and watching others go through the same thing.

"Flipping the switch" is something that happens when one person in a relationship abruptly reaches a point where they give up on that relationship, for whatever reason. Most of the time, it occurs when one person puts more into the relationship than the other, and it goes on for a while, with the "giver" holding out hope that the "taker" will suddenly come to their senses, change their ways, and commit to the relationship.

Then something happens, perceptions shift, and the giver suddenly runs out of patience and turns and walks away from the relationship. It's like a switch has been flipped, with a resounding thud, never to be turned back on.

I saw it yesterday on the TSL message boards, when the news of Marcus Vick's latest charges came out. For months, before yesterday's news, Hokie fans had argued back and forth about what the best course of action was with regards to Vick. Opinions ranged from dismissing him from the team to suspending him for one game, or maybe not at all. On and on this debate went.

Then came yesterday's news, and I could feel that big switch grind from one side -- ON -- to the other -- OFF -- in an instant. Fans went from arguing about whether or not Vick should be punished to arguing about whether dismissal or a year's suspension was the way to go. But nearly every fan is done and wants the problem taken care of.

The stupidity of what Marcus did -- driving 86 miles an hour down the interstate, while in possession of marijuana, on a holiday weekend, with the cops out in full force, and with a conviction for contributing to the delinquency of a minor hanging over his head -- defies belief. His complete and total lack of judgment caused a seismic shift in the thinking of Virginia Tech football fans, who en masse experienced what alcoholics refer to as "a moment of clarity."

A moment of clarity is the instant where you quit deluding yourself and finally see things exactly as they are. How they are is this: Marcus Vick is a young man with a world of growing up to do, and at this stage of his life, he is not fit to be a member of the Virginia Tech football team or to continue to serve as a representative of the university.

Wham. There goes the switch, flipped. Hokie fans have had enough.

Vick's actions clearly show his complete and total lack of respect for his coach, his teammates, his university, and himself. Since Frank Beamer's impassioned speech to the team in January, in which he threatened to crack down on misbehavior and "separate" chronic discipline problems from the football program, Vick's life has gone quickly downhill. He may have heard Beamer's speech, but it's obvious he wasn't listening.

The conviction for contributing to the delinquency of a minor had a "boys will be boys, oops, they were under 18" quality to it that was almost forgivable. Kids do stupid things all the time, and you hoped that being faced with jail time would serve as a wake-up call for young Vick. But while that party was a dumb thing to do, speeding down the interstate in possession of pot is willful, knowledgeable disobedience of the law. Thus, the shift in fans' feelings on what should be done with Vick.

Vick was suspended indefinitely from the football team and will not participate in practices, workouts, or other team functions. That's a good start, but it's not all that needs to be done. Back in March of this year, in a TSL Pass column called The Marcus Vick Conundrum, I advocated the following course of action with regards to Vick -- and remember, this was before this latest arrest:

  • a six-game suspension.
  • status as the #2 QB on the team, no matter what; no chance to battle for the #1 job, either in spring or fall of 2004.
  • complete removal from the public eye until he returns from his suspension; no interviews allowed, no discussion of Vick in the press from the coaching staff, etc.
  • a list of tasks to accomplish, mostly consisting of staying out of trouble and working hard academically and athletically.

Vick's indefinite suspension is going to take a form similar to that. To return from the suspension, Vick will probably have to accomplish a list of tasks that includes serving whatever sentences get handed down from his May conviction and his latest arrest, staying in good academic standing, staying out of further trouble, undergoing drug and alcohol counseling, and generally showing contrition and a sense of understanding that he has done wrong and needs to change. He'll need to come back with a clean record and a new attitude to regain acceptance to the team. Failure to accomplish any one of those tasks will result in final dismissal from the football program.

The message from VT will be, "We'll stand behind you and help you, but this is what you have to do. We'll map it out clearly for you and give you the tools, but it requires a lot of work from you." Call it the Derrius Monroe program. Monroe pled guilty to cocaine distribution years ago, was suspended for a year and given a list of tasks to accomplish, and was returned to the team when his record was cleared and he had done everything required. His story had a happy ending: he stayed out of trouble and graduated from Virginia Tech.

This will be laid in front of Marcus, and like Monroe, it will mean a year lost in his football life. Not only will he probably not see the field in 2004, he won't even be practicing. Given that, his choice will be to turn his back on VT and transfer elsewhere, or stay at Virginia Tech and commit to turning things around, the only conditions under which he will remain at the university.

This is what should be done at a minimum. Marcus Vick needs to disappear, at least until spring of 2005, maybe until fall of 2005, and a lot has to change between now and then. He is a divisive, disruptive force on this team, and he needs to be removed from it for at least the coming season.

Or maybe Jim Weaver and Frank Beamer will just wait for him to get convicted of these latest charges and boot him off the team, an option that is only available to Jim Weaver after conviction or a guilty plea, according to Tech's Comprehensive Action Plan. (Coach Beamer, on the other hand, can cut him loose at any time and invoke the old "violation of team rules" statute.)

Me, I'm in favor of the one-year suspension and putting him through the ringer. Heck, I advocated something similar four months ago and was pooh-poohed by many. But if he was dismissed from the team, I wouldn't lose any sleep over it.

In any event, the large majority of Hokie fans are done with Vick. They're ready to get behind Bryan Randall and whoever the backup is going to be. Their Vick switch has been flipped to OFF.


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