Tallying Up Tech's First Year in the ACC
by Chris James, TechSideline.com, 5/31/05
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2004-05 has been a banner year for Virginia Tech athletics. The Hokies moved to the ACC and won the conference in football and the regular season title in wrestling. The menís basketball team pulled out a miraculous fourth place finish and knocked off the likes of Duke, Maryland and Georgia Tech. The men's soccer team beat #1 Duke and #2 Virginia, and the softball team played for the ACC championship and made the NCAA Tournament. In the eyes of many, the Hokies sports programs showed that they could compete with and defeat some of the best programs in the country. Thatís true for some sports, but on the whole, the Hokies have a lot of catching up to do.

Wanna make a splash in your brand new conference? Try finishing much higher than expected in the two headline sports. The Hokie football team was picked sixth in the preseason media poll but ended up beating fellow ACC newcomer Miami for the title. The menís basketball team was predicted to finish in tenth place, next-to-last, and rightfully so; the Hokies only made it to Madison Square Garden for the Big East Tournament once in four years. But the young Hokies, starting three sophomores and a freshman, didnít seem to care, as they ran off a fourth place finish and a .500 record in ACC play.

And to top it off, the Hokies, who have long been average at best in Olympic sports, won the regular season ACC Championship in wrestling. Thatís what you call making a splash. But when you look deeper into the athletic department at some of the sports that nobody mentions (no VT fan anyway), you can see that there were plenty of Hokie teams that finished right where they were expectedÖat or near the bottom.

First of all, letís take a look at how the Hokies stacked up against each of the ACC programs in all sports this year. The numbers include postseason play against ACC schools.

Sport

Clemson

Duke

FSU

GT

MD

Miami

NCSU

UNC

UVA

Wake

Total

Baseball

1-2

2-1

0-3

0-3

1-3

0-3

1-2

0-1

0-1

2-1

7-20

Men's Bball

1-1

1-1

0-1

1-1

1-1

2-0

1-1

0-1

1-1

0-1

8-9

Women's Bball

1-0

0-1

0-2

1-0

2-0

1-1

0-1

0-1

0-2

1-1

6-9

Football

 

1-0

  

1-0

1-0

1-0

0-1

1-0

1-0

1-0

7-1

Lacrosse

 

0-1

  

 

0-1

 

 

0-2

0-1

 

0-5

Men's Soccer

0-1

1-0

  

 

0-1

 

0-1

0-1

1-0

0-2

2-6

Wmns Soccer

0-1

0-1

0-1

 

1-0

2-0

1-0

0-1

0-2

1-0

5-6

Softball

  

 

1-3

1-2

2-2

 

0-3

2-2

2-3

 

8-15

Men's Tennis

0-1

0-1

0-1

1-0

1-0

1-1

1-0

0-1

0-1

0-1

4-7

Wmns Tennis

0-1

0-1

0-1

0-1

0-1

0-1

0-1

0-1

0-1

0-2

0-11

Volleyball

1-1

0-2

1-1

0-1

0-1

1-1

2-0

1-1

0-1

1-1

7-10

Wrestling

 

1-0

 

 

1-0

 

1-0

1-0

1-0

 

5-0

Total

4-8

6-9

2-13

5-8

10-10

8-7

7-10

5-12

6-13

6-9

59-99

Other Sports: Cross Country (Women 7th, Men 9th); Swimming and Diving (Women 5th in ACC Meet, Men 7th, both out of 10 teams); Golf (Finished 10th [last] in ACC Championship); Track and Field (Women 9th, Men 5th in ACC Meet)

Take a look at that overall number. In head-to-head matches against other ACC teams this year, the Hokies were 55-99. Take away football (7-1) and wrestling (5-0) and the Hokies find themselves at 47-98 (.324). Ouch. Play the opposite game and take away lacrosse (0-5) and women's tennis (0-11) and VT was 55-83 (.398), still far below .500.

Virginia Tech competed against 10 other teams this year in conference play and managed to have an overall winning record against one of them. The Hokies went 8-7 against fellow ACC newcomer Miami. Tech also finished 10-10 against Maryland. Other than those two teams, the Hokies didnít even come close to sniffing .500.

Cross country, swimming and diving, golf and track also competed for the first time in ACC play this year, and for the most part, didnít fare very well either. The golf team finished dead last in the ACC tournament. The menís track and field team did finish 5th in ACC meets and were ranked in the national polls for much of the season.

Basically, when you look at Techís non-revenue sports for the 2004-05 year, youíll see some good, some bad and some ugly.

The Good

As mentioned above, the wrestling team won the ACC regular season championship. Although UNC won the ACC Championship meet, the Hokies still went undefeated in head-to-head matchups during the season. Coach Tom Brands led the Hokies to a 5-0 record in the ACC, and 16-4 overall.

Expect that impressive record to keep getting better as well. Brands just signed a Top five recruiting class, including the #1 wrestler in the nation, Brent Metcalf. Metcalf went 228-0 during his high school career.

While the menís soccer team finished tied with Clemson for last place in the ACC at 2-5, 9-10-1 overall, those two ACC wins were extremely impressive. The Hokies knocked off #1 Duke and #2 UVA. In their last season in the Big East, the menís soccer team went to the NCAA tournament and defeated Clemson in the first round. Their record dropped off this season due to the increased competition, but by beating such highly ranked teams, the Hokies showed they could compete.

The menís soccer team was close to pulling out more wins. They lost three overtime games during the season, including a 1-0 loss to #5 Wake Forest during the ACC tournament. With a better recruiting base in the ACC, things are looking up for Oliver Weissí program.

The womenís soccer team made it to the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history. Despite falling in the first round, progress is being made under head coach Kelly Cagle. Freshman Ashley Stinson was an All-American, a sure sign that recruiting is getting better for Tech.

The softball team also made a nice run in the postseason, making it to the finals of the ACC tournament behind the arm of Angela Tincher. The squad made the NCAA tournament and was eliminated on the second day.

The Bad

There were a few schools in particular that the Hokies didnít fare well against. Against in-state rival UVA, Tech went just 6-13. UVA is known for their very strong all-sports athletic department, which ranks among the best in the nation. Itís going to take a while before the Hokies are able to compete against UVA year in and year out in every sport. Some progress was made this year, especially when the menís soccer team beat #2 UVA, but for the most part, the Tech athletic department lags far behind in Olympic sports.

The Hokies had basically the same result against UNC, going a combined 5-12. UNC is very similar to UVA in that they show strong support for their non-revenue sports. When (if) Tech starts to catch UVA, theyíll start catching the Tar Heels as well.

The most miserable record of them all is the disastrous 2-13 record that the Hokies had against Florida State during the inaugural season in the ACC. The only programs that were able to post wins against the ĎNoles were the softball team and the volleyball teams. With that kind of record, maybe itís a good thing that the Hokies didnít play FSU in football (kidding).

The Ugly

Right off the bat, letís take a look at one of the ugliest sports stats that I have ever seen. The Virginia Tech baseball team traveled to Atlanta to face #5 Georgia Tech from May 13-May 15. Georgia Tech swept the three game series with final scores of 10-0, 27-2 and 11-1, a combined three-game total of 48-3. I daresay that the 1999 Syracuse squad that got hammered 62-0 by the Hokies on the gridiron was more competitive that the Tech baseball team in Atlanta. Combine this, a 7-20 record in the ACC, and recent Chuck Hartman comments that he couldn't get his team to play hard for much of the season, and it makes me wonder if there are some real chemistry, talent and coaching issues within the Tech baseball program.

All that aside, the baseball team did manage to win some ACC games, which is something that two other Tech teams did not accomplish during their inaugural ACC season. The lacrosse team was 0-5 in ACC play, while the womenís tennis team was 0-11.

Reasons for the Poor Marks

At this point, you probably think this is a pretty critical article. I donít mean for it to be that way. Aside from the 48-3 series against Georgia Tech in baseball, this inaugural season in the ACC has gone much better than we could have hoped. An ACC football championship to go along with a regular season wrestling championship. Throw in NCAA Tournament appearances for womenís soccer, womenís basketball and softball, as well as an NIT for the menís basketball team, and it wasnít a bad year at all. My intention was to show that when you view the overall picture, things arenít as great as those headline-making accomplishments make them appear.

The first reason for the 59-99 record is that the Hokies have been in four different conferences in the last decade or so. Tech was still in the Metro Conference 11 years ago. After that conference disbanded, the Hokies moved to the Atlantic 10 for five years. I would highly recommend that schools not take this action, unless of course the Big East rejects you and you have no place to go, which is what happened to Tech. The Big East finally came to their senses and invited Tech in for all sports, but it was only four years later that the ACC came calling. I donít see the Hokies leaving the ACC anytime soon, so they will have a chance to carve a niche in the recruiting trails, with Blacksburg being in ACC country.

One last comment about the Big East. I donít like them, you donít like them. But thank goodness the Hokies were in that conference for all sports for four seasons. How bad would this year have been if Tech was competing in the ACC with Atlantic 10 recruits? You think the Hokies would have beaten Duke in menís basketball? Nope, because they likely wouldnít have players like Coleman Collins, Jamon Gordon and Zabian Dowdell.

The Hokies also have not been able to throw the same kind of financial support into their programs as most ACC schools do. I was perusing through some old basketball media guides in the TSL office last week. These media guides were from the Bobby Hussey and Ricky Stokes eras. In the media guide there is a section that goes over Techís travel plans for each away game. For every single away game that was not in driving range from Blacksburg, and I do mean every single game, the team took commercial flights. No chartered flights were listed, at least none that I noticed. The ultimate insult was during this past season, when the menís basketball team had to take a bus to play St. JohnísÖall the way to New York City. Talk about some bus lag. Hopefully with the improved financial situation that the Hokies will gain from playing in the ACC, all that will change.

Conclusion

If Tech wants to improve their non-revenue sports, the ACC is the place to be. Virginia Tech is located in the heart of ACC country, and that is a natural recruiting ground for the Hokies. Back when Tech competed in the Atlantic 10, there werenít too many top recruits in any sport in the area that grew up dreaming of playing against St. Bonaventure and LaSalle. Techís recruiting will improve.

Also, Iím of the opinion that being in the ACC, Virginia Techís natural conference, brings out more of a sense of competitiveness among Hokie athletes. Hokie fans and players have always felt that Tech belonged in the ACC and are anxious to prove that they belong. You think the basketball team isnít fired up to be playing Duke and North Carolina? Or the menís soccer team isnít excited about Duke and UVA? They want to play and beat those teams, and they didnít get a chance to do that as often in the Big East and A-10.

Despite the subpar record during VT's inaugural ACC season, things will improve. It might not be this year or the year after, but eventually things will get better. These things take time, and in most cases will not happen overnight. It will be important to let each program complete four recruiting classes under the ACC banner before making any future judgments.

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