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Monday, November 30, 1998

Details from the Music City Bowl, to which Virginia Tech accepted a bid Monday, dominated this week's talk show. Guests included the bowl's executive director (by phone), AD Jim Weaver, VT coordinators Bustle and Foster, and Coach Beamer.

There was little direct mention of Beamer's outside job interview(s).


AD Jim Weaver flew to Nashville by private jet Monday to join a news conference and accept a bowl bid for VT from the inaugural American General Music City Bowl. The game will be played Tuesday Dec. 29 at 5 p.m. Eastern time, and televised by ESPN. Likely opponent is Alabama.

Virginia Tech is one of only nine teams that have received a bowl bid in each of the past six seasons. Last year there were 10 teams who had made it to five straight.

Weaver gave this accounting of how the bowl spot for Tech unfolded. Scouts from the Music City and Gator bowls were at Saturday's game. Weaver spent 1.5 hours talking with Music City's Executive Director Scott Ramsey after the game Saturday and they had dinner together. The two talked "two or three times" on Sunday. The Gator's Rick Catlett informed VT on Sunday that the Gator would release VT from consideration because of the Notre Dame situation and Tech's loss on Saturday.

Weaver said the MC bowl had done its homework and knew that VT and West Virginia fans both travel well to bowl sites. "When it came down to nut-cracking time, they put their faith in the Hokies," Weaver said.

Tech will face an SEC opponent -- probably Alabama, but other possibilities mentioned in order are Kentucky, Georgia and Mississippi State. The SEC team will be named after this weekend's games. Weaver was careful not to name an opponent, but said Alabama is the team that's "mentioned as frequently as any."

The Music City Bowl will be played in Vanderbilt's Stadium, which seats about 41,000. That stadium is the home this season for the Tennessee Oilers NFL team, and the bowl will move to the new NFL stadium next year.

IT WAS STRESSED REPEATEDLY THAT TECH FANS SHOULD MAKE THE MOST OF THE OPPORTUNITY TO GET TICKETS THIS WEEK AND USE THE FOUR-DAY HEAD START BEFORE THE SEC TEAM IS PICKED. (Note from Will - see my Links page, and go to "Football Opponent's Web Sites," for links that will help you plan your trip.)

VT reportedly gets an initial block of 12,000 tickets.

It was said that the SEC team will be hungry for tickets, and that Alabama could be interested in as many as 40,000. With only 41,000 seats and a couple of 250-member bands, the tickets could go in a hurry, Bill Roth said.

For those who did not order tickets already through the advance ordering system, tickets will go on sale at the VT ticket office at 9 a.m. Wednesday. For phone orders, call (540) 231-6731 or 1-800 VA TECH4.

Weaver, Roth, coaches and callers all agreed with some enthusiasm that the Music City is a good situation for VT because the game is at a reasonable driving distance, offers Nashville's entertainment highlights, and doesn't interfere with Christmas or New Year's. Weaver said he was pleased that Tech was able to nail down its destination relatively early.

Given the way the Notre Dame situation has played out, Roth said Nashville is probably where the Hokies would have wound up even if they had won against Temple and UVa. Weaver gave strong credit to the role of the Big East Conference and Commissioner Tranghese in the bowl talks of recent weeks, and said Tranghese is well thought of by the bowl committees. "He did an outstanding job throughout the whole situation." He indicated that extends back to early talks that were not fruitful in landing firm bowl alignments for the Big East. Weaver said that Tranghese and the athletic directors agreed then that it was better to not align with some "relationships that would not be good for us" and to go the at-large route when the time came. He said the BE knew it had cards to play because of how well VT and WVU travel to bowls.



A caller asked Weaver if he has had a "what would it take to keep you" discussion with Frank Beamer. Weaver said he has not yet had a discussion of that nature.

The agreement was that any contact between Beamer and other schools would come after the UVa game. And Weaver said he didn't think Saturday night was the right time to enter into that type of discussion after a tough loss to UVa.

He called Beamer "a consummate professional" for staying on top of things in the program (recruiting, etc.) in the present situation.

"I am committed as best I can be to keeping Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech," Weaver said. "You have been very clear about that," Roth said. "It's as clear as I can say it," Weaver said.



A caller asked Weaver about possible other future SEC opponents.

Weaver said the work continues to develop the schedule, and mentioned deals with Texas A&M in 2002-2003, Wisconsin in 2008-2009, Penn State in 2006-2007. He said he's working with others for 2004-2005.

Weaver said there are challenges presently to scheduling SEC teams because the SEC is linked to the same TV network as the Big East. He has had some discussions with Doug Dickey about playing Tennessee, but the best case for that series would be in the 2009-2011 time frame.



Music City Bowl Director Scott Ramsey noted that Virginia Tech becomes the first team ever selected for the new Nashville bowl. He said the committee is impressed with VT's reputation, quality program, leadership by Weaver and Beamer and staffs, and that VT should be proud of what it has. Nashville has recently added NFL and NHL franchises, and Ramsey said establishing the bowl is another chance for Nashville to showcase itself.

The SEC's order of bowl picks is BCS, Citrus, Cotton, Outback, Peach, Music City, Independence. Ramsey said the SEC works hard at getting input from schools and bowls regarding preferences, rather than arbitrarily assigning slots. The result is a "better marriage."

The Music City will get an 8-3 or 7-4 team from among the Top 30 this year, regardless of who the SEC team is, Ramsey said.



The highlight of bowl week for fans will be a downtown block party of sorts on bowl eve, Monday Dec. 28. They will block off Second Avenue downtown at the river next to the new stadium (under construction). The two schools' bands will play up and down the streets. No mention of whether there's actually a pep rally.

Ramsey mentioned 5-6 restaurants/nightspots in that area that will be a part of the festivities with special bands and such. I didn't catch all the names, but Hard Rock Cafe and Planet Hollywood were among them. Also mentioned was a Sunday luncheon (?) that's open to the paying public and will include the "ESPN personalities," presumably those who are covering the game. No names were mentioned.

Ramsey said the bowl will make an announcement next week about the bowl's halftime performers, to include a pop star, country star and contemporary Christian music star.



Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

Neither Beamer nor Roth brought up the coach's outside interview(s) at other schools. It was as if nothing were going on.

There were comments from Beamer that made it sound like he is focused on the future at VT.

Roth gave a pep talk about the positive things that the 1998 team achieved: three shutouts on the road, Top 10 ranking at one point, a new home attendance record, fourth quarter leads in all 11 games, five national TV games, plus all the returning players and redshirts. Beamer chimed in about the record season ticket sales and plans to expand seating at Lane Stadium.

"The gun is loaded for 1999," Roth said. Beamer said the Hokies are "in on" some recruiting prospects "that can win a lot of games for us." "Yeah," said Beamer, "things are rolling."

Tuesday Dec. 1 opens the period when coaches can have live contact with recruits and seven coaches are allowed to be on the road, home visits, etc. Recruiting is the focus in the next couple of weeks, and two important recruiting weekends are coming up.

"We'll be out there charging, I can tell you that," Beamer said.

A caller asked about the offensive line situation for next year. Beamer said he really believes there are good linemen in the program, they just need to get bigger and stronger. Losing leads late in a game may go back to that factor, he said.

As for the Virginia game, Beamer said he told the team he was proud of how hard it played. As always, you wish you could re-do some decisions, he said, but there was no question about the effort. He said he has to credit Virginia and Aaron Brooks for the plays they made to win the game.

Tech lost one it should have won Saturday, he said, and the three losses were all tough. But Beamer said there's something to say for being in a position in which losses do hurt like that. He expressed surprise at how Miami was crushed by Syracuse last week and said that at least "our guys [played with SU and] didn't do that."

In all three losses, Beamer said, it took the opposing quarterbacks playing "the best that they could play" to beat the Hokies.

An inquiry from a caller set off some measured criticism of the UVa game officials by Beamer. His first comment was that he wasn't there to say the officials cost VT the ball game. Then he went on to blast two calls in particular from the ACC officiating crew. He said the holding call on the OL on the burst up the middle by Jarrett Ferguson to the 6 yard line was "an atrocious call." Roth and Beamer said they have reviewed the play and still haven't seen the hold, allegedly against Matt Lehr. Even if there was holding, Beamer said, the play was well past the OL when the official called it. He was concerned that this hold was called, while virtual takedown holds were ignored when VT was on defense. He also questioned the leg whip penalty, and said the diving catch for a touchdown by Jones was "very, very questionable" as to whether he had control. Coach Foster also questioned that call upon review of the film.

The caller claimed that one of the officials is a UVa graduate. He claimed the same official is the one who overruled another official and ruled a UVa catch good near midfield late in the game.

Bill Roth said Big East policy prohibits an alumnus from calling a game at their school. Beamer seemed acquainted with the official, but said he was unaware he's a UVa grad. [There was no independent confirmation that he is an alumnus.]

Again, lest folks start pointing at the officiating, this came up very late in the show and only when a caller prompted Beamer.

Beamer and Roth wrapped up with Beamer bringing up how great the crowd was in Blacksburg last Saturday. "Let's keep doing these shows," Roth said.

"You bet," Beamer said.



Coaches talked with the players today about the bowl game and the program is excited about it, Bustle said. The players think there's some unfinished business. Their attitude, he said, is that "we're going [there] to win this football game."

Offensive line's protection was not as good in the second half as in the first half vs. UVa. Experience and time in the weight room will make a difference with these OL, he said.

Bustle praised the play of Matt Lehr on the right side of the line against Virginia.

Bustle said they told the players not to dwell on 3-4 plays that were the difference in going 11-0, but rather to focus on "the effort that got us where we are."

He said he's not sure but what the 1998 season represents the coaching staff's best overall job ever.

Al Clark was very sore on Monday with what is believed to be bruised ribs, sustained when he was in a "sandwich hit" between two players. He came off the field after the play and told Bustle: "I don't think I can throw." His status for the bowl game sounded unclear. Bustle wasn't sure of the outcome of x-rays that were planned for Clark on Monday.

When asked IF Clark were unable to play in the bowl, Bustle said the approach would be to give Sorensen and Meyer equal practice work to prepare. He talked about the bowl practices as an opportunity to find out more about Meyer. "We want to find out if Dave can do this." He noted that the offensive plan was kept simple for Meyer in the Pitt game, before Meyer suffered the separated shoulder.

Then he talked about "two young quarterbacks on their way up" (Vick and Noel) who will challenge Meyer for future playing time. Bustle appeared to be saying that Meyer will be at a crossroads that Druckenmiller and Clark also faced -- meaning the older player has to be clearly better than a young prospect in order to get the playing time.



Said any SEC team selected as the bowl opponent will be a good team and a challenge. VT's efforts deserve the bowl bid.

Foster said VT played every coverage it had against UVa, that Brooks and UVa just made the plays. Execution and technique failed the Hokies on Saturday, he said. Jones' diving touchdown was just a great play -- and questionable as to whether he held on. Brooks had three people in his face, Hawkes was with Jones and yet they made the play.

On the play where the Virginia fullback was wide open over the middle and dropped a possible TD pass, Foster said the safety cheated too far over and out of the play. There were "no-calls" involving an opponent holding Corey Moore again, and them some "pitiful" holding calls against VT, Foster said.

UVa kept 7-8 people in to block for Brooks most of the time, which kept VT from blitzing. Foster said there is no point to blitz and bring a lot of people when there are blockers to account for them.

Foster told a caller that VT hopes to sign the following mix of players on defense: 3 tackles, 1-2 defensive ends, 1 linebacker (for the "backer" spot), 2-3 corner players. Total scholarships available and offensive recruiting needs were not mentioned.

Bill Roth again mentioned that VT will return 14 of its top 15 players at DL and LB. That includes Jake Houseright. Roth said the 1995 team placed four players on the All Big East defensive team (first and second team), and he thinks as many as six could receive such honors in 1998.

Foster said word was just received that Corey Moore was named to the Burger King All America Team (formerly the Kodak All America Team). He said that's a special tribute to the player and program because the selection is by coaches from across the country.

1998 was a good year in which the team played hard all year, Foster said. He said he took as a special compliment the comment from WVU's Don Nehlen that "he wished his kids played as hard as Virginia Tech's."

Jimmy Kibble apparently does not have a broken foot. "I think his test came back negative," Foster said. Loren Johnson is expected to rehab his knee for a couple weeks and should be back for the bowl.

The Tech team will arrive in Nashville on Dec. 23. It's the first time during the bowl string that the team has been on the road on Christmas.

(This was the final regular football Hokie Hotline of the year. Bill Roth indicated last week that a bowl Hotline is likely from the bowl site.)



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