Thursday, May 6, 1999

'Zo Ferguson Arrested, Suspended

Wednesday, this AP story hit the wire:

BLACKSBURG, Va. -- Lorenzo Ferguson, who started every game at linebacker for Virginia Tech last season, was suspended indefinitely from the team, the school's athletics department said Wednesday.

Though the department would release no further information, campus police said Ferguson, 21, was arrested Tuesday and charged with two counts of breaking and entering, two counts of forgery and three counts of misdemeanor petty larceny.

Tech Police Chief Mike Jones said two checks and a wallet were stolen from three rooms in a university dormitory April 13. Ferguson allegedly made out both checks to himself for $75, forged the victims' signatures on the documents and deposited them into his account at the Virginia Tech Credit Union, Jones said.

Ferguson was arraigned Wednesday in Montgomery County General District Court and released on $8,500 bond, pending a preliminary hearing.

Ferguson, a redshirt sophomore from Chesapeake, Va., was third on the Hokies with 80 tackles last season. He also had three interceptions, all of them in Virginia Tech's early season 37-0 victory against Clemson.

Shades of 1996, eh?  I received a call from a friend who was quite upset about this development.  He was sick of this sort of thing occurring, and of Tech's name being dragged through the muck, etc. etc.

First, the standard disclaimer:  of course, Lorenzo is innocent until proven guilty.  The evidence as detailed by the wire report is pretty damning, but the final outcome will occur in a court of law.  So 'Zo may or may not be guilty, but you've got to admit, man it looks bad.

Me, I find that I'm not nearly as upset as my friend.   As a matter of fact, I'm not very upset at all.  When a kid is arrested on strong evidence, and an athletic program takes swift and decisive action to suspend him, it doesn't bother me too much.

Let's go through some examples of what does bother me.  What bothers me is when there is videotaped evidence of a player attacking an opposing team's fan, and the player's coach and athletic director play "see no evil," and nothing ever comes of it.

What bothers me is when an athlete with a previous assault conviction (however Mickey Mouse it may have been) is involved in a brawl, but is allowed to participate in spring football practice, including his team's Spring Game, and afterwards finally "takes a leave of absence."

What bothers me (to turn the attention from our UVa friends and back to ourselves) is when a team has over a dozen players arrested for over 20 different incidences in a span of just over a year, and nobody seems to be doing anything about it, until the team's school name has been sullied irreparably.

But this doesn't bother me too much.  I don't like losing a talented, experienced linebacker, but I like our school's reaction to it.  I like that every headline I see about the incident says, "Hokies suspend linebacker," and then explains why, instead of the headline saying, "Hokie linebacker arrested," with the text of the article containing some wimpy statement about how "school officials will review the facts of the case before making a decision on the player's status."

He was arrested on strong evidence, and he is suspended until further notice.  Having cut my teeth on the travesty of 1996, I don't have much of a problem with the way this one went.  Sure, I wish it hadn't happened at all, but it did, and Tech dealt with it properly.  Now, all we can do is wait and see how it turns out in court.

Until then, look for Phillip Summers to be moved from Rover back to the Whip Linebacker spot (no way does T.J. Jackson or Tee Butler start when Summers is available).  This makes the Rover spot one-deep (Cory Bird) instead of two-deep.


No New News on Big East Membership

Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, .... the clock keeps ticking, and we're still not in the Big East conference for all sports.

The popular rumor was that an announcement would be made in April, but that didn't happen.  No big surprise there.  This begs the question:   what's up, and when, if at all, is something likely to happen?

First of all, I'm hearing nothing new about possible membership.  The rumor mill has ground to a complete halt on this topic.

Secondly, the yearly Big East athletic directors meeting will be in a couple of weeks (I don't know exactly when, but it's some time this month).

Third, in an article that appeared in The Hartford Courant Wednesday, Big East associate commissioner Tom McElroy made reference to "recent presidential meetings," meaning that the Big East school presidents had met recently.

Remember, it's the presidents who vote on Big East membership issues, not the AD's.  So when I heard that the presidents had met, and yet no announcement had been made, I got a little worried.

Message board posters calmed me down, though.   "Chicago Maroon" correctly pointed out that it's very possible that the presidents may have agreed to invite us in on principle, as long as some other details were worked out.  Those details - which I think would include some sort of financial concessions from Tech to appease the basketball-only schools - may be getting hashed out even as we mark the days to the AD's meetings.

If negotiations are on-going, they may not be finished even by the AD's meetings, and we may be left to twist in the wind even longer, perhaps much longer.  After all, this is a large, complex issue.

It's complicated even further by "the UConn question."  In case you haven't heard, it's official:  UConn will be Division 1-A for football starting in the year 2000.  The NCAA has waived the normal attendance and stadium requirements for UConn, contingent upon the Huskies building a big enough stadium, or playing in a big enough one, soon (the requirement for Division 1-A is a 30,000 seat stadium).  UConn would play as an independent for a few years and would then enter the Big East Football Conference in 2003 or 2004.

UConn was going to play in a new New England Patriots stadium that was to be constructed in Hartford, but the Patriots backed out of the deal, and the stadium won't be built.  Talk about twisting in the wind - UConn is now trying to figure out where their new stadium is going to come from.  The state is telling them not to worry, that they'll take care of them, but no solid plans for a new UConn stadium have been announced and funded.

Not only does the Big East have to deal with Tech and UConn, but they also have to deal with Temple (in, out, or no change?).  Not only that, but some really wild rumors are circulating on the 'Net - in more than one place - that Louisville, Navy, and/or Central Florida might be invited into the Big East, in an effort to boost the football conference to 12 members, and a coveted conference championship game.

Some of the deeper thinkers on this subject are saying that basketball-only schools will soon be done as major players on the NCAA sports scene (hence, UConn's frantic efforts to push to Division 1-A football), and that the future of NCAA sports is schools that play Division 1-A basketball and football.   Hey, that's us!

I thought this issue was summed up perfectly on the message board by Rusty:

UCONN is not getting into this stadium business and the Title IX implications of 20 more men's football scholarships because they think they can be good at football. They're doing it because they recognize that in 4-6 years they are TOAST without a D1A football squad and the resultant conference affiliation that goes with it. They are literally scrambling for survival - scrambling being the term to use when you are committing to jump in the D1A pool without any stadium to keep you afloat.

St. Johns, Nova, G'town - sorry, too little too late. Destined to an existence in the A-10 or MEC equivalent.  Meanwhile, we (Tech) are sitting pretty with a top-25 program, ESPN preference, and plans for a 70,000 seat stadium. We'll be watching Providence, Seton Hall, Nova, G'town, SJU etc. in our rear-view-mirror from here on out.

Sweet, Rusty.  I hope you're right.  Meanwhile, one thing's for sure:  the winds of change are blowing, and the Big East is doing everything they can to make sure they can ride on the breeze, not get blown away.  I hope they're making the right plans and doing the right thing.  But all we can do is wait.


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