Friday, August 27, 1999

All Eyes Are On the Hokies

If you missed ESPN's hour-long college football preview show on Thursday, you missed a rare treat:  not only did analysts Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit agree on something, but they agreed that Tech will win the Big East ... and possibly play for a national championship.

A little background here, first.  This coming season, ESPN's Thursday night game broadcast crew will now consist of Mike Tirico on play-by-play, and Corso and Herbstreit providing color.  This is the first time that ESPN has gone with a three-man crew on Thursday nights, and it's arguable that that's a huge mistake.  Previously, ESPN has provided professional, polished broadcast crews on Thursday nights, and by letting Corso into the booth, they run the risk of having their marquee Thursday night games degenerate into annoying yuck-fests.

Entertaining he may be, but Corso knows very little about college football, and even worse, doesn't educate himself and try to learn more.   It's fine to be the network clown in the studio, but when you head into the booth, you better at least make an effort at analyzing the game.

Those few of you out there who own video tapes of Tech's 1986 Peach Bowl win over N.C. State need only plug those tapes in to find out what an awful analyst Corso is.  Yes, that's right:  in case you didn't know, Lee the Clown was in the booth the day Chris Kinzer booted The Kick.  And although the game was a classic see-saw battle, Corso's buffoonish performance in the booth cheapens the reliving of the experience.

If you're wondering why I'm going off on this tangent, my point is this:  Corso, who has not exactly been friendly to Virginia Tech in the past, has to visit Blacksburg in order to broadcast Tech's game with Clemson on September 23rd of this year.  Tech fans have been champing at the bit to get Corso into The 'Burg for years now, and it's finally going to happen.

So what does old Lee do?  Well, in order to avoid a lynch mob when he visits, Lee proceeds to go on TV Thursday night and pick his two Sugar Bowl national championship teams as Florida State and ... Virginia Tech.  Corso thinks the Hokies will run the table and wind up playing the Seminoles for the MNC.

Easy now.  If you're feeling dizzy, just sit down, put your head between your knees, and breathe deep until it passes.  Ready to go on?   Okay.

The obvious point to make here is that although Corso is uninformed, his choice of Tech as FSU's Sugar Bowl opponent brings attention to the Hokies.  Whether viewers scoffed or nodded in agreement when he said it is unimportant.  The words "Virginia Tech" and "national championship" were uttered together, by someone other than Frank Beamer, Jim Weaver, or the Tech faithful.

All kidding about Corso aside, you have to shake your head at what's going on around the country.  Tech is being ranked highly by almost every preseason publication in existence, the AP has ranked the Hokies above the Coach's poll, and now Corso and even Herbstreit are picking the Hokies to win the Big East (Herbstreit, for the record, thinks Nebraska will play FSU in the Sugar Bowl).  And they're very seriously discussing the Hokies when they talk about this year's national championship picture.

And they're not alone.  When many publications list teams that have a shot at running the table and being in the national championship picture, Tech is right there on the list, mostly because the Hokies are perceived as a strong team with a soft schedule.

Back in 1995, after Tech won the Sugar Bowl, many Hokie fans were irate when the national media, who were busy fawning over Northwestern, paid no attention to the Hokies.  We demanded respect and our due, but it didn't happen.

We're discovering that respect is a long time coming, and it seems to come in fits and starts.  A 38-7 victory over Alabama in the Music City Bowl seems to have done more for Tech's national image than a string of six bowls from 1993 to 1998.  Suddenly, four years after we thought it should happen, we're finally showing up on everyone's radar.

I submit to you the notion that in the long run, Tech's victory over Alabama may prove more of a boost to the program than the '95 Sugar Bowl, which, in the grand scheme of things, is just a blip on the national radar screen.   The Sugar Bowl was a great, classic win in Tech history, but outside of Texas and Virginia, that win didn't register on anyone's consciousness.

Speaking of 1995, Tech had a great opportunity at the national spotlight that year, but it was stolen away by the Northwestern Wildcats, who put together a great season and drew the attention of the nation's media.  When everyone should have been talking about the Hokies, they were instead fawning over NU.

It is now four years later, and Northwestern's house of cards has collapsed, but the Hokies are still here.  While Tech was going 9-3 and winning the Music City Bowl, NU was putting up a 3-9 overall record that included a goose egg (0-8) in the Big Ten.  This preseason, they were ranked 80th by Athlon and were picked to finish dead last in the Big Ten.

Meanwhile, Corso and Herbstreit are - for once - agreeing on something, and that something is that Tech will win the Big East and challenge for the MNC.

This is a critical year for the Hokies.  It is time to play all out, seize the opportunity, and make the most of the attention that is pointed Tech's way.  We may not get our next chance for another half-decade or more.

Big Brothers/Big Sisters Ticket Donation is Set up

Hey, if you've got extra tickets that you're not going to use, let's do something good with them:  donate them to charity.

I have organized a ticket donation drive for Big Brothers/Big Sisters of the New River Valley.  The BBBS has approximately 45 "matches" that can use the tickets.  Most of their matches are one child and one adult, but there are matches of three people, as well, so don't get wrapped up about how many tickets you're donating - just give 'em all.

The best part is, you can get a receipt for your ticket donation, so (if your accountant agrees), you can deduct the donation on your taxes!

Here's what you do:  if you want to donate tickets you're not going to use to the BBBS, drop them in an envelope and mail them to:

BBBS Tickets
c/o HokieCentral
P.O. Box 3472
Radford, VA 24143

Try to get the tickets to me by Thursday of the week of the game, because I'll be making deliveries to the BBBS on Fridays.

If you want a receipt, include a self-addressed stamped envelope with your tickets.  The BBBS will write up a receipt and will mail it to you, giving you a record of the donation.  If you don't include the envelope, a receipt will not be mailed to you.

This is a great cause, and it's easy to do, folks, so pitch in!

To access this information in the future, visit my Football Page and under "HC Exclusives," click on the BBBS Tickets link.


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