Inside TSL
by Will Stewart
TSL Extra, Issue #1

Inside TSL: the inside story at what's going on at your favorite web site. At least, we hope it's your favorite web site.

"Here Comes Bama"

Without a doubt, one of the most interesting things that happened to me this past month was an interview I did on the Paul Finebaum radio show in Birmingham, Alabama. Finebaum does a radio sports talk show every day from 3:00-7:00 central time on WERC in Birmingham.

For some reason, Finebaum's producer decided to email me on October 31st and ask if I was interested in appearing on the show for about ten minutes. Sure, I said (granted, there aren't a lot of Hokies in Birmingham, Alabama, but I love being on the radio and always say yes, given the opportunity).

Why in the world would a radio show in Alabama want me on the air? Well, I can't answer the question of why the webmaster of an independent web site would be an attractive guest to them, but I can tell you what they wanted to talk about: the Beamer-to-Alabama rumors that were making the rounds at the time, and still are, as of November 15th.

First, some background: in an article that appeared on Thursday, October 26th in The Tuscaloosa News, sports editor Cecil Hurt dropped this little bombshell in an article about Alabama football, and the impending opening in the head coaching job: "It is a fact that a Virginia Tech assistant coach with local ties has contacted prominent Alabama boosters and proclaimed Frank Beamer's interest in the (Alabama head coaching) job."

I don't put much stock in what Mr. Hurt said, but if it were true, the assistant coach in question could be either tight ends/offensive tackles Coach Danny Pearman, who coached at Bama from 1990-1997, or defensive backfield coach Lorenzo Ward, who played at Alabama from 1986-1990 and was a gradate assistant coach there from 1991-1993.

On Monday, October 30th, one day before I appeared on Finebaum's radio show, Beamer shot the rumors down on his weekly Hokie Hotline radio show by saying, " … that is just absolutely crazy, it's just crazy. Sounds like somebody wants to screw up a good recruiting year for Virginia Tech. I don't know where it came from. I have no desire to leave Virginia Tech."

So the stage was set. Beamer had denied any interest in the job, but without knowing this, Finebaum wanted to talk to me about it. And the resulting conversation provided me with an interesting look at the situation from another perspective, namely, the Alabama one.

Finebaum started out by asking me what I had heard, and I relayed to him that Beamer had shot down the rumor on his radio show just the night before. I also told him about Beamer's quote from last year or the year before, when after flirting with yet another head coaching opportunity, he said words to the effect that Virginia Tech would be his "last college coaching job." That was a statement that most observers agreed ruled out another college job, but not a possible NFL job.

Finebaum didn't really seem to want to hear that, because it indicated that Beamer would not be interested in the soon-to-be-vacant Alabama head coaching job, and therefore, our conversation was essentially over, less than a minute in.

So he took a different tack, asking me about Beamer's contract. "He makes about $500,000 a year in total compensation," I said, "plus, if I'm remembering correctly, he has two separate one million dollar annuities that are his if he stays at Virginia Tech until 2005. So he definitely has a financial carrot at the end of the stick to stay here."

"Well, that's no problem," Finebaum countered, "because Alabama could hire him at a million or a million-five per year and easily make that up. Plus, they can add in their own annuity."

I couldn't argue that, and I conceded that SEC schools and Big Ten schools definitely have much deeper pockets than Virginia Tech does. "But why would Beamer leave?" I asked. "He walks on water here. The team could go 1-10, and no one would question him. They would question his assistant coaches, the players, the administration, and even the fan base, before they would question him. He's got it made at Virginia Tech, and what he has done here is very special to him," implying that it's not all about the money to Frank Beamer.

Regarding Beamer's statement about having no desire to leave Virginia Tech, Finebaum said that he had been lied to so many times by so many coaches that he had difficulty believing what any of them said anymore. I didn't really respond to that, except to say "You never know. But typically, in the past, when he has checked out other head coaching jobs, Beamer's statements have been very carefully worded to leave certain possibilities open. He uses statements like, 'at this time,' or 'my last college job,' that allow you to read between the lines. For him to say he's not interested in leaving, with no qualifiers, is a pretty emphatic statement for him."

I told Finebaum about Beamer's last contract renegotiation, in which he got pay raises for some of his assistants and got the second annuity added to his contract. "At the time, based on that and based on statements made by Beamer, it was generally perceived that that was that, and the matter was closed once and for all."

"And now," Finebaum replied, "here comes Bama."

And all I could think was, "This guy's not listening to me."

I kept my mouth shut, though, and didn't respond to that statement. I could have stated that to Finebaum on the radio that day, but I thought about the Alabama audience that was listening. Their likely response would have been, "Well, isn't that cute? The little Hokie thinks we can't steal away his coach by waving Alabama tradition and a boatload of money in his face. He actually thinks you can take some guys at their word. How quaint."

But, yeah, that's what I think. I think they can't steal away our coach by waving Alabama tradition and a boatload of money in his face. And yeah, I do take him at his word.

Since that day, despite repeated pronouncements of "I have no desire to leave Virginia Tech," the rumor has not completely died down, but it does appear that all that will arise from it is renegotiated contracts for Beamer and his assistants. As of the date I wrote this article (November 15th), I truly believe that Frank Beamer will not leave for Alabama. So remember to read my recounting of my conversation with Finebaum in its proper context, given that it took place over two weeks ago.


The Origin of "TechSideline.com"

As you know, TechSideline.com was HokieCentral.com for four and a half years, until a request from the Virginia Tech Licensing Department to prohibit the use of "hokie(s)" and "virginiatech" in web site domain names necessitated a change. I had figured this was coming for years, and to be honest, I'm finally glad that it's over with and that HC has a new name that I like. It's going to take a little getting used to, but I like TSL.

I first heard the web site name TechSideline.com the day of Virginia Tech's 1999 football game against Pittsburgh, and I liked it the first time I heard it.

I was sitting on the upper deck of a friend's houseboat in Pittsburgh. There were about six of us gathered around, and we were having "The Name Discussion," as I like to call it. That's the discussion I had many, many times with many different people about whether or not HokieCentral.com should change its name, why it might have to, and what it should change to.

These discussions usually consisted of at least couple dozen names being thrown out, most of which were completely unusable or already taken. But the name suggestions would occur only after a (usually long) talk about why in the world the name would be changed, whether or not Tech had the right to request a name change, and whether or not I should fight it when the time came.

Once I could navigate someone through that part of the discussion and convince them that a name change might one day be necessary or desired, then we could commence with the suggestions for new names.

I pretty much wore myself out going through dozens and dozens of names on my own and hadn't come up with any that I liked. I had some decent candidates, but not any real winners.

Coming up with a new name for HC was a tough job. Names using "hokie(s)" or "virginiatech" were off limits (I assumed that, even before the cease-and-desist letter), and I personally didn't want to use anything involving "turkey" or "gobbler" in the name, because it's awfully hard to be taken seriously when the name of your web site is something like turkeytalk.com or gobblertalk.com.

I had made my mind up to use a domain name with the word "Tech" in it, and that, my friends, is a difficult proposition. Due to the hand-in-glove nature of the relationship between technology and the Internet, domain names that used "tech" in them were mostly taken. The easiest and best names -- techathletics.com and techsports.com -- were long gone, of course.

So here I was, engaged in the Name Discussion again with a group of guys, some of whom were HokieCentral diehards, and others of whom barely ever looked at the site.

"How about TechSideline.com?" my buddy Matt Mayfield, the owner of the houseboat, threw in. Matt's not that much of a sports fan, Tech or otherwise, but he enjoys a challenge and was participating fully in the discussion.

I nodded. That was one I had never thought of. "I like it," I said, "but I think it might be too football-centric. HC is an all-sports web site."

"Nah," somebody else said. "Basketball courts have sidelines, don’t they? Soccer fields, lacrosse fields…"

"Hmm," I noted, and filed it away. I liked it, but I wasn't sure it would work.

Much time passed, and there was still a full year's worth of wondering to go through about The Name. Last November, we almost changed it to DrillField.com, and this past summer, I came within an eyelash of changing it to OandMSports.com, but decided to stick with HokieCentral.com at the last second.

Many of you have asked why I never pulled the trigger on OandMSports.com, and what made me change my mind and decide at the last second not to go with it. Last summer, HC's parent company was applying most of the pressure to change the name at that time -- Virginia Tech hadn't said a word to me. Without going into too much detail, let's just say that some personnel changes occurred at the parent company, and I decided to take control of the issue again and put it off.

And of course, in a letter dated October 2nd, the Virginia Tech Licensing Department requested that I make the name change by November 15th, 2000. The exact wording was " … we must ask you to stop using hokiecentral.com …" which is about as vague as you can get; am I still allowed to forward hokiecentral.com to my new domain name? Does that qualify as "using it"?

By the time request was made by Virginia Tech to change the name, the domain name TechSideline.com had emerged from obscurity to be my personal favorite. Finally, with the help of a home page poll that also included some other options, I settled on TechSideline.com and went with it. Here's how the voting came out in the poll:

TechSideline.com

33.1%

TechSportsJournal.com

26.7%

DrillField.com

19.9%

MaroonPride.com

11.5%

OandMSports.com

7.7%

VictoryRow.com

1.1%

Note: 3214 votes cast

Not only was TechSideline.com my favorite choice, but it was the readers' favorite choice also.

So finally, after literally years of wondering and anticipation, the change has been made. I can't begin to tell you how glad I am to put this all behind me. When something hangs over your head for a long time, it's nice when it finally goes away.

I like the name, because being on the sidelines implies that you're as close to the action as you can be without actually getting into the game (unless you're a referee, but TechRef.com sounded like a dumb name for the new HokieCentral). The irony, of course, is that with Virginia Tech's refusal to grant press credentials to the web site, they have succeeded in keeping HokieCentral, and now TechSideline, on the sidelines and "out of the game."

So you could almost say that the name works on two levels.

Lastly, my buddy Matt logged onto the web site the other day from Slovenia, where he lives now -- I kid you not -- and was surprised to see that the name of the site had been changed to the name he suggested long ago, on that day in Pittsburgh on his houseboat.

The houseboat is long-gone, not being seaworthy enough to make a trans-Atlantic trip, but Matt's suggestion for a name will live on. He had this to say:

"I find it ironic that the guy that came up with the name of your site is probably the one that reads it the least. We don't hear much about Virginia Tech football here in Slovenia, unfortunately, and I just check in with your site every once in a while.

"And just to make it official, I, Matt Mayfield, hereby release all rights to the name TechSideline.com for the promise of one beer sometime in the future."

Sure, Matt, the beer is yours. Just send the bill to the Tech Licensing Department.

-- Will

 

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