Inside TSL: Creak ... Groan ...
by Will Stewart
TSL Extra, Issue #2

Without a doubt, November 27, 2000 -- the day Frank Beamer almost left for North Carolina -- was one of the more extraordinary days in TSL/HokieCentral.com history, at least when it comes to site traffic and email traffic.

As you recall, the day was one full of drama. On Sunday, November 26, barely ten hours after the UVa football game had ended the night before, Beamer jetted down to Chapel Hill to meet with representatives of North Carolina University about their head coaching job.

Later that Sunday night, all indications were that Beamer was leaving. Not only that, but if he took the UNC job, he had supposedly been given carte blanche by UNC to bring with him whomever he wanted, from assistant coaches to support staff to his strength and conditioning coaches, and even his secretary. And every source that was saying anything was indicating that Beamer was indeed gone.

Now normally, I spend all day Monday writing my analysis of the previous Saturday's football game, but I knew that on this particular week, there would be no such work going on. I knew by the time the game was over on Saturday night that Beamer was going to make his decision by Tuesday, which probably meant Monday.

So after arriving home from the game after midnight on Saturday, I stayed up until 3:00 a.m. writing my recap. That's recap -- the factual retelling of the game events -- not my analysis. I put the analysis off indefinitely, knowing that if it came at all, it would come much later in the week.

Sunday dawned, and there was very little celebrating about the win over UVa. Instead, there was nothing but fretting and worrying over what Beamer's decision was going to be. Traffic on the message board was very heavy, and just under 2,000 messages were posted for the day, about double the typical daily posting total.

Late Sunday night, the Charlotte Observer ran a story on-line that was destined for the Monday print edition of their paper. The headline was Beamer bound for UNC?, and the story proclaimed, "…three sources close to the situation said an agreement was close and could happen today."

The story presented the Beamer-to-UNC agreement as all but a done deal (there's that phrase again), although it advised caution, citing a similar turnaround by Kansas Basketball Coach Roy Williams when everyone though he would take the UNC head men's basketball coaching job.

I read the article. It seemed definite. Every source I had was telling me he was gone. But a big, big part of me just couldn't see it happening, no matter who thought it was a "done deal." The article appeared shortly after midnight that Sunday night, and knowing that things were about to get serious, I thought to myself, "Let's light this candle," and at 12:45 a.m. Sunday night/Monday morning, I posted a link to the Observer's article on the TechSideline.com home page.

I almost never post links to other articles/media outlets on the TSL home page, but I knew that when it came to the Beamer-to-UNC story, it was time to take a deep breath, pinch my nose shut, and dive in. So I posted the link, and at 1:00 a.m., I went to bed.

The next day was extraordinary.

I logged on to mass hysteria on the message board, which was rolling over faster than I have ever seen it move. Entire pages of posts were rolling off to the next page in just a matter of minutes, and I saw a number of posts that had the exact same time stamp, indicating that they were made at the same time, right down to the second.

There was no chance to keep up with the board and monitor the posts properly. I looked for obvious flames and vulgar language and let the rest of it ride. I've never seen so much raw emotion, spread out across the human spectrum of feelings, flow through a message board. There were those who ripped Beamer, those who praised him, those who spewed venom at athletic director Jim Weaver, and those who backed Weaver up and told Beamer not to let the door hit him in the backside on the way out.

In the meantime, during the morning hours, between 8 and 12 noon, I was writing an article that I never gave a title to, and it was an article that I never ran on TechSideline.com. It was four pages long, and it is still stored on my hard disk under the Microsoft Word title "BeamerLeaves.doc," and as you can tell from that file name, it was my column that was to run in the wake of Beamer's exit to UNC.

"What we had here was a good old-fashioned power struggle," the article began, "and unfortunately, Hokie fans, the bad guys won."

It is some of my finest work, I believe, and you will never see it. It told a tale of intrigue and drama, and in the end, it railed fiercely on an athletic director and an administration that would allow Frank Beamer, the very embodiment and soul of Virginia Tech football, to depart for another university.

As I was writing it, though, the news hit the message board that Beamer, Weaver, and School President Charles Steger had gotten together for a morning meeting. There was also some talk that former Tech president Paul Torgersen was involved, an indication that I took to mean that all was not lost. In the optimistic part of my heart that always believed that Beamer would stay, I took this as a sure sign that things were going to get worked out.

In the meantime, the TSL web server was having a hard time staying on its little rubber feet. The message board crashed a couple of times under the strain, but the site hosts were somehow able to keep it up, for the most part, and keep things going. I managed to fight my way through the traffic to make an early afternoon message board plea for everyone to STOP POSTING SO MUCH!! but it was to no avail. Things were way beyond anything I could control.

I later found out that the server was experiencing twice its peak design load in terms of the number of users and traffic it was getting, so it's actually pretty remarkable that it stayed up for most of the day and didn't suffer any permanent damage. I'll give you traffic statistics soon, but before then, let's return to our tale.

Around 2:30, Roanoke's Channel 7 and Channel 10 both broke into their afternoon programming to report that Virginia Tech was holding a press conference at 3:30, and that all indications were that Beamer was staying.

The tide swung on the board, the mood changing from anger and confusion to elation, but the announcement of an upcoming press conference certainly didn't do anything to slow down the traffic on the site. If anything, it increased.

I spent the hour between 2:30 and 3:30 writing a News and Notes update announcing that Beamer was staying. It was an odd reversal of fortune, but I wanted to be the first to have the news posted.

The news conference was a little late getting started, and it took until almost 3:40 for Jim Weaver to step up to the podium and announce that Frank Beamer was staying at Tech "for the future." The instant he said it, I clicked and dragged a couple of files from my local hard drive to the server, and boom, TSL had the news posted. I put an update time of 3:45 pm on the News and Notes article.

I spent the next 20 minutes watching the news conference, and when it ended at 4:00, I immediately rewound my video tape and transcribed it. Then back to my News and Notes update I went, filling out the article I had already written with more monetary details and quotes from Beamer and Weaver.

At 4:30, I tried to log on and send over the new information. There was only one problem -- my Internet Service Provider (ISP) wouldn't respond and let me log on.

Aaargh! This dragged on until about 7:00, when I was finally able to connect and send the new data over (as an aside, I had been having trouble with my ISP for weeks up until that point, and it was my inability to log on at 4:30 that day that finally led me to cancel my account with them and sign up with another ISP).

As far as news updates went, that was it for my day, but on the message board, the hysteria continued. This time it was all positive, except for the few posters who were grumbling about having lost their trust in Frank Beamer, and also except for a large contingent of Jim Weaver headhunters (who are still on the prowl to this day).

I stayed at it late into the night, monitoring the message board and posting GalaxHokie's Hokie Hotline notes -- from a show which included an appearance by Jim Weaver -- at midnight. I also wrote another article, but this time, it was saved under the file name "BeamerStays.doc." That article, which I worked on until 3:00 a.m. Monday night, wound up being titled "Destiny's Doorstep," and it ran at 11:55 Tuesday morning.

By the end of the day Tuesday, I was exhausted but too keyed up to sleep, and I wound up staying awake until 1:00 a.m. again, monitoring the aftermath on the message board. Finally, things settled back down to normal. If you can call what goes on on the TSL message board "normal."

Traffic Statistics

So exactly how busy was TechSideline.com during those three days? There are three ways I can answer that statistically, and all three ways reveal staggering amounts of traffic to the web site.

One measurement is the email that I receive. I get about 40 or 50 emails in a typical day, and on that Monday, I received 126 emails in my in-box.

As for page views on the web site and message board (MB) posts, here are the totals for that Monday-Tuesday time period:

Statistic

Ave. Day

Sun. 11/26

Mon. 11/27

Tues. 11/38

MB Posts

1,000

1,966

4,424

1,738

Page Views

120,000

280,141

606,637

215,364

Note: a page view is recorded each time someone reads a message board post or an article on the TSL web site.

To give you some idea of the magnitude of traffic on those three days, TSL had never received over 200,000 pages views in any given day. The previous record was 189,687 on Monday, October 30th, the Monday after the Pitt game. But on the three days that surrounded Beamer's announcement, the 200,000 page view figure was exceeded all three times, and the Monday statistic tripled it.

As an aside, TSL would exceed 200,000 page views yet again shortly thereafter, totaling 222,889 page views on Monday, December 4th -- the day after the BCS snub.

And lastly, my bed times for the four-day stretch from Saturday to Tuesday were 3:00 a.m., 1:00 a.m., 3:00 a.m., and 1:00 a.m.

I will never forget the intensity of those three days, Sunday, November 26th through Tuesday, November 28th, 2000. I don't think that it's overstating it to say that the very future of the Virginia Tech athletics programs hinged upon the events of those few days, and for someone like me, who makes my living covering Virginia Tech athletics and only Virginia Tech athletics, I was exhilarated, apprehensive, and everything in between.

And now, I'm just glad it's over.

-- Will

 

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