Inside TSL: Short Takes
by Will Stewart, TechSideline.com
TSL Extra, Issue #9

Like last month's "Inside TSL," here's a smorgasbord of topics of interest with regards to TechSideline.com. Let's start with a letter to the editor about last month's TSL Extra.

Letter to the Editor: Memories of the Coliseum

Will:

When Cassell Coliseum opened in 1961 I was a sophomore at Virginia Tech and The Coliseum (it was not called Cassell at the time) was a very big thing on campus. I was surprised to read in TSL Extra that the attendance figures were not higher (back then); I always thought the Coliseum was filled to the rafters. In thinking it through, Tech's 1961/62 enrollment was only about 5500 students or so, the faculty was smaller, and the surrounding towns less populated. Interstate highways like Route 81 were not yet completed, so I think that attendance in the 6000 - 6999 range was probably comparable to 10,000 or more today (if just half of today's students came to the games, Cassell would be sold out).

The biggest basketball game I ever attended at Tech was against West Virginia in 1962. The Mountaineers were a national power back then, just a few years removed from the Jerry West team that played California for the national title. Moreover, WVU had refused for a number of years to play at Tech due to our antiquated War Memorial Gym. WVU's top player then was Rod Thorn, now an NBA official, and I believe the 'Neers were rated in the National Top Ten.

The crowd that night arrived early and the noise level was unbelievable. By the time the warm-up drills started, the place was in a frenzy, and it remained that way the entire game. Tech trailed early and then caught fire, leading by as many as 21 points in the second half. WVU fought back with a tenacious full court press and as Tech continued to turn the ball over, the 'Neers came back. We were all hanging on the edge of our seats, but with a few seconds remaining, Tech held a lead and allowed WVU to score an uncontested lay-up that ran out the clock and preserved the Tech victory.

Bill Brill, the Roanoke Times columnist who covered Tech at the time, wrote that this was the loudest sustained noise level he had ever heard at a basketball game. We supported Tech basketball very well in that era and saw some exciting games! I can only hope the future will be brighter and that basketball will emulate the success of the football program.

Larry Forsyth, Class of 1964

Okay, so Maybe We Went Overboard

We held a company review of the TSL Extra recently, and the feedback from my compadres was clear: the TSLX, they said, was too big and too numbers-oriented. Waaaaay too much statistical analysis, and too much bloat.

In fairness, the issue that was reviewed was last issue, which was indeed rather heavy on the numbers. Each article of the "Money Makers" series was by nature large and very numbers-intensive. Last issue also included a regular "Inside the Numbers" feature, and I also added in some web sites stats in "Inside TSL."

In total, all the numbers that were thrown at you in recent months could get a little tedious and hard to wade through. Most of the overkill was the result of the ongoing "Money Makers" series. I had my choice about how in-depth I wanted to make those articles, and I decided to make them lengthy, with a lot of data included. Do I expect you to read and absorb all of the data in those articles? Not really -- but if you need a good reference for finances in college athletics, you now have one. So make sure you know what's in the articles, and if need be, you can go back to them to pull out data to amaze your friends when the subject comes up.

But beyond all the numerical data and statistical analysis that goes into your typical TSLX, there lies a larger theme: the TSLX has possibly become a little bloated. In my zeal to pack as much as possible into each issue, I have created 45- and 50-page monsters that might be too large to be fully appreciated. Your typical person doesn't necessarily have the time it takes to absorb articles that are often ten pages long or longer, particularly when there are a lot of facts and figures in the articles.

Most people prefer shorter, more compact articles that contain quotes from at least one person who is knowledgeable on the subject being covered. Readers also like personal profiles that teach them about a person involved in Tech athletics.

Therein lies the catch-22, and the reason why I think the TSLX has become numbers-heavy: without access to the Tech athletic department, it is very difficult for us to do personal profiles and interviews. A large chunk of the subject matter -- current coaches, players, and administrators -- has been closed off to us due to the VT athletic department policy of not allowing the TSL Extra to interview anyone associated with Tech athletics. So we tend to rely on statistical analysis a lot.

The lack of access to the VT athletic department limits us severely but doesnít choke us off entirely. There are still large numbers of people we can interview, most notably recruits and their coaches, former Tech players, and people at Virginia Tech in departments other than the athletic department.

Hence the flavor of this month's issue. It has a great recruiting profile on Montavis Pitts (one that I think rivals the KJ interview from issue #5 -- nothing will ever beat that, but the Pitts article comes close, I think). We've also got an interview with Licensing Director Locke White that contains more interesting material than I would have thought possible when discussing a subject that can be dry. Jim Alderson wrote an in-depth "look back" article at the 1990 UVa game that admittedly would have been more complete with some quotes from players who played in the game; we'll work on that in the future, if we do an article like that again. Lastly, there are two opinion pieces about the issue of a playoff in college football.

All in all, it adds up to an issue that is much less numbers-oriented than previous TSL Extras, so tell me what you think. Send me your thoughts, so we can use your opinions to guide future issues of the TSLX.

Don't worry, though -- "Inside the Numbers," one of my favorite TSL Extra features, will be back next issue. It will be a mainstay for as long as I can continue to come up with new ideas. And this issue only has six articles (not counting the letter from the editor), instead of the usual seven. We'll bump the article count back up next month. We're one article low this month because everybody, including me, was on vacation at some point!

One more note: if you're reading this on-line, and you haven't downloaded the PDF version, you really ought to check out the PDF. It's got a new format that is really sharp. I'll work on updating the on-line format next month.

And yet another note: if you think that TechSideline.com ought to be granted access to the Tech athletic department (it would greatly improve your TSL Extra subscription, I assure you), I encourage you to make your thoughts known to the president of the university, Charles W. Steger. Write him a hardcopy letter (not an email) and send it to: Charles W. Steger, President Virginia Tech, 210 Burruss Hall, Blacksburg, VA 24061.

Status on Some Items of Recent Interest

Here's the latest on some things I have mentioned in previous issues of the TSL Extra:

Giving the TSL Extra as a gift -- the programmers have a preliminary version of this set up in TechLocker.com. We just have to review it and get it ready for launch, which should happen in the next couple of weeks. Once it's done, you'll be able to go into TechLocker.com and give the TSLX as a gift to as many as four different people simultaneously. There is a way you can give the TSLX as a gift already, but it's really convoluted, because you have to basically execute the transaction as if you're the other person, but use your credit card info instead of theirs. That's a pain, and the new "give as gift" feature will make the process much easier.

Giving anything from TechLocker.com as a gift -- we've got a couple of ways we're going to implement the "give as gift" functionality into our store. Number one is an electronic gift certificate: you buy the gift certificate on-line with your credit card, in any dollar amount, and specify the email address of a person to send the gift certificate to. They get an email notification of the gift with a special code that can be used to get credit for their gift certificate when they buy something at TechLocker.com.

The second way we'll implement the "give as gift" functionality is to provide you with a way to buy something from TechLocker.com, enter the recipient's shipping information, and type a note that will be packed along with the gift. This is the Amazon.com way of doing it, although we don't plan to offer gift-wrapping, like they do.

Those are projects that are not imminent but will be done in time for the Christmas shopping season. Until then, you can always send a gift to someone else by simply entering their name and shipping info when you go shopping. In that instance, it's your responsibility to let them know that a gift is on the way.

New TSL logo -- in last month's TSL Extra, I told you that I would soon be presenting you with four options for new TSL logos, so you could vote on your favorite. I fully planned on doing that, but at the last minute, our company president, who had presented numerous designs that I didn't care for all that much, came through with one that I really liked.

It's simple, clean, and works well in all the applications we need it for: web page headers, T-shirts, embroidered items, hats, etc. Am I going to show it to you? Not yet, but pretty soon, we'll have a new web page header up on TSL that utilizes the new logo.

Soon, we'll work on some T-shirt, hat, and golf shirt designs. It has been nearly two years since we offered HokieCentral.com apparel, and we have never offered TSL items, so it'll be nice to be able to offer some web site apparel. It will also be interesting to see how well it sells, to finally find out if there's pent-up demand for it, or if the emails I occasionally receive on the subject are just a very small smattering of people with interest.

Nike Football Jerseys Coming to TechLocker.com

We have finally found what appears to be a reliable source for the Nike replica jerseys, and we'll begin carrying them in TechLocker.com soon. We have placed orders for dozens of jerseys, and although our buyer is reluctant to commit to a date, we're optimistic that we'll have some jerseys available at TechLocker.com before the home opener against UConn on September 1st.

We're going to carry some #7 (Vick) jerseys and some #22 (you-know-who) jerseys. The Vick jerseys are from last year and are no longer being manufactured, so they'll be in limited supply. Our supplier just happened to have some packed away in his warehouse and was pleased that we were interested in them. Unfortunately, we'll only be able to get our hands on some XL's, but that's better than none, and XL's will work for a large percentage of people.

The #22 jerseys are what Nike is manufacturing this year, for the upcoming season. Unlike the Vick jerseys, the #22 jerseys will come in white as well as maroon, so if white is your fancy, you'll be able to get it. We are keeping the white quantities low, though -- we're ordering four maroons for every white jersey. The good news on the #22 jerseys is that we'll be able to carry sizes Medium through XX-Large.

Subscription Totals

Someone asked me to bring you up to date on the number of TSLX subscribers, and as I write this on Monday, July 16, we have 914 subscribers. Subscriptions have slowed to a crawl in the last couple of months, as May and June saw only 96 new subscribers come on board (and through July 16, only 19 new subscribers have signed up in July, barely more than one per day).

I noticed that the TSLX "buzz" on the message board -- and therefore sales -- died down significantly the past couple of months, despite the fact that web site traffic has been steadily increasing throughout the spring and summer. The decline in sales and interest (more than the company review I talked about above) indicated to me that the content needed some reevaluation, and it also led to the revamping of the PDF format into something snazzier.

I also think that last issue's cover wasn't very eye-catching, but this issue's cover, with the photo of Montavis Pitts, is. I'll be watching this month's sales figures and message board buzz closely to see if we're headed in the right direction, but I have a feeling that things will pick up. If we can get the "send as gift" function for the TSLX launched by August 1st, as the programmers are telling me, that should give sales a little shot in the arm, too. I'd like to hit 1,000 subscribers by the time issue #10 is launched next month, so again, help spread the word.

It Depends Upon Whom You Talk To

Recently, in an article about the defensive backs out on the free area of the web site, I dropped this little nugget about one of our incoming true freshmen:

And via email comes this little tidbit: the coaches think incoming recruit DeAngelo Hall has the physical build of a Rover, and they may give him a look there this fall.

I immediately received an email from one of my best contacts that said that Bryan Stinespring, who recruited Hall, is dead-sold on Hall at cornerback. Stinespring thinks that Hall is an Ike Charlton clone, but faster, stronger, and more aggressive than Charlton was at the same point in his career. In short, the prototypical cornerback. There's no way he moves to Rover, said this source.

So who was my Hall-to-Rover source? It was an individual who had talked to Bud Foster. According to this source, Foster told him that he (Foster) thinks that Hall has prototypical size and speed for a Rover, and he was going to give him a two-week look at the position when camp opens.

Given all that, who knows what's going to happen with Hall? One thing is for sure, when it comes to deciding who is going to play where, Bud Foster, the defensive coordinator, has more authority over defensive players than Bryan Stinespring does. But by the same token, Virginia Tech's defense relies heavily on the cornerbacks, so if Hall is that good in coverage, I think Foster (or whoever makes the decision) will want to leave Hall at CB.

I tell this story to illustrate that the coaches very often are not on the same page. They like to blame fans (and the Internet) for spreading misinformation, but in this case, you can clearly see that the thoughts of both coaches have been relayed directly to me by the individuals they spoke with. Assuming that both sources quoted the respective coaches correctly, then both sources are right Ö even though they disagree.

The next time you hear a fun rumor, remember that coaches donít always agree on things, and they can even change their minds. It makes no difference to me, because it's fun to hear this stuff, and in this case, it's harmless.

A Smattering of Topics

I love the Lounge Board -- now that it has been around for a few weeks, I have to say that the "Lounge" board, which is wide-open for discussions on any topic, is an unqualified success. It's a pleasure to see people discussing goofy, irreverent, or even serious topics that have nothing to do with Virginia Tech sports, and not getting slammed for discussing non-Tech related items on a Tech sports board. In the past, there was a lot of tension behind the issue of "off-topic" posts appearing on the sports boards, and that tension has almost entirely evaporated.

TSL is looking for sponsors and advertisers -- something we don't make much noise about, but that I would like to promote, is that TSL has great opportunities available for sponsors and advertisers. We've got anything from long-term sponsorship opportunities to short-term advertising opportunities available, so whether your company is large or small, drop us a line and let us know what your advertising needs are. We'll see if we can set you up with something that meets your needs and drives traffic to your business at a price you can afford. TSL's reach is large and wide, and if you've got something Hokie fans want to buy, you couldn't pick a better place to advertise it.

Write a TSLX Letter to the Editor! -- send us an email with your thoughts about anything in the TSL Extra, and we'll print it in a future edition. We've gotten a couple of good ones lately, including the one from Larry Forsyth at the beginning of this "Inside TSL" article.

Football season is right around the corner. See you next month!

 

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