It's Official: You HATE the Football Schedule
by Will Stewart, TechSideline.com, 1/5/97
Here's one from the "That's-No-Surprise" Department: the emails I received concerning the football schedule were unanimously - without exception - critical. The opinion most often expressed, and rightly so, was "How in the heck are we going to get anybody in the country to respect us if we're playing UAB?"
Tech recently had an opportunity to play Auburn in an early season, made-for-ESPN, Thursday night game. The game would have been at the beginning of next season (1997). Dave Braine and Frank Beamer took a look at the deal and gave it a thumbs down. At the time, Auburn was better than they were this past year, and Beamer and Braine were still smarting from an early-season loss to BC in 1995.
In that scenario, Tech had moved a game up to the beginning of the year for TV, and after everything was set, BC proceeded to go and sign up for one of the two "Classic" games, against Ohio State. That meant that BC already had a game under their belts when they rolled into Blacksburg, and you remember the result. Tech lost to an inferior Eagles team. It was a loss that cost us the outright Big East championship, and it was a loss that almost cost us an Alliance Bowl.
In the Auburn scenario, the game apparently also fell at a bad time - like right before the anticipated Syracuse game date (you'll notice in the schedule, printed here in the last update, that we have an open date there). Braine and Beamer, not wanting to compromise Tech's conference schedule, shot down the Auburn opportunity. ESPN took it to UVa, and the Hoos jumped on it. They will now play Auburn on ESPN early next year, instead of Tech, because if there's one thing UVa knows how to do, it's take advantage of chances to play big-name teams on national TV.
"What are Those Guys Thinking???"
Now, I'm about to tell you something, and let me be very clear on this: I don't agree with what I'm about to say, I'm just explaining it. I got into an email discussion with a Hokie Central reader named Bob Pettit about this, and here's what I told him I thought Braine's and Beamer's scheduling philosophy is:
Regarding the Tech football schedule, Dave Braine knows darn good and well how Hokie fans feel. I listened to the Tech call-in show all year long, and every week, two questions were asked:
I'm not kidding - those two questions were asked every single show, almost to the point where it was comical.
Here is Dave Braine's philosophy: he wants to go to a bowl every year, and he accomplishes this by building in three guaranteed wins out of conference and leaving it up to the Hokies to finish fourth or higher in conference. Period. It's a formula that works and will continue to work. He is basically guaranteeing 6 or more wins a year for the Hokies, and we will continue to go to bowls when we win like that. We go to a bowl based on where we finish in the Big East conference, not based on whether or not we played Auburn earlier in the year on ESPN on Thursday night.
Look at it from Braine's perspective - he's concerned about money. About building up the facilities and paying for all the Title IX baggage that has been hung around his neck like an albatross. The new softball field, for example, cost $500,000. Half a million bucks.
Braine's got serious bills to pay, and he could give a rat's butt about whether or not some ignorant sportswriter out West thinks the Hokies are a "good team." If he builds in 6 or 7 wins a year, we will continue to go to bowls, and we will continue to make money. "Respect" doesn't pay the bills necessary to finish off the Merryman Center.
You could argue that a better schedule will make more money by filling seats and by bringing in money from TV appearances, but the Hokies are already doing pretty well in those two departments. Braine has made up his mind to do what he's doing, and he's not going to change his mind, despite the fact that Hokie fans plead for him improve the schedule constantly.
So What Can We Do About It?
So there it is. Like me, I'm sure you hate playing teams like Arkansas State and Alabama-Birmingham. It's boring. By the time the ECU game rolled around this year, I was so bored with beating the hell out of Temple, SW Louisiana, et al, that I couldn't see straight. I think one of the reasons that the team played so well in November is that they were thrilled to finally have a challenge.
Anyway, now that you've heard what I think is going on in Braine's brain, it's up to you to talk to him if you don't like it. As a matter of fact, I encourage you to. Write him a letter and say, "Even if it costs us a bowl game, I think it's essential for Tech to upgrade the out of conference schedule," or better yet, say, "I live in South Carolina, and if Tech's out of conference schedule was better, I would come to more games or buy season tickets." Talk to Dave Braine's wallet, and he may listen.
Scheduling the likes of Bowling Green and Akron was fine when we were trying to build a winning tradition. Well, the fact is, the tradition is built, and it's time to upgrade the schedule. Telling me, Hokie Central, won't get that done, though. You've got to go to the man with control over the situation.
(Don't get the impression that I'm complaining, though. I asked for the input, and I appreciate all of the email I got on the subject.)