The Hokie Hotline (football and basketball season)
When: every Monday from 7:00-8:30
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Tech Talk Tuesday (football season only)
January 28, 2002
Mondayís Hokie Hotline featured a variety of guests on a number of different topics, from Athletic Director Jim Weaver on various football-related topics to former Hokie and current St. Louis Ram Nick Sorensen on the upcoming Super Bowl in New Orleans. Coach Ricky Stokes spoke on his menís basketball team, and Connecticut radio announcer Joe DíAmbrosio (sp?) joined Bill Roth very briefly at the end of the show.
Jim Weaver was the first guest on the program, and the first subject that he discussed was the recently-released schedule -- one which he said was as strong as any that Tech has had. The schedule includes 12 games with a potential for a 13th game that could be added in the near future. It also features seven home games, a Sunday game against LSU, two Thursday games (one home and one away), a Wednesday game against West Virginia in November, and games against five teams that finished in the top 25 last season, national champion Miami, Sugar Bowl and SEC champion LSU, Boston College, Syracuse, and Marshall.
Weaver explained that moving the LSU game from Saturday to Sunday was initiated by ABC in a letter to both Virginia Tech and LSU. In the letter, ABC advised that they were prepared to televise three games on Saturday and one each on Sunday and Monday of Labor Day weekend. If the two schools agreed to move the game to Sunday, ABC promised to guarantee that the game would be broadcast to a national TV audience. Weaver explained that this not only guaranteed $250,000 from the national TV exposure, but ensured that the Virginia TV audience would not have to be split on Saturday in the event that the Florida State-Virginia game was held at the same time.
On the Thursday Marshall game, Weaver admitted that he was late to jump on the Thursday night bandwagon due to travel concerns for the Tech fans, but that the feedback he had received from fans was that they enjoyed home night games, and Thursday night games as well. He also echoed some of ESPNís comment about the electric atmosphere of a home game in Blacksburg. He pointed out that there had been no home night games during the 2001 season, but that there had been three Thursday games during the previous two seasons combined.
Weaver also gave a number of reasons behind moving the West Virginia game to a Wednesday night. These included scheduling considerations for both schools, the Thanksgiving break for the students and the guarantee of another nationally televised game for the Hokies. For Tech, it was a chance to spread out the games between the Syracuse and Virginia games, and for West Virginia, it was a chance to avoid having eight home games in a row. West Virginia didnít want to play the game on November 16, and Tech didnít want to play it on November 23 because of the Virginia game. Weaver also claimed that the travel requirements were the same for a Wednesday night game as for a Thursday night game, since the fans would have to travel two days during the week for either game. He also said that he didnít want to face a big rivalry game like West Virginia without the students in town. Later in the program, he said that the Wednesday night game would likely be a one-time shot for Tech.
In regards to the potential 13th game that might be added to the schedule, Weaver said that they were currently in discussions, and that he hoped that it would be wrapped up later this week. The conditions of the game are that it would have to be played in Blacksburg, and that it would be against a non-BCS conference team. The key reason given for the addition of a 13th game was the chance to play a game before playing LSU the following week. Also given as another reason was the fact that it provided better odds of qualifying for a bowl game, since it provides an extra game but still only requires seven wins to qualify. As required by the promoter, the tickets will be a part of the season ticket package, but Weaver said that he doesnít think that sticker shock from the fans will come into play, since the ticket prices are still below what it would cost in the SEC or Big Ten.
Weaver answered an e-mail regarding the scheduling of JMU in football by saying that itís a matter of economics. He said that the NCAA has allowed Division I-A teams to play a Division I-AA team every four years, and that Tech has done so with JMU for 1999 and 2003. He pointed out that, among other things, JMU will buy tickets and send fans to Blacksburg for the games. He said that Syracuse, Boston College and Miami had never bought more than 800 tickets for any of the games in Blacksburg since he came to Tech. He also gave a list of Division I-A schools that donít want to play Virginia Tech. The list includes Kentucky, Indiana, Duke, Wake Forest, Navy and Maryland.
A member of the audience asked about the status of construction for the south end zone seats, and whether they would be ready for a preseason game if it came to pass. Weaver said that construction was ahead of schedule, and that the construction team had been advised of the potential for this game. He also said that fundraising for the project is going well. Two-thirds of the Touchdown Terrace seats have been sold, 35% of the Zone Club seats have been sold and about 100 of the 1160 Goal Line Stands seats have been sold. Also, eight or nine of the luxury suites have been contracted, and approximately $12 million of the required $15 million for the project has been raised.
Weaver repeated that he would prefer that the contractor remain on site and move over to the construction for the west side, but that to do that would require completing the fundraising for the south stands and raising an additional $12-15 million for the west side in the next few months. He said that the naming rights were still available, and that it could be named the Bill Roth Complex, Lane Stadium, Worsham Field for a donation from Roth of $10-15 million. Roth said he would gladly give the first $15 million of a $20 million raise. There was no word on whether that offer was accepted.
A caller asked some specific questions about the athletic budget at Virginia Tech, which led to a more in-depth series of questions from Roth. Weaver said that the Tech athletic budget was in the neighborhood of $23 million, which would be at the bottom among the top 25 football schools and probably second in the Big East behind Miami and close to West Virginia.
Roth and Weaver briefly discussed the fact that several schools, including Syracuse and Georgia, were having difficulty with football scheduling for next season. Weaver offered several possible reasons and said that it would be a very difficult thing financially for the schools if they couldnít schedule the right mix of home and away games during a 12 game schedule.
In other Big East scheduling, Miami plays Syracuse and Tech plays Virginia during the week before the Tech-Miami game. Weaver said that was coordinated by the conference after the original 2001 schedule featured an open week for both schools the week before that game this past season.
Another member of the audience asked about the status of the practice fields and Worsham Field. Weaver said that the practice fields played as well as expected and that bluegrass usually takes two years to fully grow. The stadium grass, he said, performed beyond expectations, but when Roth asked about the possibility of painting the field for 2002, Weaver wouldnít commit.
Weaver said his schedule for the next few weeks includes fundraising, watching the various Tech teams play, and attending the womenís auction. The womenís auction supports the teamís overseas trip, which they schedule every few years. Tickets are still available.
Bill Roth began Coach Stokesís portion of the program by pointing out that the team continues to improve, but that it isnít being reflected in the won-loss record. Stokes said that he continues to be pleased with the effort and the attitude among the players. He said that he and the team continue to bring a positive attitude to each game and they feel that if they continue to play hard that the breaks will eventually go their way. He pointed out that Tech has been playing good teams, including two top ten teams on the road, and that some of the problems that had plagued the team in the beginning of the year, such as turnovers, have been some of the areas of improvement.
Roth pointed out that Bryant Matthews has stepped up his offensive game over the past few games after struggling in December and early January. Stokes pointed out that his rebounding and defense had always been there, but that it was important for him to step up his scoring as well. He said that it was important for Matthews to continue to have confidence in his game.
Regarding Carlos Dixon and the fact that he didnít start the Syracuse game, Stokes said that he was looking at different things on the floor in an effort to improve the teamís play. He said that this included moving Brian Chase away from the point position in an effort to take advantage of his shooting. He also wanted to improve the scoring potential off the bench.
Stokes gave several reasons why the team has been able to keep playing as a unit despite their record. He said that they were all a year older and more mature, that despite the fact that thereís still room for improvement the team is much closer to winning games than they were a year ago, and that the seniors and the captains were providing good leadership.
Villanova is Techís next opponent on the road Wednesday. Stokes said that the key to the game will be to do a much better job guarding Gary Buchanan, who scored 34 points against Tech in their last meeting at Cassell Coliseum. He said the coaches were breaking down tapes to look for tendencies that they could use. Stokes said that Tech also needs to handle Ricky Wright inside, shoot the ball better, apply pressure and shoot free throws.
Former Hokie and current St. Louis Ram Nick Sorensen joined the program from New Orleans, where his team will play in the Super Bowl on Sunday against the New England Patriots. He said that heís staying in the same hotel that the Hokies used for the Sugar Bowl in 1999-2000, and that he feels comfortable with the surroundings from that game. He said that there is more media present, but that otherwise he just hopes that the outcome will be different.
Sorensen chronicled his past few months, which Roth described as "whirlwind." Sorensen said that he went to Miami as a free agent, but was cut prior to the final preseason game. He then went back to his old high school to work out and coach before receiving an invitation to work out for the Redskins five or six weeks later. Next, he worked out for the Rams, and signed onto their practice squad for 4 weeks before becoming a full member of the team for the final eight games of the season. He said that he played in seven of those games and has participated in each of the playoff games. He said that he participated anywhere that they needed him for practice, including at wide receiver, where he was able to catch the eyes of the coaching staff, who eventually gave him a shot at a special teams position.
On the NFC Championship Game against Philadelphia, in which the Rams went into halftime trailing, he said that everyone went into the locker room realizing that they needed to calm down. He said no one panicked, and that they came out of the locker room a different team than the one that went in. About his fumble recovery, he said a lot of his teammates told him, "good awareness," but that he just happened to be in the right place at the right time when the ball came loose.
On his long-term status with the Rams, Sorensen said that the coaching staff says positive things about him and that he likes the organization and wants to stay. In the beginning, he said he took it very much day-to-day because he wanted to show the coaches what he could do, but that now he senses that they want to keep him around. Roth added that he had always done what needed to be done, both at Tech and with the Rams, and that he was "a testament to what hard work can do." He wished him luck in the Super Bowl and assured him that a lot of Tech fans would be rooting for him on Sunday.
-- Apex Hokie