From a financial standpoint, Virginia Tech athletics have been fortunate to ride a series of significant events that begat successively larger waves of support.
Joining the Big East football conference begate the opportunity to play in a bowl game with an 8-3 record, something that was difficult for Tech to achieve in earlier years.
The successful seasons of 1993 and 1994, coupled with Miami's NCAA difficulties, begat berths in the Sugar and Orange Bowls in 1995 and 1996, something few Tech followers would have dreamed possible just a couple of years earlier.
Michael Vick, the undefeated season of 1999 and the berth in the national championship game begat the notion that Virginia Tech could become and perhaps was a program of national significance.
Just when Tech's football program seemed to be failing to capitalize on the success of 1999, we learned in 2003 that the Hokies would join the ACC the following year. Folks like me began buying basketball tickets for the first time, in anticipation of the day when seats in Cassell Coliseum for conference games against even second-tier ACC teams like NC State or Georgia Tech would be hard to come by.
2004 came, ACC membership commenced, the Hokies won the conference title in their first year and played a competitive game against Auburn in the Sugar Bowl. All seemed right with the world.
All of those waves helped boost enthusiasm among we Hokies, and encouraged us to open our wallets more and more. The initial reseating of Lane Stadium, while not well-received by all, was a further boost to the bottom line.
But it has now been a long time since 2004. ACC football has not been what anyone hoped it would be (thanks in no small part to the folks at FSU and Miami), and now it is about to be diluted further by the likes of Pitt, Syracuse and Louisville. Genuinely "big" victories on the football field have been few and far between. ACC championships and 10-win seasons became hollow victories when they were predictably followed by crushing defeats in bowl games. Basketball saw occasional euphoria when the Hokies beat UNC or Duke, but Virginia Tech soon became symbolic of the NCAA bubble being burst.
I think Virginia Tech is at a critical moment. When you go to the Tech-UVa game on a beautiful (albeit frigid) day and you see as many empty seats as I saw in Lane Stadium last Saturday, when the mood of the fans is what I observed it to be, there is cause for concern. I think many Tech fans are looking for something positive to latch onto right now, and there is no clear indication that anything of that nature is coming.
The Hokies probably aren't moving to the SEC anytime soon.
Jim Weaver isn't retiring, to be replaced by a younger, more charismatic leader.
Frank Beamer is not retiring, to be replaced by a young, energetic, innovative coach.
Frank may or may not shuffle his staff and, if he does, there is no guarantee of improvement.
The Hokie basketball team is surprisingly undefeated, but no one really has great expectations - yet.
You can buy good seats to any Tech sporting event on the street for face value or less.
Everyone has figured out the scam run by bowl games that foist their worst tickets on the participating schools; thus, the secondary market prevails.
The economy sucks, which creates difficulty for all - especially young grads who have difficulty making large Hokie Club donations in the first place.
I think Hokies very desperately need something to feel good about, and soon. The Boise State and Michigan debacles, the persistent futility of the Tech offense, the inability for the basketball team to compete at NCAA tournament level on a reasonably regular basis and the seeming indifference of Tech's leadership to the basic desires of the fan base are wearing on folks.
I hope and think we'll find and catch another wave soon. But the sea is way too calm for my liking right now.