An open letter to the VT AD search committee

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This is an open letter to the Virginia Tech athletic director search committee as they look for a  new AD … and it’s an open letter to whomever they pick, once the decision is made and their candidate is ready to start work.

I’m a little late with this, and the AD search process is well underway, but these are my thoughts on the particular skill set the new AD needs, and what the highest-priority tasks will be once he takes over the Virginia Tech athletic department. (To make the article easier to read, I’m going to refer to the future AD as “he,” even though it could just as easily be a woman.)

I freely admit that this article is written with an outsider’s perspective, with little detailed knowledge of the inner workings of an athletic department, and I also freely admit that it’s written from the perspective of the fans. In short, it’s what I think is needed by the fans from the next athletic director.

First, an appraisal of where we are.

The Weaver Legacy

Jim Weaver was Virginia Tech’s athletic director for almost 16 and a half years, and I can sum his tenure up in one paragraph – and no, I’m not going to mention Beamer-to-UNC:

Jim Weaver architected a massive expansion of Virginia Tech’s athletic facilities, athletics budget and athletics department. He placed emphasis on academic support for student-athletes, improved the academic profile of Virginia Tech athletics, and ran a department free of major scandal and corruption. He positioned Virginia Tech to compete in the 21st century, and he did it in a fiscally responsible manner. He connected well with donors and employees on a personal level, but he failed to inspire the fan base with a vision for achieving great things on the field of play, and over time, his efforts to control the fan base and to maximize revenue achieved from them caused the fan base’s personal connection to the athletes and their achievements to erode.

You can say a lot more about Jim Weaver’s tenure than that, but this isn’t an article about Jim Weaver. I already wrote that article. In it, I essentially said that Jim Weaver was the right man for the job at the time, but now something else is needed. And this article is about what is needed now, and what the next AD can do to provide that.

What is Needed from the Next AD

Some of the attributes/talents of the next AD are obvious. He will have to hire the next football coach, so he’ll need to be someone with a history of making those types of decisions, and making them well. He’ll have to continue to run the athletic department responsibly ($$), to provide academic support for athletes, to avoid scandal and NCAA violations, and to take care of infrastructure needs as they present themselves.

The final part of my summation of Jim Weaver’s tenure above holds the key to how the next AD can move Virginia Tech athletics forward and re-ignite the fan base. In short, the fan base needs to know what the next AD’s vision for Virginia Tech athletics is, and needs to be inspired to play an active part in that vision.

Fans at all levels — not just the big-donor level — need to know that they are important, and need to be made to feel that they’re a critical component to athletic success. And the fan experience when attending games needs to be fun again.

I’ll get to all that in a minute, but let’s lay out what I think are the major requirements, in bullet form:

  • Be a strong caretaker of the football program and move it forward, post-Frank Beamer.
  • Be a fund-raising rainmaker.
  • Build enthusiasm among the alumni base.
  • Establish a strong relationship with students and cultivate them as future supporters of athletics.
  • Have a vision for fixing basketball and making it competitive in the ACC.
  • Recognize the importance of the gameday experience.

Let’s go over these things one by one.

Be a strong caretaker of the football program

Do I really need to explain this one in any detail? The next AD is going to have to make one of the most important decisions in the history of Virginia Tech athletics: who replaces Frank Beamer?

If you make the wrong choice, you can do a lot of damage in a short period of time. In 1990, Georgia Tech went 11-0-1 and won a share of the national championship. Bobby Ross was their head coach, and after leading GT to an 8-5 season in 1991, he left. He was replaced by Bill Lewis, who ran the program into the ground, and by 1994, Georgia Tech was a 1-10 football team. Lewis was fired after just three years at the helm. (To be fair, it looked like a good hire; Lewis had guided ECU to an 11-1 record and a Peach Bowl win in 1991.)

Virginia experienced unprecedented success under George Welsh, and he created a large football fan base where none had previously existed, to the point where UVa could expand Scott Stadium to 60,000 seats and fill it up. His successor, Al Groh, wasn’t a complete disaster, but the coach after Groh, Mike London, has been. In London’s fourth year (2013), the Cavaliers went 2-10, and average attendance at Scott Stadium for 2013 was generously listed at 46,279. In a little over ten years, everything George Welsh built has been unraveled.

In the modern era, Virginia Tech has experienced extended success under one coach: Frank Beamer. His replacement must build on what he has done, not destroy it. It’s a challenge, and it goes without saying that it’s the most important thing the next AD will do.

If Virginia Tech, for example, hires an AD who has never worked at a Division 1-A school before, well then … they deserve what they’ll get. But of course, they won’t do that.

Be a fund-raising rainmaker

Let’s get one fact straight: the Hokie Club, Virginia Tech’s athletic fund-raising arm, is not under the control of the athletic department. It’s actually part of University Development, so the athletic director is not the Hokie Club’s “boss.” The AD cannot hire and fire Hokie Club employees, and he can’t set policy.

That caps what the AD can do, as far as reshaping and improving the Hokie Club’s performance. But what a new AD can do is schmooze corporate sponsors and make a personal connection with individual donors and inspire them to give more to help the Hokies succeed.

First, corporate sponsors: I remember when Weaver announced Lane Stadium’s West Side expansion plans in 2003, his plans for paying for it included a $10 million naming rights donation. (That’s loosely documented on our archived Lane Stadium Expansion Facts and Figures page.)

That donation never happened, and instead, the West side was paid for through debt, private donations, and suite and club seat sales. Why did the donation never occur? I don’t know. How much of a role does the AD play in securing corporate donations? I don’t know. But it appears to be an untapped source of revenue for Virginia Tech.

Secondly, individual donors: For years, the message has been “donate to the Hokie Club to get good seats in Lane Stadium and a parking spot for football games.” A new AD needs to change the message, to get the fan base to understand that donations enable the Hokies to compete with larger, better-funded schools. There’s a chance here to sell the vision of “we’re all in this together,” instead of “give money to try to get something for yourself.”

Build Enthusiasm Among the Fan Base

VT needs a magnetic personality at the helm. Jim Weaver was stiff when speaking to the public. Every statement that came out of his mouth seemed to be very carefully worded, almost robotic, as if he were treading very carefully across some sort of legal minefield, or making every possible attempt to be as politically correct and as bland as possible. Sometimes he said interesting things, yes, but he was always monotone and very careful in his word selection.

The next guy needs to have some oomph about him, some personality. I’ll never forget being in Cassell Coliseum way back in the mid-80s when Dutch Baughman was introduced as the athletic director at half time of a game. He stepped right up the mic with his handlebar mustache and cranked up a turkey-call noisemaker, to the delight of the crowd. The guy had pizzazz.

The next guy doesn’t need to be that charismatic. It’s probably impossible, in this day and age. But you get what I’m saying. Jim Weaver spoke like an accountant with a law degree. The next guy needs to be able to inspire the masses through words and salesmanship of a vision.

Establish a strong relationship with students

Students are the future of Virginia Tech athletics, and a long-lasting relationship with them must be cultivated. Most of the big donors to Virginia Tech athletics were, once upon a time, “mere” students at Virginia Tech.

Students are great. They’ve got the fire and enthusiasm for football and basketball that we old fogies (I’m 49) just don’t have. When I was a student, I stood in Cassell Coliseum and made noise non-stop, till my voice was ruined. I remember being angry at the paid alumni for sitting down so much, and making so little noise. (It seemed they only stood and clapped during timeouts, when the band played “Tech Triumph.”) Now I’m the one who sits there like a fogy, and I really appreciate the constant noise the students make, and the energy they bring.

As a group, students can be a little wild and immature. My buddies and I sure were, back in the ’80s. They’re kids. It’s how they are. They’re not going to act the same as alumni and older donors. They’re going to do weird things like cheer the horse on the treadmill (which appears to have been replaced by a dog, for reasons known only to science and research). But to try to control the students too much, and to try to get them to act like the adults they aren’t quite yet, is a mistake. Tap into their energy, make a connection, and carry that connection through after their graduation.

I don’t even know how, but I know it’s important. And yes, that’s a little hypocritical coming from us here at TSL, where we offer a discounted student subscription but do little more than that to connect with the students. Maybe the new AD can teach us a thing or two.

Have a Vision for Fixing Basketball

Here’s another subject that could become its own self-contained article.

There is no question that the men’s and women’s basketball programs are broken. You can’t argue it. You can argue about whether or not they’re getting better; the women’s program certainly appears to be, after bottoming out under Beth Dunkenberger.

Fan support has cratered, and both programs are hemorrhaging support, money, and pride. In 2004-05, VT’s first season in the ACC, the men finished fourth in the 11-team league and averaged 9,406 tickets sold per game. The women, in their first season under Dunkenberger, finished just seventh in the ACC, but they went to the NCAA Tournament, and they averaged 4,106 fans per game.

Nine years later, the men and women are both coming off seasons where they finished last in the ACC. The men are picked to finish last in the ACC again (and are headed in that direction), and the women haven’t been to postseason play since they went to the WNIT in 2006-07. The men are averaging 4,509 fans per game, and the women are averaging just 1,263.

Combined average attendance (tickets sold) has plunged from 13,512 in 2004-05 to 5,772 in 2013-14. Virginia Tech basketball is on life support, in a conference famous for basketball.

Virginia Tech needs an athletic director who knows basketball and can fix what has happened here. How? Again, I don’t know, or more accurately, I don’t have the space to go into detail. But it needs to be fixed, and here’s where a new AD can really make his mark.

I’d also like that AD to have a plan for replacing Cassell Coliseum. Gasp! Yes, I said it. Jim Weaver himself said Cassell has about ten years left of useful life, so why not get started now? There’s a lot of old VT money that remembers when Virginia Tech was good in basketball, and would love to pitch in and help VT be good in basketball again, including building a replacement for Cassell. Jim Weaver tapped into that money for about $10 million in donations to help build the basketball practice facility, so it’s out there. So is corporate money. The Carilion Center has a nice ring to it. Miami built a new arena about ten years ago for just $48 million. I think VT can do it today for around $50-$60 million, if they’re smart about it.

But I’m not just talking about a new building. Virginia Tech has plenty of new buildings. It takes a lot more than facilities. I’m talking about a vision for Virginia Tech basketball that includes a new building.

Recognize the importance of the gameday experience

That’s a fancy way of saying, “Put the fun back into going to a game.”

In 1997, a ticket to a Virginia Tech football game was $21. In 2013, it was $50, almost two and a half times more expensive. And the games now are about two and a half times less fun.

Fans are patted down and their belongings are rifled through before entering the stadium. This started as a reaction to 9/11, in the interests of “safety and security,” but it doesn’t sit well with fans to treat them like potential criminals before they even enter the stadium. It may be necessary, but it’s unpleasant.

Once inside, they’re treated to (usually) a former athlete reading a prepared “Hokies Respect” message that hasn’t changed in a decade, in a droning voice on a bad microphone. Hokie fans, previously revered as being among the best in the nation, are admonished to treat opposing fans, the opposing team, and “the game,” whatever that means, with respect, as if they ever did otherwise.

Fans aren’t allowed to go out during half time and re-enter the stadium after half time for various reasons, partly in response to 9/11, but also because of new ticket scanning devices that only allow a ticket to be “used” once. Whatever the reason(s), re-entry is a perk that isn’t available anymore.

“Stick it in” and “Na-na-na-na, hey-hey, goodbye” have been taken away. Booing the opposing team (horrors!) is frowned upon. Highlighter-yellow-garbed security personnel dot the stadium, and at the conclusion of the game, they rush the field and protect it from the hordes of oncoming fans. (At Clemson, they invite their fans down on the field after the game.)

The gameday experience is now all about controlling the gameday experience, or more precisely, the fans. Those awful, law-breaking, rude, drunk hordes of criminals.

Okay, I’m getting carried away. But you get my point. Fans are now treated as disruptive nuisances, instead of valued customers. This needs to be fixed, or attendance will continue to be an uphill battle.

Does this person exist?

Dear Athletic Director Search Committee: Do the best you can to find a person who can accomplish all these things, or even better, has a proven track record of accomplishing these things.

Dear New Virginia Tech Athletic Director: That’s your mandate. Keep doing well the things that Jim Weaver did well, and improve upon the things that fell into disrepair under his watch. He was good, but he wasn’t perfect. You need to be better. We’re counting on you.

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69 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. The football team needs another Michael Vick. The basketball team needs a NBA Lottery pick player. Presidents and ADs need to know how to raise and spend money. It would be nice if they can speak well but the reality is if we have money the kids will come. I was a Hokie Club Member during Vick years. After that not so much. We need big time recruits and people will donate and crowds will cheer. Is it possible for football?? Yes. Proof is MV1. Basketball? We need a former NBA player or coach as our next coach. Then our program needs a savior to lead us on the court like Allen Iverson. Put VT on the map. Bristow and Bimbo are too far removed. Bball needs a game changer.

    I would love to experience and Footballl National Championship for VT. Basketball would only need a final four or elite eight.

    Pres and AD. Find the money!!

  2. Excellent article. Let me add one comment on the Game Day experience for football games. After Enter Sandman, there is virtually no music. Think of how much idle time is spent during TV timeouts. I attended law school at Notre Dame and have been to several ND games over the years. Until recently, the games were “no frills”–the stadium itself and students created the excitement. Watch or listen to a ND game now–you’ll hear upbeat music blaring before kickoffs, on third downs and also during extended timeouts. It makes for a more entertaining experience. Also, my seats are near the VT recruits and their families. On the rare occasions that VT does something entertaining during timeouts, you can see the recruit moms dancing and having a great time. It is time for the decision makers to bring the stadium experience into the 21st century! Thanks for letting me post.

  3. Lane stadium is just not as intimidating as it used to be, as shown by the home losses to Maryland and Duke this season. With the combination of no Thursday night games or any night games and all the issues of not doing anything to hurt the feelings of the opposing FOOTBALL TEAM, Lane stadium has become at much easier place to play. Look at games in Seattle, even though it’s a pro team, they are the perfect example of the 12 the man, which we used to be. Weaver got lazy and old, and now there is a downward spike in both football and bball. Very sad, Tech fans deserved more!!!!!!

  4. Let’s see

    Football goes from traditional losing record to a program where the fans expect to be national contenders.
    Football plays for the national championship and in BCS bowls many times.
    Athletics goes from minor conference full of wannabes contenders to playing in a historically great conference.
    Stadium gets expanded, modernized, etc.
    Baseball, wrestling, soccer, and other non-revenue sports are all on an upward arrow.
    Zero major scandals and minor scandals handled quickly and efficiently..

    Will, I don’t really disagree with your goals for the next guy but you need to lighten up on Weaver. He may have the public persona of Sister Mary Margaret’s yardstick but lots of good things happened on his watch and people should give him credit for those things. I agree with the person who said he stayed five years too long but then don’t lots of us make that mistake? I think I will phone my retirement in this morning!

  5. I really wish an attachment to this was to have students moved to the front 5 rows of the basketball stadium. Would do wonders for home court advantage and TV Appearance (especially once we are relatively competitive)

  6. I would buy season ticket and drag myself up the steps to the highest point in Lane stadium if the crowds were like they were ten to fifteen years ago. No one likes to go backwards, but we lost
    something through the years, that should not have happen. Was it the COACHES, the AD, OR SOMEONE ELSE. The coaches need to look year to year to make sure if someone goes down someone else can step in and take his place, that did not happen for the last few years. WITH A NEW AD AND PRESIDENT COMING ON BOARD. THERE SHOULD BE SOME SOUL SEARCHING FOR EVERYONE???

    GREAT ARTICLE WILL, MAYBE NOT 100%, BUT A LEAST 99.9%

  7. Will,
    Your points about the gameday experience are spot on. Tickets are in my opinion expensive, and games now aren’t nearly as fun as they were 10+ years ago. I remember the field filling with fans after the ’03 Miami game. Would that happen today? I don’t know. I remember the band slowly building up the volume to the tune of Na, Na, Na, Goodbye with the fans joining in once the game was no longer in doubt. I remember Stick it In. I remember booing my head off at Miami teams that were cocky and primed to be knocked off their high horse. If a Miami player can dance mockingly to the Hokie Pokie when their team is up big in ’05, then fans can boo opposing players. I sincerely hope that the new AD will fight to put the fun back in gameday. Make Lane a place to fear coming to again. The “Howdys” and “Welcomes” and peace and love can be reserved for the tailgate, the walk into the stadium, and the walk back to the car. Inside, it’s business, and our business should be creating a 4 hour nightmare for the other team. That isn’t called disrespect. It’s called being the 12th man. If they’re going to take that away from the fans, they should make the games general admission and charge 10 bucks per ticket. Just my two cents.

  8. I just hope the new AD whoever he is brings a lot to the table and makes sound decisions for the athletic dept. Oh and by the way I really hope he has a personality and doesn’t talk like a robot.

  9. Agree with 99% of what you said. However I totally disagree with one thing. Weaver DID NOT connect with donors and employees. Well I can’t speak for employees (thank goodness) I never worked for the man. I meet him twice and he was very arrogant and rude both times. I was a Golden Hokie until the last encounter with Weaver. Now I give $00 to Tech athletics. I’m sorry for his illness but he stayed about 5 years after he was unable to perform his job. Charisma and personality are 2 important things the new A.D. should have, Weaver had neither.

    1. What I meant was that he was very good about returning phone calls, letters and even emails, one on one. But in mass communications … stiff.

  10. Generally agree but offer a few comments:
    Replacing Cassell? Given where the Hoops Building is located the coliseum needs to remain in that location. It could be reconfigured….reduce size, create ring for student section in lower seats. The site lines are best in ACC. Btw the UM arena is a slightly updated version of george Masons dump. A serviceable but cold facility
    Game Day: I get the passion for stik-it-in and Goodbye…..but believe its because those are the only 2 cheers(?) Tech fans have participated in, in unison. Whatever happened to learning the school fight song. I would ask the frats to buck up and make learning the words to Tech Triumph as part of pledging. How about we have all freshmen taught Old Hokie, our cheer from whence our nickname comes from? Now I’m sure there are many who will roll their eyes at these suggestions…..but Tech fans want us to be a top 5 program…..go to any of the Top 5 games….but maybe Stanford…..and I’d be surprised if you don’t see and/or hear large participation in either cheers or fight songs….or in the case of say Wisconsin….their a Jump Around makes their game day experience something special. So the punch line, let’s get participation in something that goes back further than the 2nd Clinton Administration.

  11. Greg Roberts says the short list includes:

    Chris Plonsky, Texas Women’s Director of Athletics
    Warde Manuel, UConn AD
    Michael Kelly, Chief Operating Officer at College Football Playoff
    Whit Babcock, University of Cincinnati AD
    Jeff Bourne, JMU AD
    and John Ballein.

    We could do worse than a Texas AD, even if he was the women’s AD. Kelly is an intriguing candidate and Babcock has been decent at UC. I don’t think Bourne of Ballein should make the next cut.

  12. Great summary, Will. Agree on all points. A couple of comments:
    – The most qualified man alive to plan and execute a comprehensive makeover of a major university’s athletic department is retired University of Wisconsin AD Pat Richter. I challenge anyone to identify anyone whose record of accomplishments and key hires can even compare. He turned around football and basketball programs that were completely irrelevant and under his watch became powers at the conference and national levels. He maintained excellence in men’s hockey and success in other, non-revenue sports. These successes have continued after his retirement. Richter oversaw an expansion and improvement of facilities, and an increase in fund-raising, that surpasses what we have done. He connected with boosters from every walk of life, corporations, and tapped into rabid student enthusiasm. It’s extremely doubtful VT could get him as as a hire. But every effort should be made to bring him on board as a consultant for a period of a year or two to provide much-needed objective input and leadership to the AD selection process, as well as the creation of a much-needed multi-year athletics continuity and development plan.

    – I’m sure you would agree that the role of the new President in all of this will be key. If he doesn’t share our vision for the long-term role and place for athletics at VT, them we’re finished. The holier-than-thou wonks who wax eloquently about athletics receiving too much emphasis should remember one thing: Michael Vick and Frank Beamer have done more to put increase the profile of Virginia Tech than any academic or administrator could possibly do. Get over it. Leverage it!

    – Finally, I’m glad that most TSL staff and subscribers have finally come around on the need to tone down the Gestapo game day atmosphere. Years ago I started griping about that on TSL and, often as not, would be criticized by the conservative ne’er do wells who inhabit this site as a guilty drunk who should shut up and conform. I was right then and It’s refreshing to see that you – and most others – now agree 🙂

    This is an opportunity that the University must seize! Go Hokies!

    1. Richter? He’s older than Weaver by about three years.

      Yes they restrict getting alcohol into the stadium. That probably won’t change. Before weaver…..maybe Braine, cops would go thru parking lots to put kybosh on tailgating. Justbe thankful for that.

  13. Great article and I agree with you, Will. Especially the game day experience. The re-seating and the parking situation killed the fun on game day for many fans. Ten years ago we would bring 8-10 or 12 people to the tailgate and to the game. Last year, zero! I miss it (sigh) but I sure hope someone can bring back those days.

  14. For basketball, I would get the students behind the benches. Helps with TV and also builds a better atmosphere. I would also give the students more tickets. The Maryland game in the sleet, where they let all students in was a great experience. It is too long a drive on weeknights for many to travel for a game from NoVA, Tidewater, or Richmond. Offer ticket packages that give flexibility. The fans will get behind the team when the games are fun. Right now it isn’t fun watching the games because Cassell has no crowd engagement.

  15. This article is really on target. Hope the new AD (whoever it is) reads it. Will, we fans should send the new AD a condensed version of this letter, a framed proclamation, if you please, of what he or she needs to get done. Why frame it? So it will not be ignored!

  16. At Navy games you can leave within 2 minutes of half, get a hand stamp, and get back in with that and your ticket. Always fun re-gathering our tailgate crew at the half….frankly more fun than many Tech games. Why not?

  17. Just to let all know have forwarded this letter to Dr. Sands, Ray Smoot (head of AD search committee), President Steger, and Sharon McCloskey.
    Hope some one reads it!!!

  18. Great article, Will. However, the powers to be have now listened to the fanbase for years and I will not hold my breath until they do again (if ever). I have goose-bumps just thinking about the possibility of it happening though!! 😉

  19. Will, thanks for a world of good sense! Lots of ideas that need to be implemented. The new AD surely will realize that he’s in the ENTERTAINMENT BUSINESS. Spectators have to be engaged and entertained.
    I think that you should aggressively promote TSL to existing students. Once they enjoy Hokie sports from behind the scenes, they are much more likely to stay engaged and contribute. I for one would be willing to donate to a fund to allow TSL subscription giveaways to selected students. They can then talk it up to others who would hopefully sign up.

    1. Haven’t researched him in detail but he definitely seems like a good fit for basketball and fundraising.

      I don’t think he has ever hired a D1 football coach though. But again I haven’t researched him to know for sure.

      1. Will

        Do you think hiring a D1 coach is a necessary skill set. I ask because I believe that there will be plenty of direction and guidance afforded to Beamer and his connections, especially if Foster is up next. I can’t say that is necessarily a good thing, but possibly something I would be willing to trade for a good bball and all around AD. Just a thought – curious as to what others might think.

        1. You can make that argument, I’m even 10% wondering if Loeffler isn’t being groomed to follow-on if Bud’s not the man.

  20. Especially like the part about recognizing the gameday experience. We’ve really lost the magic of the glory era in Lane Stadium. The past few years have reminded me of a phrase one of my Slovak colleagues uses to describe everyday life in the former communist Czechoslovakia: “Just give us the money and shut up.”

  21. VT has been one of the top Engineering schools for at least 20 yrs. New AD has to reach some of these alum if he has any hope of turning this around. Am sure some have given to VT but not so much sports. We have to realize that sports put the university front an center. Thanks Will and your staff for all you do.

  22. I only wish more could be said about the hiring practices. A BIG part of fixing basketball and being a good steward of what Beamer passes down is HIRING.

    When you invest millions upon millions in a top notch basketball facility, why on earth would you then turn around and non make an equally top notch hire for basketball coach?

    The mentality that VT must get coaches from the discount rack has got to change. It shows the fans a lack of commitment. Nothing against him personally, but when Johnson was hired for basketball, I emotionally / mentally checked out of the program. Anybody who knows anything about basketball knows it was going to turn out EXACTLY as it has.

    Most likely the next best coaches for the men’s and women’s programs are NOT currently employees of VT.

    1. You described my feeling exactly. Since Seth Greenberg left, I checked out mentally — and more importantly physically, since I haven’t been to a game. Still follow FB though!

  23. Was glad to see you mention basketball. We live in Louisville, Kentucky and put simply the reason Louisville has a 90 million dollar athletic budget isn’t that their football program is better than ours;
    it’s that they make as much money on basketball as they do on football (think their basketball income ranks number one or close to it in the nation). To have a really healthy athletic department, you need both major sports functioning on a healthy level.

  24. Weaver comes across as anything BUT personal- more like condescending and rude in my limited experience and this is expressed in several of the initiatives you mention (Hokies repsect for instance). Wish him the best with his health and I’m glad he’s gone.

  25. Especially need to improve the basketball experience. I thought VT was alright until I went to a VCU home game. We need to be doing what VCU does. The band, the fans, the cheerleaders and the dance team are all involved and the atmosphere is better than what I remember it was like when I was a student in the late 70s.

  26. Do you have e-mail addresses we could use to personally contact members of the Committee, Dr. Steger and Board Chmn Mike Quillen?

    1. You can probably find them, if you look …. I won’t copy them here. Because then I’M THE ONE WHO DID IT, know what I mean?

  27. I so don’t want to be let down when the new AD is announced. It better not be equivalent of the last basketball hire. We better hire someone with Big Boy Big Budget chops. We should be able to get a good hire. Living in Blacksburg is an easy sell vs. “winning” in Blacksburg. My point is the caliber of AD candidates that would consider VT should be higher than the calibler of basketball coaches that would consider VT. No excuse if they end up with someone with a light weight – non major conference- resume.

  28. AD needs the ability to spot coaching talent and the ability to raise the money to pay for that talent. As far as Cassell is concerned challenge the coach to put a product out there that can fill the building, larger crowds in my day with 6000 students and we set the single game attendance record of over 11,000, I was there.

  29. I dig it, a bunch of good valid points. I will say that regarding the fan experience, none of the stuff you mention bothers me. What affects my experience: winning is #1. #2 is that the experience is family friendly – I have kids, if I wanted my kids to have to wear earmuffs I’d take them to an NFL game. #3 is a good pregame experience (tailgate.) It is also nice to have a strong crowd impact – loud, forcing false starts, etc. The respect thing, the searches, makes no difference to me.

  30. Wasn’t Bourne at JMU (with lots of ties to VT) once considered a strong candidate to replace Weaver? Have we cooled on him?

    1. Yes and yes. He seemed like a good candidate a few years back, but for what we need right now, we can do better.

  31. Terrific article. I only hope they read it (and follow said advice). There are probably not a ton of truly ideal candidates. But there’s got to be at least one. I also hope the Search Committee doesn’t, well, pull a Weaver and go cheap on this.

    Anyone surprised we haven’t heard any names leak out? Makes me wonder how far along in the process they are. Personally, I think Kirby Hocutt (Texas Tech) has everything we want, but yes he was at Miami during the scandal. Then there’s Oliver Luck, if we could get over him being an ‘Eer. He’s 53, not old per se, but not young either. But I like a lot of what he’s done there (including the intiation of beer sales at the stadium, although I know that could not happen in VA due to a state law).

    Anyone else have a dream candidate, or even an under the radar guy? I think we gotta go mainstream on this one, even if that means paying up $$$. No one from the state of VA should even be considered.

        1. Apparently I was not. LOL. I started the response, then read something else elsewhere, wanted to respond there, cut-n-paste, then I don’t know what happened, next thing you know I click “post” button. LOL.

    1. You can buy beer at ODU football and basketball. You have to be a contributor of whatever (big blue / blue room / we should of stayed in FCS) club they have. I agree with Will, we’ve got to hire the right people, give the fans a great experience / value and improve / energize the relationship between fan,administration and athlete.

  32. Very good article. And Good Luck getting a response from VT. I can’t get them to answer a e-mail I sent Nov.2, 2013 . Very Simple question about VT’s band placement at the uva/VT football game , so I feel like yours might be behind mine for Answers …But the New Man might get things rollin !

    1. I’ve been told the band is upstairs at UVA because the athletic department wanted to give the premium seats (where band used to sit) to their donors.

  33. Great article Will and I really like your “spec” for the next AD. Hopefully you will follow up after he/she is hired with your assessment of how well he/she meets the spec.

    1. I’m still trying to figure out how to lead TSL!! I’m not ready yet.

      Although … I would do some cool stuff for basketball right away.

  34. Hope it gets sent to committee, new AD and most importantly to the new President Sands who will make decision on new AD. All well said, and needed to be said.!!!
    GoHokies!!!

  35. AD is critical, but it goes so much further than that. VT sports marketing, for example, and video production, are 20 years behind any other big school. Ready for a nightmare? Welcome to VT-produced / shot football games airing on the new ACC network. We won’t have ESPN crews for all of those games, and this will be regular, nationally televised content.

    I love VT, but I quickly realized how antiquated the VT experience was (on so many levels) once I left VT and saw peer experiences beyond VA. I would assume that engineering folks wouldn’t experience that given VTs engineering prowess.

  36. I did not realise that the gameday experience had gotten so bad. I have not been to a home VT game since Michael Vick’s last regular season game against UVA. Before that I went to the beatdown game against Syracuse 62-0. I think that is my favorite home VT game that I ever went to. That was our best team ever.

    1. Funny story: the crowd was super-jacked up that day. I think at that time it was the worst beatdown of a ranked team in history, or something like that.

      Anyway, talk about noise–and people’s perception of it and ability to hear. In the midst of crazy, load, etc., etc., fans someone a couple seats down from me says, “Who’s phone is ringing?” As it turned out it was my phone, which was in my shirt pocket. The guy a couple of seats away could hear it in the middle of the din, but I didn’t. Unbelievable!

      1. I was in the MVs in school; before halftime we were standing on the sideline waiting to run on with Fowler standing right in front of us. We were asking him about the game and he says, “this is the worst bleep whooping in the history of Gameday. If we had known it would be this bad, we would have gone to there was that day. Still one of my funniest VT moments.

        1. Should have read whatever other big game there was that day, since I can’t remember exactly what he said.

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