Tallying Up Tech’s First Year in the ACC

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2004-05 has been a banner year for Virginia Tech
athletics. The Hokies moved to the ACC and won the conference in football and
the regular season title in wrestling. The men’s basketball team pulled out a
miraculous fourth place finish and knocked off the likes of Duke, Maryland and
Georgia Tech. The men’s soccer team beat #1 Duke and #2 Virginia, and the
softball team played for the ACC championship and made the NCAA Tournament. In
the eyes of many, the Hokies sports programs showed that they could compete with
and defeat some of the best programs in the country. That’s true for some
sports, but on the whole, the Hokies have a lot of catching up to do.

Wanna make a splash in your brand new conference?
Try finishing much higher than expected in the two headline sports. The Hokie
football team was picked sixth in the preseason media poll but ended up beating
fellow ACC newcomer Miami for the title. The men’s basketball team was
predicted to finish in tenth place, next-to-last, and rightfully so; the Hokies
only made it to Madison Square Garden for the Big East Tournament once in four
years. But the young Hokies, starting three sophomores and a freshman, didn’t
seem to care, as they ran off a fourth place finish and a .500 record in ACC
play.

And to top it off, the Hokies, who have long been
average at best in Olympic sports, won the regular season ACC Championship in
wrestling. That’s what you call making a splash. But when you look deeper into
the athletic department at some of the sports that nobody mentions (no VT fan
anyway), you can see that there were plenty of Hokie teams that finished right
where they were expected…at or near the bottom.

First of all, let’s take a look at how the
Hokies stacked up against each of the ACC programs in all sports this year. The
numbers include postseason play against ACC schools.

Sport

Clemson

Duke

FSU

GT

MD

Miami

NCSU

UNC

UVA

Wake

Total

Baseball

1-2

2-1

0-3

0-3

1-3

0-3

1-2

0-1

0-1

2-1

7-20

Men’s Bball

1-1

1-1

0-1

1-1

1-1

2-0

1-1

0-1

1-1

0-1

8-9

Women’s Bball

1-0

0-1

0-2

1-0

2-0

1-1

0-1

0-1

0-2

1-1

6-9

Football

 

1-0

  

1-0

1-0

1-0

0-1

1-0

1-0

1-0

7-1

Lacrosse

 

0-1

  

 

0-1

 

 

0-2

0-1

 

0-5

Men’s Soccer

0-1

1-0

  

 

0-1

 

0-1

0-1

1-0

0-2

2-6

Wmns Soccer

0-1

0-1

0-1

 

1-0

2-0

1-0

0-1

0-2

1-0

5-6

Softball

  

 

1-3

1-2

2-2

 

0-3

2-2

2-3

 

8-15

Men’s Tennis

0-1

0-1

0-1

1-0

1-0

1-1

1-0

0-1

0-1

0-1

4-7

Wmns Tennis

0-1

0-1

0-1

0-1

0-1

0-1

0-1

0-1

0-1

0-2

0-11

Volleyball

1-1

0-2

1-1

0-1

0-1

1-1

2-0

1-1

0-1

1-1

7-10

Wrestling

 

1-0

 

 

1-0

 

1-0

1-0

1-0

 

5-0

Total

4-8

6-9

2-13

5-8

10-10

8-7

7-10

5-12

6-13

6-9

59-99

Other Sports: Cross Country (Women
7th, Men 9th); Swimming and Diving (Women 5th in ACC Meet, Men 7th, both
out of 10 teams); Golf (Finished 10th [last] in ACC Championship); Track
and Field (Women 9th, Men 5th in ACC Meet)

Take a look at that overall number. In
head-to-head matches against other ACC teams this year, the Hokies were 55-99.
Take away football (7-1) and wrestling (5-0) and the Hokies find themselves at
47-98 (.324). Ouch. Play the opposite game and take away lacrosse (0-5) and
women’s tennis (0-11) and VT was 55-83 (.398), still far below .500.

Virginia Tech competed against 10 other teams
this year in conference play and managed to have an overall winning record
against one of them. The Hokies went 8-7 against fellow ACC newcomer Miami. Tech
also finished 10-10 against Maryland. Other than those two teams, the Hokies
didn’t even come close to sniffing .500.



Cross country, swimming and diving, golf and track also
competed for the first time in ACC play this year, and for the most part, didn’t
fare very well either. The golf team finished dead last in the ACC tournament.
The men’s track and field team did finish 5th
in ACC meets and were ranked in the national polls for much of the season.

Basically, when you look at Tech’s non-revenue
sports for the 2004-05 year, you’ll see some good, some bad and some ugly.

The Good

As mentioned above, the wrestling team won the
ACC regular season championship. Although UNC won the ACC Championship meet, the
Hokies still went undefeated in head-to-head matchups during the season. Coach
Tom Brands led the Hokies to a 5-0 record in the ACC, and 16-4 overall.

Expect that impressive record to keep getting
better as well. Brands just signed a Top five recruiting class, including the #1
wrestler in the nation, Brent Metcalf. Metcalf went 228-0 during his high school
career.

While the men’s soccer team finished tied with
Clemson for last place in the ACC at 2-5, 9-10-1 overall, those two ACC wins
were extremely impressive. The Hokies knocked off #1 Duke and #2 UVA. In their
last season in the Big East, the men’s soccer team went to the NCAA tournament
and defeated Clemson in the first round. Their record dropped off this season
due to the increased competition, but by beating such highly ranked teams, the
Hokies showed they could compete.

The men’s soccer team was close to pulling out
more wins. They lost three overtime games during the season, including a 1-0
loss to #5 Wake Forest during the ACC tournament. With a better recruiting base
in the ACC, things are looking up for Oliver Weiss’ program.

The women’s soccer team made it to the NCAA
tournament for the first time in school history. Despite falling in the first
round, progress is being made under head coach Kelly Cagle. Freshman Ashley
Stinson was an All-American, a sure sign that recruiting is getting better for
Tech.

The softball team also made a nice run in the
postseason, making it to the finals of the ACC tournament behind the arm of
Angela Tincher. The squad made the NCAA tournament and was eliminated on the
second day.

The Bad

There were a few schools in particular that the
Hokies didn’t fare well against. Against in-state rival UVA, Tech went just
6-13. UVA is known for their very strong all-sports athletic department, which
ranks among the best in the nation. It’s going to take a while before the
Hokies are able to compete against UVA year in and year out in every sport. Some
progress was made this year, especially when the men’s soccer team beat #2 UVA,
but for the most part, the Tech athletic department lags far behind in Olympic
sports.

The Hokies had basically the same result against
UNC, going a combined 5-12. UNC is very similar to UVA in that they show strong
support for their non-revenue sports. When (if) Tech starts to catch UVA, they’ll
start catching the Tar Heels as well.

The most miserable record of them all is the
disastrous 2-13 record that the Hokies had against Florida State during the
inaugural season in the ACC. The only programs that were able to post wins
against the ‘Noles were the softball team and the volleyball teams. With that
kind of record, maybe it’s a good thing that the Hokies didn’t play FSU in
football (kidding).

The Ugly

Right off the bat, let’s take a look at
one of the ugliest sports stats that I have ever seen. The Virginia Tech
baseball team traveled to Atlanta to face #5 Georgia Tech from May 13-May 15.
Georgia Tech swept the three game series with final scores of 10-0, 27-2 and
11-1, a combined three-game total of 48-3. I daresay that the 1999 Syracuse
squad that got hammered 62-0 by the Hokies on the gridiron was more competitive
that the Tech baseball team in Atlanta. Combine this, a 7-20 record in the ACC,
and recent Chuck Hartman comments that he
couldn’t get his team to play hard for much of the season
, and it
makes me wonder if there are some real chemistry, talent and coaching issues
within the Tech baseball program.

All that aside, the baseball team did manage to
win some ACC games, which is something that two other Tech teams did not
accomplish during their inaugural ACC season. The lacrosse team was 0-5 in ACC
play, while the women’s tennis team was 0-11.

Reasons for the Poor Marks

At this point, you probably think this is a
pretty critical article. I don’t mean for it to be that way. Aside from the
48-3 series against Georgia Tech in baseball, this inaugural season in the ACC
has gone much better than we could have hoped. An ACC football championship to
go along with a regular season wrestling championship. Throw in NCAA Tournament
appearances for women’s soccer, women’s basketball and softball, as well as
an NIT for the men’s basketball team, and it wasn’t a bad year at all. My
intention was to show that when you view the overall picture, things aren’t as
great as those headline-making accomplishments make them appear.

The first reason for the 59-99 record is that the
Hokies have been in four different conferences in the last decade or so. Tech
was still in the Metro Conference 11 years ago. After that conference disbanded,
the Hokies moved to the Atlantic 10 for five years. I would highly recommend
that schools not take this action, unless of course the Big East rejects you and
you have no place to go, which is what happened to Tech. The Big East finally
came to their senses and invited Tech in for all sports, but it was only four
years later that the ACC came calling. I don’t see the Hokies leaving the ACC
anytime soon, so they will have a chance to carve a niche in the recruiting
trails, with Blacksburg being in ACC country.

One last comment about the Big East. I don’t
like them, you don’t like them. But thank goodness the Hokies were in that
conference for all sports for four seasons. How bad would this year have been if
Tech was competing in the ACC with Atlantic 10 recruits? You think the Hokies
would have beaten Duke in men’s basketball? Nope, because they likely wouldn’t
have players like Coleman Collins, Jamon Gordon and Zabian Dowdell.

The Hokies also have not been able to throw the
same kind of financial support into their programs as most ACC schools do. I was
perusing through some old basketball media guides in the TSL office last week.
These media guides were from the Bobby Hussey and Ricky Stokes eras. In the
media guide there is a section that goes over Tech’s travel plans for each
away game. For every single away game that was not in driving range from
Blacksburg, and I do mean every single game, the team took commercial flights.
No chartered flights were listed, at least none that I noticed. The ultimate
insult was during this past season, when the men’s basketball team had to take
a bus to play St. John’s…all the way to New York City. Talk about some bus
lag. Hopefully with the improved financial situation that the Hokies will gain
from playing in the ACC, all that will change.

Conclusion

If Tech wants to improve their non-revenue
sports, the ACC is the place to be. Virginia Tech is located in the heart of ACC
country, and that is a natural recruiting ground for the Hokies. Back when Tech
competed in the Atlantic 10, there weren’t too many top recruits in any sport
in the area that grew up dreaming of playing against St. Bonaventure and
LaSalle. Tech’s recruiting will improve.

Also, I’m of the opinion that being in the ACC,
Virginia Tech’s natural conference, brings out more of a sense of
competitiveness among Hokie athletes. Hokie fans and players have always felt
that Tech belonged in the ACC and are anxious to prove that they belong. You
think the basketball team isn’t fired up to be playing Duke and North
Carolina? Or the men’s soccer team isn’t excited about Duke and UVA? They
want to play and beat those teams, and they didn’t get a chance to do that as
often in the Big East and A-10.

Despite the subpar record during VT’s inaugural
ACC season, things will improve. It might not be this year or the year after,
but eventually things will get better. These things take time, and in most cases
will not happen overnight. It will be important to let each program complete
four recruiting classes under the ACC banner before making any future judgments.

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