A Dose of Perspective

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(Editor’s Note: This column was submitted to present a different perspective
— hence the title — than Sean Bielawski’s A
Difference in Attitude
, which we ran last Friday. It is not a direct
response to Sean Bielawski’s column.)

There’s been discussion ad nauseum over the past six weeks
about the "mediocre" or "passionless" nature of the Virginia
Tech football team with the implication that the only thing holding us back from
reaching the "big time" is the ineptness or conservativeness of our
coaching staff. The prime villain is, of course, the offensive coordinator, with
more and more finger pointing at the head coach himself, and even some very
tentative shots at the sainted Bud Foster.

The whining and complaining ultimately devolves down to our
inability to "take it to the next level" or to "hang with the big
boys" or some other football cliché. After hearing the moans and groans of
fans in the stands and reading the untold number of deprecating posts on the TSL
message board, I decided to do some research to see how our much maligned
coaching staff has actually performed over the first eight seasons of the 21st
Century.

For those eight years (yes, the writer is aware that the year
2000 is not actually part of the 21st Century) a total of ten teams have won 75
games or more. One of those is Boise State (86 wins, second best), which
arguably does not merit consideration since it does not play in a BCS
conference.

The remaining nine teams (all BCS teams) with their won loss
records are as follows:

75-Game
Winners
2000-2007
Oklahoma 90-17
Texas 85-17
Louisiana State 82-22
Ohio State 81-20
Southern California 81-21
Georgia 80-23

Virginia Tech

79-25
Miami 76-23
Auburn 75-24

By any rational standard this record is a remarkable achievement, and it was
accomplished with essentially the same coaching staff over the entire period.
(The once despised, now apparently late lamented, Rickey Bustle was the
offensive coordinator the first two years.)

Lest anyone think the time period for comparison was
arbitrarily selected, consider a similar evaluation over the last ten years. In
1998-1999 the Virginia Tech football teams won twenty games and lost four, which
if extended would place the Hokies in the top five in won-lost percentage for
the past ten years.

Well, perhaps it was because the Hokies "didn’t play
anybody". After all, everybody knows Jim Weaver is notorious for scheduling
weak teams. Actually, during the past eight seasons VT has played 21 Top 25
teams, or put another way, every fifth game has been played against a ranked
opponent. By comparison, the other teams on the list above played between 19 and
29 ranked teams during the same period. (Over the past ten years a total of 28
Hokie opponents out of 128 total were nationally ranked.)

Well, "We didn’t beat the good teams" comes the
response. Actually, not so. Tech’s record against ranked teams over the past
eight seasons is 12-9. (By contrast, Oklahoma’s record against ranked teams is
9-11.)

After gathering and analyzing this data, it is difficult for
me to understand what more the fans want from the coaching staff. Of the nine
teams listed, seven have a major college football tradition that is sixty to one
hundred years old, with all the alumni base and recruiting advantages that
attend. The eighth, Miami, has a much briefer tradition in terms of time, but
more than makes up for it by the multiple national championships in the past
twenty five years. Virginia Tech’s "tradition" arguably began in 1995
with the Sugar Bowl victory over Texas, or, more likely, during the Michael Vick
era, 1999-2000.

Does Virginia Tech have a natural talent advantage that the
coaches somehow cannot develop into a top notch program? Consider the other
eight teams in the list above. Over which of them does Virginia Tech have a
recruiting advantage? Auburn, perhaps?

Take another look at the list and consider some of the
programs that are not on it; Notre Dame, Michigan, Penn State, Florida State,
Alabama … (By the way, the University of Virginia has a better won-lost record
than Alabama over the past eight years.)

Speaking of Alabama, the first time I encountered the Crimson
Tide fandom in its natural habitat was at the Music City Bowl in 1998. I, like
most of the Tech fans at the game, was happy to be there, in a cool city, and
already looking forward to the following season. By contrast the Alabama fans
were an obnoxious, preening lot, contemptuous of Virginia Tech, the
"crappy" Music City Bowl, and their own team and coaching staff. Most
of them thought they knew much more about football than they actually did.

Even after the game, which Tech won 38-7 (A barmaid in Nashville: "Now that’s what I call
[a butt] kickin’ "), they still
had a misplaced sense of self importance and arrogance. I remember saying to my
wife as we fled a bar where some of them were still bloviating, "I’m glad
our fans aren’t like that."

Well, now our fans are.

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