Go Tech Go: The Inside Story Behind the Rise of Virginia Tech Football, Part 1

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How does a college football program reinvent itself? How does it go from a middling regional independent – a school without a bowl victory until 1986 – to a national title contender?

How does that happen?

In 1973, Virginia Tech lost to legendary Bear Bryant and Alabama by a score of 77-6, giving up a mind-blowing 828 total yards, 743 of them on the ground. The Hokies were as non-competitive in a single game as any football team has ever been in college football history.

But just 26 years later, Virginia Tech found itself on the edge of glory, just one quarter short of winning a national college football championship.

How, in the wide, wide, world of sports, does something like that happen?

The Hokies had no benefit of a fertile home recruiting ground like Florida, Texas, or California. It had little to no tradition to sell to recruits. It couldn’t ride the momentum of a heavy-hitting conference like the SEC or Big Ten. It didn’t have a gimmicky offense.
Virginia Tech had something – but what, exactly?

That’s the question I hope to answer with this series. Titled Go Tech Go: The Inside Story Behind the Rise of Virginia Tech Football, it will appear exclusively on TechSideline.com twice a month until the story is fully told.

A change of culture-type situation

If you can, try to imagine a world without ESPN, iPads, Chipotle, Caramel Machiattos, or Clash of Clans. A world where Virginia Tech football was more of a diversion than an obsession; a world where, instead of TechSideline.com, you got your Hokie news fix – this is going to sound crazy, so brace yourself – from a newspaper that was actually delivered to your front door.

It didn’t arrive by horse and buggy; it just seems that way.

The year was 1970, and Virginia Tech was still largely referred to as “VPI,” when young Ken Haines came to Blacksburg for a job interview (It wasn’t until a year later, 1971, when the school yearbook, The Bugle, would use “Virginia Tech” on its cover for the first time).