Go Tech Go: The Inside Story Behind the Rise of VT Football, Part 18

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Soon after the Roanoke Times & World-News series came out in the fall of 1985, several prominent alumni started pressuring Dr. William Lavery to pull Bill Dooley as athletics director. And when the team started the season 0-3, many fans wanted him gone as coach, too.

Two of those losses came at home in front of sparse crowds. The University was still on the quarter system then – it didn’t switch to the semester system until 1988-89 – and the two home losses came before students were on campus. Only 21,000 people attended the home opener against the Richmond Spiders, and the Clemson game drew a generous estimate of 31,100.

Bill Roth, Mike Burnop
Bill Roth and Mike Burnop. Photo provided by Bill Roth.

Taking a Pressbox View

When Tech beat Syracuse 24-14 for its first win of the season before an announced crowd of 33,400 (including students), Hokie fans reacted with a collective “meh.” In retrospect, the game only became significant because of who was in the pressbox; Syracuse undergraduates Bill Roth and classmate Mike Tirico made their first trips to Blacksburg, broadcasting the game for their college radio station, WAER.

Tirico went on to shine for ESPN, providing the play-by-play man