Novembers in Blacksburg can be cold, dark months. But in 1995, Virginia Tech was red-hot, and its football future never brighter. The Hokies had just unveiled plans to break ground on the new $10.6 million Merryman Center, and the football team was on a seven-game winning streak. In their last four games Tech had outscored its opponents 180-51, an average score of 45-13.
The program was changing before our eyes. In 1987, average football attendance was 31,840, and that included generous, rounded-off estimates that were far from official. By 1995, the average attendance was up to 44,777.
Even so, Tech was still getting no respect—at least from ESPN. On the Thursday following the win over Syracuse, ESPN’s Chris Fowler—who would, in time, become a champion of Virginia Tech—pointed out the Hokies’ lack of prestige. During an “On Campus” report, he said, “Virginia Tech is headed for a bowl game, but they won’t get the big-time bid they deserve unless Miami loses or ties, forcing the Hokies into the mix as the Big East champ. Their problem: Virginia Tech is America’s least glamorous big-time program.”
Fowler pointed out that “Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University” would not fit on a bowl game program. He added, “In a quiz of Big East opposing players, I guarantee half couldn’t name Blacksburg, let alone find it on a map—or name coach Frank Beamer, for...
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