The recent success of the Hokie football program has led a lot of us fans to ask "Just how far can the program go?". I've seen comments about how it's only a matter of time before the program comes off this four year high....no way that Va Tech can have a top program year in, year out. Reasons? The most overwhelming reason is that poor location and cold weather are negatives to top recruits and stadium sell-outs. I've even seen recent comments about how the colors and the mascot are problems that need addressing.
Well, I don't believe any of it. I think it is a very realistic goal for this program to join the very top of the college football echelon. Why do I think that? I have just two words....Penn State.
Think about it. Let's address the location and cold weather issues. If any of you have ever been to State College, PA, then you know that there is not a more remote place in this country...in comparison, Blacksburg is where all major roads lead. You really have to want to go to a Penn State football game to find that place...you just don't happen to pass by. Oh, about the cold...just this year, it was snowing at a Penn State game in mid-October. Oh, and at last check, Penn State is not having too many problems recruiting the nation's top players.
So, you say you might buy that, but you ask "what's it going to take for Va Tech to become the next Penn State?". Some key factors are already in place, like the big time conference affiliation. Others are the obvious fund raising needed to continually improve facilities, and winning will increase season ticket sales in spite of the location. And we already recruit very well in the state of Pennsylvania. But there is one more, most important factor to reach the goal of being the "Penn State of the South".....
Consistency in the coaching staff. Joe Paterno has been the head coach at Penn State since 1965 and he has relatively few changes to his staff over that time. Just today in the local newspaper, there was an article about this subject. The article was pointing out how much turnover there has been in the Duke football coaching staff and the impact it has had...0-10 this year after reaching a bowl game just two years ago. By comparison, the article described how the top programs have all had consistency in the coaching staffs. It highlighted Nebraska, Florida State and.....Penn State.
An interesting spin on this point....where would Miami be today if Jimmy Johnson were still there?
Yes the 1994 team went to the Gator Bowl, but for most of us, that year seemed to be a little disappointing. Maybe it was because Maurice DeShazo had an off year from his 1993 season, or maybe it was because Tech lost the last two games of 1994 by lopsided scores (and one of those was to the dreaded Hoos). And don't forget that the Hokies lost their first two games of 1995 (a four game losing streak) before taking off on a streak of 18-1 (and still going).
I wonder what 1994 would have turned out like if Ricky Bustle had not left for his one year vacation in South Carolina. Would Maurice have had the off year? Would the 1995 Hokies have lost those first two games? Just some more to chew on with respect to staff consistency.
How is the program doing in this area? Well, I'm not an expert, but there is cause for concern. We've lost two defensive coordinators in three years, and one of the best assistants, Todd Grantham, has moved on. I am hoping that we can keep the staff intact for many years to come and let's see what happens. The "problem" is that the Tech coaching staff is excellent, which leads to a lot of interest from other schools. If the staff can stay together, then this program can become one of the best and the envy of those from Charlottesville to Morgantown to Miami.