Be a Trend Setter
By VT Alum, 1/8/01

Something pretty impressive happened very quietly this weekend.  The Hokies lost to Villanova, 85-83 in overtime.  Taking an established Big East Conference foe to overtime is an accomplishment all by itself in this lean year for the men's basketball team.  That, however, is not what I was talking about.  The attendance for this weekend's men's basketball game was 5600+.  That's huge.  I watched the game on ESPN, and it looked like a pretty accurate count, so I'll take it as truth.  The thing that makes it remarkable was that the students are not back yet.  There seemed to be a good number of them there, but once the dorms open, I can't help but think that maybe the men are going to start drawing eight or nine thousand for some games. 

This, ladies and gentlemen was one of the main reasons we joined the Big East, no matter how lousy the deal seemed at the time.  At 5648 (the exact number) this crowd was the fourth largest home crowd to see the Hokies play in the last two and a half seasons.  This year's UVa matchup was a sell-out (10,052), but that is to be expected.  Last year, paid attendance was 6113 for the Xavier game, but if memory serves me, that was the game where they handed out posters celebrating the football team, and there were a lot of reports of people getting their posters and leaving.

Just over 5500 came out for senior day last year, but that's still 150 short of this weekend's announced attendance.  The year before, 7182 showed up to see Wake Forest dunk through town (actually, it was an ugly game with neither team shooting over 35% from the floor, and Tech hitting just three of eleven free throws to lose by five points, 52-47), but the next best I could find for that season was 5046 for the George Washington game.

Now, I don't know if there was some sort of promotion that brought that many people to Cassell, but putting 5600 rear ends in the seats on a weekend when the NFL playoffs are center stage and the students are out of town is an accomplishment.  The Atlantic 10 was a nice league and any given year, we could be expected to finish in the upper half of our division and then lose to Temple (or someone else) in the conference tournament by a score somewhere in the 55 to 40 range.

The problem was, nobody wanted to see any of the teams in the league, and the Hokies were not drawing anyone with their own play either.  I don't really care right now if the fans are coming to games to see the Hokies or coming to games to see the opponents, at least they are coming through the front door and buying tickets.  Since we have no revenue sharing, that's our only  income from the Basketball program right now, and it beats the heck out of the 2000+ or so that was announced as the average attendance the last couple of years. 

So, here's the plan.  We need to help the team by lending our support.  Students come back next week.  The "name" teams will continue to roll into Blacksburg.  Providence, St. John's, BC, WVU, UConn, and ...grrrr... Notre Dame will all visit the Cassell when classes are in session (Miami visits this Wednesday).  Only WVU and Miami are on weeknights.  The other five are on Saturdays.  If the same 5600 people who showed up to see Villanova this weekend can make it, I believe we can get 4400 students out of the dorms and sell out Cassell for at least two of those games. 

I am a realist.  I know that this is not a very good team, but after seeing them play a middle-of-the-league team this weekend, lead most of the game, and take them to overtime, I'm convinced that if we can get decent crowds out for some of these games and makes some noise, we can win a few conference games this year (many think we won't win one until next year at the earliest).  For those of you who are students, you've probably never seen Cassell full to the rafters and loud.  Let me tell you, it's impressive.  It gets just as loud as Lane does when 56,000 are in those stands.  You can scream at the top of your lungs and not hear yourself.

So, let's get some people out to these games and give the team a little boost.  They played a heck of a game this weekend.  They put forth their best effort, and with more of us to back them, maybe they can pull a couple of upsets this year.  Beyond that, it gets even better.  There are no seniors on this club, so as they learn to play together as a team, they will show a great deal of improvement, and will become a team that isn't put in all the Big East opponents' "Automatic Win" columns.  Those of you that can get to the games know that you are going to go when the team gets better and starts to contend in the conference. Why not be a trend setter and go now?  Why not help them get better?

VT Alum, who carried that name on the Internet long before there was a cyber-gathering place specifically for Hokie Fans, graduated from Tech in 1993 (B.A. English) and now does network and PC support in the Washington, D.C. metro area.


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