Tuesday, May 20th, 1997

Hokie Baseball To Face USC in South II Regional in Alabama

The Hokie baseball team is headed to the six-team South II Regional in Alabama. Tech is a #5 seed out of the six teams, and they will start off on Thursday against #2 seed and #9-ranked Southern Cal. Here are the pairings for the first day:

South II Regional, May 22-25, at Tuscaloosa, Alabama
No. 1 seed *Alabama vs. No. 6 Troy State No. 2 seed Southern Cal vs. No. 5 *VIRGINIA TECH*
No. 3 seed North Carolina State vs. No. 4 Wichita State

It's typical Hokie seeding luck. There are 8 regionals, and if you believe in polls, the Hokies managed to draw the ninth best team in the country - as a #2 seed. I don't think Tech deserves to be any better than a #5 seed, but did they have to draw arguably the best #2 seed in the field?

WAAAAAHHHHH!!! Just kidding. You have to play the good teams and beat the good teams at some point, so bring 'em on! And for the Hokies, who were scraping by at the .500 level just two weeks ago, there probably isn't much difference in playing #9 or #16. They've both had WAY better seasons than Tech.

Don't underestimate Tech. They're on a roll, and they're confident. By the time Thursday rolls around, the Hokies' pitching rotation will be well-rested, and they'll be able to throw their best at the Trojans.

The complete field and seedings can be found at ESPNet's NCAA Baseball Tourney Page. Keep track of all the action there for as long as the Hokies are in it.

Cornell Brown: Guilty

On Monday afternoon, former Hokie defensive lineman - and former Hokie sports hero - Cornell Brown was found guilty of misdemeanor assault for his part in the Blacksburg Brawl last August. Like those found guilty before him, Cornell was sentenced to 30 days in jail, with all but two suspended. If he behaves himself on the first day, they'll let him go, with time off for good behavior.

The conviction caps a year that has been all downhill for Cornell. After the 1995 Sugar Bowl season, he was everybody's All-American, and there were rumors that he would go pro. He was projected at the time as a first- or second-round pick.

Well, it's a year later, and it was a year that saw Cornell suffer through average performance on the field (for him), and it saw Hokie fans suffer through a string of embarrassing incidents off the field, some of which Cornell was a part of. Cornell was involved in The Brawl last August and was charged and suspended the week before the ECU game. As his trial loomed, he continued to behave in a manner that didn't endear himself to Hokie fans.

Cornell showed up for the Orange Bowl bid press conference dressed in a ski mask with no mouth hole, which was his way of letting the press know that his famous silence towards the media would continue. Once he arrived at the Orange Bowl, he taped over the VT logo on his helmet with the numbers of suspended players, just as he had done at the Sugar Bowl the year before. And during a halftime ceremony at a Tech basketball game in which the 1996 Big East Champion Hokies were honored, Cornell stayed in the stands and did not go down on the basketball court.

By the time the NFL draft came around last month, the off-the-field incidents, along with a so-so senior year and his size as a "tweener" - bigger than a linebacker, but smaller than a defensive lineman - had caused the former star to fall all the way to the sixth round, where the Baltimore Ravens finally selected him.

It is an inglorious end to a career that began with great promise and a press conference that earned Cornell the instant love of Hokie fans everywhere. As a high school senior, the young linebacker from E.C. Glass wavered between selecting Tech or UVa up until the last moment, when he stepped up to the microphone and said that he had called the press conference "to announce that I will be attending the University of Virginia ... Tech." Hokie fans everywhere howled with laughter and glee.

Cornell was an instant fan favorite - the crowed roared when he pressured the quarterback several times during the 1993 season opener against Bowling Green, Cornell's first Tech game ever. I remember watching him during that game and thinking that even as a true freshman, he looked like a man among boys.

Cornell played every game at 100 miles an hour and was widely acknowledged as the Hokies' emotional leader on defense. When he was injured before the Sugar Bowl, and his status for the game was in doubt, Hokie fans worried, because we knew we "couldn't win without him." That season, in which he had 14 sacks, led to him being named the Hokies' MVP and a 1995 postseason and 1996 preseason All-American.

Prior to the 1996 season, Cornell announced that he would be passing up the NFL and staying one more year at Tech, and Hokie fans cheered him again. His status as a diehard Hokie and fan favorite was set in stone ... and then the last year came.

I won't ever pretend to know what goes on or went on in Cornell's head. I've talked with people who wish he had gone ahead and left a year early, and I've talked with people who are his staunch supporters to this day. As for me, I'm just left with a nagging feeling of regret and a wish that it had turned out differently.

Cornell's future is now in nobody's hands but his own. He may have been drafted late, but he was drafted, and now his fate in the NFL - sink or swim - depends solely on the intensity and work ethic that he brings to it.


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