Thursday, October 16, 1997

Cops and Robbers

There was an interesting article in the September 13 edition of The New River Current section of The Roanoke Times that talked about the police officers that Tech hires to patrol the stadium during each game. The Virginia Tech Police and the Virginia State Police are joined by about 65 auxiliary officers from surrounding jurisdictions to comprise a total force of about 90 officers at each game.

Obviously, their primary duties center around preventing fans and students from smuggling alcohol into the game, and then escorting the successful smugglers who get a little too inebriated out of the stands.

Years ago (that's my way of saying "back in the 80's, when I was at Tech"), if an officer caught you sneaking alcohol into the game, the common practice was for the officer to confiscate the contraband and pour it out onto the ground while you watched, but usually you were allowed to go into the game, anyway. After all, the cop's primary mission - preventing alcohol from entering the stadium - had been accomplished. I never snuck alcohol into the game (seriously - I like football too much to watch it through a haze), but I remember friends getting caught and having to watch in agony as their precious stash was poured out onto the grass. Hey, we were students, and that stuff was expensive! But unless the smuggler was abusive or obviously drunk when caught, they were generally allowed to continue to their seats.

Not recently, though. Last year, a local acquaintance of mine called me on the phone and was aghast because he had been caught trying to sneak liquor in, and he was then escorted outside the gate and told not to come back in. "When did they start doing that?!?" he asked me.

Uh, well, last year. Bad timing on my buddy's part.

From what I understand, the Tech athletic department made an effort last year to beef up the security force in and around the stadium on game days. This effort consisted of doubling the force inside the stadium during the game and cruising the parking lots during tailgates and looking for underage drinkers before the game. The increased prevention effort came about due to the rising rate of alcohol-related incidents as football crowds increased in size from the late 80's to mid-90's.

Legend has it that some time in the 1995 season, a drunken reveler vomited on a child in the stands. The kid's parents were understandably upset, and they wrote a letter of complaint to then-AD Dave Braine. Braine got to thinking about the matter, one thing led to another, and the next thing you know, there are 90 cops on duty during a game.

The Virginia Tech police and the Virginia State Police are a regular force at the games. There are about 25 of them, and as I said earlier, another 65 auxiliary cops are added from nearby jurisdictions (at least, those were the numbers for this year's Syracuse game, and the article said they were typical numbers). The auxiliary officers come from Giles County, Montgomery County, Blacksburg, Radford, etc., and they get paid overtime pay for their work. The 65 extra officers for the Syracuse game cost an additional $1300 per hour over and above the regular security force, and since the officers work about 5 hours on game day, the total cost to Tech for this auxiliary force is $6500 per game.

Divide that number by $25 - the cost of a Syracuse ticket - and you find that it only takes 260 extra fans in the seats to pay for the boys in blue.

Interesting side note: the police usually make about 25 arrests at a football game, and that number might double or triple for a big game like Virginia or West Virginia. The arrest total for the Syracuse game? Just 8 people, further evidence that the fans were really into that game.

Either that, or the police were, too. It's hard to make an arrest when you're cheering on the Hokies!

Hokies Land Grundy Star Luke Owens

If you haven't heard yet, Tech received a commitment last Saturday from Grundy linebacker Luke Owens. Owens is an All-Group AA linebacker who is expected to play offensive lineman in college. From the Screaming Lizard's Hokie Hotline comes the quote, "In addition to being one of the top two OL prospects in the state, Owens is also a two-time State Heavyweight wrestling champion. Last year was named 1st team all-state on D, and 2nd team all-state on offense. Four year starter. Chose the Hokies over Tennessee, and UVa."

Owens is 6-5, 280 pounds, runs a 5.2 40-yard dash, and benches 335 pounds. His parents are both teachers, and he is a good student who has already qualified (I believe his academic credentials are 3.0 GPA and 950 SAT). He joins 6-4, 330-pound Anthony Davis from Central-Lunenberg and 6-3, 250 Jake Grove from Jefferson-Forest as linemen who have verbaled to Tech this fall.

I hate to use the phrase "lock" when describing a recruit, but Owens was indeed considered to be a Hokie prospect from the start. He was ranked 14th in Doug Doughty's recruiting list, so that means that the Hokies have landed verbal commitments from #10 DB Ronyell Whitaker, #14 OL/DL Luke Owens, #15 WR/ATH Lamar Cobb, #17 QB Travis Turner, and #24 OL Jake Grove to this point. The Hokies are still strong in the running for some Top-10 players, including #4 QB Michael Vick (Hokie OL Dwight Vick's cousin, I believe) and #5 LB Jake Houseright.

I personally think that this year is going to be a good one in recruiting for the Hokies, and when this class is combined with the classes from the last two years, the future looks bright for the Hokies.

The Pirates' Ship is Sinking

One of my favorite non-Tech teams, the East Carolina Pirates, are having a terrible year. After being picked to finish #1 in Conference USA and landing in some people's preseason Top 25 polls, they are currently 1-4, including back-to-back shutout losses, 26-0 to South Carolina and 56-0 to Syracuse. ECU has also lost 24-17 to WVU and 23-13 to Southern Miss. The only victory for ECU was a less than inspiring 25-24 victory over Wake Forest in which the Pirates trailed 21-0 before rallying.

I've always enjoyed the rivalry and the close-fought games between Tech and ECU, but last year, as I watched the Hokies dismantle the Pirates 35-14, I got the feeling that we were leaving them behind. The Hokies outgained ECU in that game 591-305, and I saw quite a few shell-shocked Pirate fans as I exited Lane Stadium. They looked like they had been demoralized, not just beaten. And now, the following year, they've fallen to a 1-4 start, including previously-unthinkable losses like 26-0 and 56-0.

I don't know enough about ECU's season to know if it's injuries, lack of quality players, or poor coaching that's doing them in. But I do know that I hate to see them getting smacked around. I've always liked ECU (except for that heartbreaking 24-17 loss they dealt us back in 1991), and I've always felt they were a kindred soul to Virginia Tech. Just like us, they're a team that "gets no respect" and has trouble scheduling games with quality opponents.

I hope the Pirates can pull it together again. Part of me wonders if their status as an independent in the early 90's is catching up with them at last. And Conference USA is only slightly better than being independent, so it could be an unwinnable battle for the Pirates. But they've got a great fan base and a real us-against-the-world attitude that they feed off of, so only time will tell.


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