Tuesday, December 23, 1997

Clemson, JMU Reappear on Hokies Football Schedule

Just three months after coming on the job, Athletic Director Jim Weaver has left his mark on the Hokies football schedule.  A home-and-home series with Cincinnati for 1998 and 1999 has been dropped, and the Bearcats have been replaced with former Hokie rival Clemson.  This is great news for Hokie fans, who all wanted exactly what Weaver gave us - a home-and-home series with a "name" regional opponent to replace one of the lousy teams that Dave Braine filled up the schedule with.

The only drawback is that playing an ACC team, particularly a good one, is a dicey proposition with respect to bowls, due to the fact that the ACC and Big East conferences are tied into the Gator and Carquest Bowls.  If it comes down to bowl time next year, and a possible VT/Clemson rematch in the Gator or Carquest bowls is occurring, this could hurt the Hokies, particularly if the matchup was slated for the Gator.  I would think that the Gator would take Clemson (since Tech is Gatoring this year), and Tech would be shuffled down to the (aaarrrgh!) Carquest Bowl.

I'm not complaining, mind you, just pointing something out.  I'm thrilled to have Clemson on the schedule.  I loved playing them back in the 80's, although I hated losing to them, and it will ensure a packed house for the 1999 game, a packed house that a game with Cincinnati probably wouldn't have accomplished.

Weaver has also signed up to play JMU in 1999 and 2003.  This is in anticipation of the NCAA approving a new rule that would allow games with division 1-AA programs to count towards the six wins required to become bowl eligible.  Weaver's philosophy is that he'd rather play an in-state 1-AA team like JMU or Richmond than some lousy 1-A team like Akron or Arkansas State.  I can't argue too much with him on that.  Plus, JMU is only going to cost us about $200,000 for a visit to Lane Stadium, whereas 1-A schools like Akron or Ark. State cost $350,000.

Weaver has talked about scheduling an in-state 1-AA team since he got here.  He thinks that JMU is going to bring fans to Blacksburg and help fill up Lane more than say, Akron would.  He'll find out he's wrong on that point, but that's okay.

Many people are upset about the decision to play JMU, but I say, so what?  A doormat's a doormat.  What's the difference between playing Arkansas State or JMU?   Neither one is going to be on TV or gain us any "respect," so why not go with the in-state team that's cheaper?  You need a doormat on your schedule, so why not JMU?

What is not clear is which team Tech is dropping from the 1999 home schedule to play JMU.  It's either UAB or Arkansas State (please make it ASU!), but it wasn't announced in the papers.

So here's Tech's updated future schedule.  Funny how adding Clemson makes it look so much better, eh?  Notice that I still have 12 games listed for 1999, because I don't know whether to drop UAB or ASU.

1998 Pitt, Temple, WVU,
Rutgers, UVa, ECU
BC, Miami, Syracuse, UAB,
Clemson (replaces Cincinnati)
1999 BC, Miami, Syracuse, UAB (?),
Clemson (replaces Cincinnati),
Arkansas State (?), JMU
Pitt, Temple, WVU,
Rutgers UVa
2000 Pitt, Temple, WVU,
Rutgers, UVa, Akron
BC, Miami, Syracuse, ECU,
Central Florida

Remember, it has been rumored that N.C. State will be entering the schedule after 2000.

So now, for 1998 and 1999, Tech has four attractive home games in each year, which should increase season ticket sales.  Next year, the Hokies play WVU, UVa, ECU, and a Pitt team that might draw a larger crowd, now that they have beaten us (that's the up side of losing to Pitt - the game has become a little more important to us now).  In 1999, the Hokies host BC, Miami, Syracuse, and Clemson.  If BC shows improvement next year, that will be an excellent home schedule for 1999.

Not to mention that we have become more attractive to television.   Tech wasn't on TV much in 1997, and that had to do primarily with our lousy home schedule - three games (UAB, Ark. State, and Miami-OH) were immediately ruled out for TV, as was the Temple game.  Other factors for Tech not being on TV in 1997 were a lack of support from CBS and the Big East, but we won't go there.

Next year, though, only three games will likely not be considered for television:  UAB, Temple, and Rutgers (and with Rutgers, you never know - it might actually be on TV).  The TV networks will no doubt take a good hard look at the WVU, UVa, Miami, Syracuse, BC, Clemson, Pitt, and ECU games for broadcast.  It could be a good year to catch the Hokies on TV in 1998, even if some of the games wind up on ESPN2.

The biggest downer to all this?  Cincinnati escapes without the Hokies getting their chance to gain revenge for the 1995 home loss.

Tech Gets Verbal From Hicks

Kecoughtan (Hampton) defensive end Marlan Hicks, ranked #6 in Doug Doughty's preseason Top-25 recruiting list, has verballed to Tech.  Hicks picked the Hokies over UVa.   Although Tech has about 15 verbal commitments right now, this is the first player I can remember who had the Hokies and Hoos at 1-2 on his recruiting list.  So Tech wins this one, and it's a big one.  Getting a highly-rated player from the Hampton area is a nice "get" for the Hokies, who are still in the hunt for #4 QB Michael Vick from Hampton and #5 LB Jake Houseright from Gate City.  If the Hokies can land Vick and Houseright, most observers agree that this year's class will be excellent.

So far, Tech has landed verbal commitments from the following Virginia players (Doug Doughty's preseason ranking is in parentheses):  Hicks (#6), Ronyell Whitaker (#10), Keith Burnell (#13), Luke Owens (#14), Lamar Cobb (#15), Travis Turner (#17), and Jake Grove (#24).  That's a nice spread of Top-25 players.

For comparison, UVa has verbals from Ronald Curry (#1), Darnell Hollier (#7), Chanston Rodgers (#9), Devon Battle (#16), and Jermaine Lauzon (#18).  I may have missed a few for UVa, because, well ... I don't really follow UVa recruiting all that closely.

Doug Doughty will release his post-season Top 25 on Christmas day, so look for it then.


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