Friday, February 18, 2000
by Will Stewart
The Ins and Outs of the Football Schedule
Finally, the football schedule is out, and you can all start making travel plans and prognosticating how the Hokies will do on the field next year. Itís always an exciting time when the schedule comes out, because it makes the next season a little more "real" and brings it a little closer.
For the record, hereís the schedule:
With the inclusion of the BCA Classic in late August, the Hokies have a total of seven home games for the first time since 1996 (and in fairness, 1996 was balanced out by only five home games in 1995).
The home games are front-end-loaded, which seems to happen frequently with Tech football schedules (one notable exception is the 1996 season, where seven of Techís last nine games were at home). The Hokies play five of those seven home games in the first seven weeks of the season, and only play two home games the final six weeks of the season.
The inclusion of not just one, but two Thursday night games is at first cause for celebration, but a closer examination of the schedule brings a little concern. The Thursday night game at ECU after playing Akron just five days earlier has DANGER written all over it, as I discussed a week ago here in News and Notes.
A mere month later, the Hokies do it again, playing a home Thursday night game against WVU on only five days rest. Fortunately, both ECU and WVU play games five days before their Tech matchups. ECU hosts Duke and WVU hosts Idaho.
But still, this is unusual. Tech has played four Thursday night ESPN games over the years (1994 WVU, 1995 Boston College, 1998 Boston College, and 1999 Clemson), and the Hokies had an off Saturday the weekend before every one of those games but one. In 1994, Hokies played WVU on September 22nd just five days after winning a tough road game at Boston College on September 17th, 12-6. As you may remember, the Hokies trounced WVU in that Thursday night game in 1994, 34-6.
Another note on the schedule is the fact that four games are already slated for television, before the season has even started. Itís quite possible that ten or more of Techís games this year could wind up on television, depending upon how the season goes, not just for Virginia Tech, but for Michael Vick.
Lastly, down at the bottom of the schedule, on November 4th, is the Miami game, which may decide the Big East championship. CBS has finally woken up to the allure of the Miami/Virginia Tech rivalry and has decided to pick the game up. The Big (Blind) Eye network hasnít shown this matchup since 1996, leaving it instead for ESPN and ESPN2, where Charlie Steiner and Todd Christiansen butchered it for a couple of years.
The ESPN GameDay crew showed up for it last year, though, and the hype lifted the game to great ratings. It ended up being the second most-watched ESPN college football game all year, behind only Tennessee-Notre Dame. Given those ratings, it was a foregone conclusion that CBS would snap up this yearís game for the first time in four seasons.
Of course, although we like to deride CBS for not picking up more Tech games, the simple fact is that any sane Hokie fan doesnít want them to pick up Tech games. VT games are better viewed on ESPN, where you arenít subjected to constant promos for "King of Queens" and "Walker, Texas Ranger," and where the broadcast crews (with the exception of Steiner) are more professional, better prepared, and more sober.
Add to that the fact that CBS broadcasts are regional, not national, and the Big East telecasts often get buried by an SEC broadcast in the same time slot, and it becomes clear that being picked up by CBS is not a good thing. Except for the payout, which is largest when CBS picks up the game.
(Sidebar: does anyone remember the CBS broadcast of a Tech game a few years back, possibly 1996, where a Hokie special teams player -- Steve Tate? -- tried to make a cut in the open field, only to buckle his knee and collapse on the field? As Tech trainers and medical staff attended to the fallen player, the CBS color analyst Ė I believe it was Terry Donahue Ė yucked it up watching the replay, giggling about "self-tackle-ization." Classy, and CBS has been on my black list since.)
Unlike previous years, the Big East championship could very well be decided relatively early, on November 4th. The Miami game is Techís last conference game in 2000, and if the Hokies are able to go into that game 6-0 in the Big East, a victory over the Canes would seal the Big East championship, and the November 18th matchup between Miami and Syracuse, would be rendered meaningless, as would any other game between top teams in the Big East. In short, the Hokies could very well know by November 4th whether or not theyíre headed to a BCS game, an unusual situation.
Finally, hereís how HokieCentral rates the games: