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Virginia Tech Credibility

July 11, 2003 Columns No Comments

Let’s Criticize the Right School

by Phil Kasiecki

The ACC expansion mess reached a new point in the final days of June. After nearly two months of action on this front, including four campus visits by conference officials, the ACC decided to invite only Miami and Virginia Tech. While it was no surprise that Miami was invited – the Hurricanes were clearly the main target of expansion – not many initially figured that Virginia Tech would be the only other team invited. Miami accepted on the last day of June after some consideration, while Virginia Tech wasted no time in accepting the invite the day after it was extended.

There has been a lot of criticism directed at Miami, mainly for the move being all about the money despite their talk that it is not. However, that criticism is a little misdirected, as the school most worthy of criticism is the one joining them in leaving the Big East for the ACC. The move does not put Virginia Tech in the best of lights, regardless of what athletic director Jim Weaver is saying about how good a move it is for them.

The fact that the Hokies will struggle to be competitive in basketball in the ACC, just like they have in the Big East, is relatively minor. The Hokies will remain a national power in football and help the ACC, while diluting its basketball product. But the school has really shown a lack of integrity in deciding to join the conference even though it was a plaintiff against the ACC in a lawsuit along with four other Big East schools. (The school has since withdrawn from the lawsuit.)

Originally, the ACC wanted to invite Miami, Boston College and Syracuse. For a while, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that the three would be joining the ACC – leaving Virginia Tech in a conference that would then be in serious trouble. In light of this, the University of Virginia was then under political pressure to get the Hokies into the ACC’s plans.

When it looked like the Big East might no longer be viable – losing national power Miami, as well as charter members Boston College and Syracuse, who are also consistent bowl teams – Virginia Tech joined Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Rutgers and West Virginia in filing a lawsuit against the ACC, Boston College and Miami. The lawsuit accused them of taking part in a conspiracy to weaken and the Big East, which also could have led to the death of the conference.

With only Miami defecting, the Big East could remain a viable conference, especially if they take action to add new members as has been reported. It would be weakened, but that’s not to say that someone wouldn’t eventually step up and become a consistently formidable team. Virginia Tech will surely remain a national power, while Boston College and Syracuse are usually bowl teams, West Virginia has had seasons where they were among the nation’s best teams, and Pittsburgh has experienced a recent resurgence in football. What has ultimately dragged the Big East down in recent years has been the low levels of their bottom teams (Rutgers and Temple).

Clearly, Virginia Tech could have remained in the Big East, as it expressed a desire to with the lawsuit, and remained in a viable football conference. By itself, acting in self-interest is certainly understandable; the other schools in the lawsuit filed it largely in their own self-interest. Most notably, Connecticut just recently made the move up to Division I-A, and did not want to see the money and effort put into the move go to waste from teams defecting from the conference it would eventually join.

But Virginia Tech went right with the tide in deciding to accept the invitation from the ACC after filing the lawsuit against the conference and the Big East schools that were originally set to defect. For them to file the lawsuit, then accept the invitation to the same conference it filed the lawsuit against, is simply hypocritical. They did not want three other schools to join the ACC, but apparently the move is just fine for them.

There has been speculation that the school may take a public relations hit from this move. How much of a hit remains to be seen, but it is one that is certainly deserved.

Other Offseason Notes

Rhode Island got a good boost recently when it was announced that Brian Woodward will return next season. A second-team All-Atlantic Ten selection, Woodward led the improving Rams in scoring and rebounding as they went 19-12 and reached the second round of the NIT. He originally sat out as a true freshman due to Prop 48, but graduated on time and has earned his fourth year. With Woodward rejoining a team that loses just two players from last year’s rotation, and the addition of Connecticut transfer Scott Hazleton in December, the Rams will be an NCAA Tournament contender and could dethrone St. Joseph’s in the Atlantic Ten’s East Division next season.

• One player whose withdrawal from the NBA Draft was a surprise was former Temple guard Brian Polk. He initially declared without intending to return to school, but withdrew before the June 19 deadline and will not be back at Temple next year. He believed to be considering a transfer to Delaware State.

• If Rick Stansbury becomes averse to recruiting elite prospects from Mississippi, one can hardly blame him. First Jonathan Bender, then Travis Outlaw signed to play for him at Mississippi State before opting for the NBA Draft in recent years. As if that isn’t enough, Jackie Butler, who also considered jumping to the NBA before opting not to, won’t be in Starkville this fall because he failed to qualify academically and will be in prep school. Not getting Outlaw or Butler, then losing Mario Austin as an early entrant to the NBA Draft, will leave the Bulldogs very thin up front next season.

Charlotte made a good move in extending the contract of head coach Bobby Lutz an additional season. He has made them a consistent competitor in Conference USA, though they slumped to 13-16 last season, and he’s been solid in the Conference USA Tournament.

Texas is has quickly parlayed its Final Four run into recruiting success, something many thought Indiana would do after being the national runner-up in 2001-02. It didn’t happen right away, but the Hoosiers are certainly getting it done thus far with the class of 2004. They got commitments during the spring from in-state wings Robert Vaden and James Hardy, and just recently got commitments from D.J. White, a 6’9″ PF from Alabama, and Josh Smith, a 6’9″ SF from Georgia, both among the elite players in the class of 2004.

Maine has gained another high-major transfer. The Black Bears have had several former Boston College players in recent years, and will add former Notre Dame guard Chris Markwood (a native of South Portland) in December this year. As if that isn’t enough, John Giannini’s club has recently added Ernest Turner, a high-scoring guard who had two disappointing seasons at UNLV. He will be eligible in 2004-05 and have two seasons left.


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