There are a lot of positive things that could happen if Virginia Tech beats Tulane in tomorrow’s Military Bowl, but only one thing matters to me, and it’s been on my mind for four long years.
Yeah, it’s nice to play in bowls these days, but the line for minimal performance has dropped to the point that you can have an average to mediocre season and still get into post-season if your fans buy tickets on a regular basis. Which means the new level of minimal performance for success is now having a winning record for a season.
In the decade starting at Jan. 1, 2020, the number of winning football seasons Virginia Tech has had is zero. Zilch. Nada.
We’re less than a week from 2024.
This annoys the heck out of me, because when the rocket ship took off and the Hokies went from obscurity to a seat at the cool kids’ table in college football, they were coming off a 2-8-1 season in 1992. For 25 straight years they would be in a bowl game and have a winning record, with that 25th bowl game being a win in the Belk Bowl under new coach Justin Fuente. It was the last time the Hokies would win a bowl game.
Fuente would then dismantle all the streaks. In the 26th year, they went to a bowl game but finished the season with a losing record, ironically in the same Military Bowl the Hokies will play in tomorrow. The next season in 2019, the lengthy streak of wins over in-state rival Virginia would end.
On New Year’s Eve that season, the last game of the 28-season bowl streak would end with a 37-30 loss to Kentucky.
Since then, the Hokies have been wandering in the darkness and the length of the journey has been concerning. When you see a pro team slip from the top, they go from Super Bowl champ, to division champ, to wild card team to .500 team, all the while saying “but we’re still good” until realizing it’s been 5 years since winning anything.
Good becomes acceptable instead of great, and you don’t realize you’re doing that. If you asked any of us old Hokies about going 7-5 back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, they’d call it a disaster. So would players and coaches. Seems the difference between the teams usually in the top 25 and those sniffing around the edges is the mental expectation that drives some teams to never say anything is “good enough.”
At times it has seemed Brent Pry is coming close in developing that hunger in Blacksburg after only his second year as a head coach. It’s one of the big things I see which gives me great hope about the Hokies’ future.
But it all starts with a winning season. You can’t spin the numbers when you have more wins than losses in a season. It means you were successful. And next season in the preseason press conferences, I want to see Pry up on the podium, answering a question like Indiana’s Curt Cignetti, saying “I win. Google it.”
Tomorrow is a pass-fail test where the entire grade is based on the final exam. Win tomorrow, you talk for the next 8 months about your winning season. Lose, and every sentence begins with “we came so close.” The Hokies and Coach Pry have the opportunity tomorrow to rebuild the first step of what previous coaches destroyed when they took over after Frank Beamer: a new winning streak.
Doesn’t matter if there’s rain, snow, or gloom of night in Annapolis.
All that matters are the results.
Just win, baby.