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Can't Help But Be Impressed With How Fuente Handled This

Justin Fuente isn’t the most popular guy in Blacksburg these days, and some of it is of his own doing. The main part is obviously a losing record last year and getting beat this season by Duke like a pack of rented mules.

The other is his reserved, introverted personality, which has led some to question his ability to relate to recruits, thus causing issues in getting the region’s best players to want to come play for him at Virginia Tech.

Mike Niziolek of the Roanoke Times had this interesting feature on starting quarterback Hendon Hooker today, and I walked away impressed with how Fuente handled the situation with Hooker and his family when Hooker decided to enter the transfer portal for a brief time earlier in the year.

Fuente doesn’t want to talk about the situation and tends to brush off any questions about that time in the transfer portal. His father Alan, however, is more than glad to speak of it, saying this of Fuente:

"… He’s held up to be the guy he said he was when he recruited Hendon,” Alan Hooker told Niziolek. “He’s always going to tell us the information whether it’s good or bad. He’s never given us information to tickle our senses. He’s always said what it is, this is what Hendon needs to work on and this is where he’s at. He’s always believed in Hendon’s talent.”

So he didn’t blow smoke at the athlete, give him a sales pitch on all the blue sky that was just around the corner and make promises that might not be kept. I really like the line about Fuente being the same he was when he recruited Hendon. Too many people act one way before signing, and an entirely different way when you’re just one of the many on the roster. Fuente was consistent from start to finish, something I’d take note of as a potential recruit.

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Now That We've Seen Hooker Play, What Was Fuente Thinking?

It’s been two weeks since Virginia Tech decided to make a quarterback change on its starting offense.

Having watched the last two games, I have questions.

Not about Hendon Hooker. He’s been a pleasant surprise.

My question is about what the heck Justin Fuente has been thinking not playing him earlier.

Quarterback changes are always emotionally charged discussions, as the most popular QB in just about every town is the backup. Fans think since he’s not playing, he must be better than the guy who is, and they keep thinking that right up until the moment the backup plays.

Then they understand why he’s the backup.

In Hooker’s case, the suspicion has been that it’s been more than lack of experience that has kept him from consideration in being a starter. He’s rarely been used, and when he’s gotten in for the occasional play due to injury or mop-up duty, he’s been a run-only quarterback. In one situation last season, he showed his speed and running ability were pretty good too, scoring on a 69-yard run late in the 4th quarter against William & Mary.

But since he never got a serious look at QB after Josh Jackson went down with an injury against Old Dominion last season, the presumption was he was a one-dimensional QB. That was further fueled by Fuente’s decision to go with 5th-year senior Ryan Willis at the start of this season, because most coaches would only go with a guy that old because they felt they had no other option or that the other QBs weren’t ready.

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Colleges Need To Pay Attention Or Risk Having A Kodak Moment

This morning, I was working on the details of a focus group I will be involved in later today, where I will work with an organization to help determine what their brand really is, what they believe differentiates themselves in the market, and what they think people really value them for.

As is usually the case, I jotted down a few stories to illustrate what we will try to accomplish, and for most marketing people, the story of Kodak usually makes an appearance. That iconic company was known by everyone because of their success in the area of film and cameras, and they actually invented the first digital camera in 1975. Thanks to that invention, we now carry and capture all of our favorite memories on something as small as our phones.

But Kodak eventually went bankrupt in 2012. They thought their unique ability in the marketplace was making film and cameras instead of capturing all those memories. Others (like people who build phones) did see that, and developed products that made most of what Kodak was selling obsolete.

The story immediately reminded me of what’s going on in sports these days. Turn on a television and you will see more and more fans dressed up as empty seats. Whether it’s college football, pro football, auto racing, etc., Athletic Directors and Team owners – to use a bad pun – are not getting the picture.

Just one month ago, I returned to my alma mater at Virginia Tech to see a football game between the Hokies and Notre Dame, the first time I've done that in three years. Even though the Hokies lost, it was a fantastic time. It was a chance to see dozens of old friends, experience the electricity of "Enter Sandman" as the team made its way into the stadium, tailgate with some great people, etc. The experience - and the related memories - were what made it great.

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I Can't Say Thanks Enough For What Frank Beamer Has Done

To truly appreciate what Frank Beamer has done for Virginia Tech, allow me to share some of my earliest memories of being a Hokie.

The year was 1973, my senior year of high school. The check was in the mail to the admissions office, and I was going to be spending the next 4 years in Blacksburg. I picked up the Sunday Virginian Pilot in Norfolk (my hometown) and there was a story on Virginia Tech losing to Alabama in Tuscaloosa. By a score of 77-6.

That’s no typo. 77-6. Laughingstock wasn’t a strong enough word for how the Hokie football program looked back then.

My four years at Virginia Tech would be the four years of Jimmy Sharpe. The wishbone worked in the second year, as the Hokies won 8 games, but didn’t get a bowl bid. Things then fell apart as the team would go 6-5 and then 3-7-1. Sharpe would be fired. A football player would die in the dorms the day after a game in 1977, and Virginia Tech was in the national news for all the wrong reasons.

Meanwhile, teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference were the envy of all of us. "Why not Virginia Tech?" many of us thought, but the perception was simply we were not good enough. In 1977, an expansion committee actually sent a group to Blacksburg to examine the possibility, but they stayed all of about 45 minutes. Their minds were made up before they ever got there.

The Hokies were small potatoes.

Bill Dooley improved things slightly as the next coach, but he did it with a clock in his window that was a replica of a UNC football helmet. He didn’t particularly like Virginia Tech traditions, he wasn’t a Hokie, he was never going to be a Hokie, and he sure wasn’t going to stay around for a long time. Then he too was asked to leave.

Enter Frank. He was a Hokie and a gentleman. He showed respect to everyone, whether it was the press, fans who stopped him at the airport, donors or somebody out in the hall way. He was humble Fancy Gap Frank, and he set out to fix what was wrong. His only major failing was his loyalty to friends, and after a number of disappointing seasons, then athletic director Dave Braine essentially told him to fire some of his friends and bring in better coaches, or he would be shown the door. Frank did what needed to be done.

The next year, the bowl streak started, which was a big deal for those of us who had a couple of Peach Bowls to show for the last 20 years of being a fan. In 1995, Jim Druckenmiller and company made it all the way to the Sugar Bowl, but ESPN’s Lee Corso consistently said the Hokies had no chance against Texas. We weren’t a brand name and had no place in even being in the bowl. Texas fans bemoaned the notion they had to play a no-name like Virginia Tech. The game had the worst slot of all the major bowl games: New Year’s Eve at 8 PM.

Then, after trailing 10-0, Frank and the Hokies beat Texas 28-10. Corso even had to apologize the next day and admit the Hokies were for real. My daughter was 8 months old, and I thought how cool it would be if she one day went to Virginia Tech when they were considered a big-time program.

Back then you couldn’t buy Virginia Tech merchandise such as jackets, coats, etc. in regular stores. The Hokies were not a brand name, so you could buy Oklahoma, Nebraska..even UVA stuff at sporting goods stores. But anything VT was either in the bookstore or nowhere. When the Hokies came back and made the Orange Bowl the next year, jackets by Starter with the unique “square root of 1” VT logo started showing up. Maybe, many of us thought, we’re about to belong.

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Recent comment in this post
Guest — DougJohnson

Yes, my friend, We Belong.

Thank you, Coach Beamer. We Are Virginia Tech.
Sunday, 01 November 2015 17:40
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Let's Not Throw The Baby Out With The Bath Water Over Bowl Streak

I still remember the conversation clearly.

My friend Bob and I were making that long walk from the Superdome in New Orleans to our car. We had driven down from High Point, NC the day before to see history. Having graduated in the late 1970s, we’d seen our share of bad football, so with Virginia Tech playing Florida State for a national championship, we just had to be there.

We saw history being made, but for Florida State, not Virginia Tech. And like any fan, we were bummed that we came so close but didn’t grab the brass ring. We would drive all the way back to North Carolina hardly saying a word, but as we got in the car that night, we talked about what a ride it had been. We’d seen Fire and Rain in Virginia Tech football, and the loss was not going to deter how great the year had been.

“At least we can compare it to 3-win seasons under Jimmy Sharpe,” I said. “Can you imagine someone who was a freshman in 1995 and is graduating this year? The worst they’ve ever experienced is a 7-5 season. They’ve had a Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl and National Championship game in 5 years. Their worst season is still better than our best seasons when we were students.”

“Wait until they have a season again when they don’t go to a bowl,” Bob answered. “They think it’s automatic. They’ll want to fire everybody.”

Little did we know that the next time the Hokies would not make a bowl game would not just be a few years down the road. It would instead be several decades later, to the point that entire generations would never experience a season where Virginia Tech didn’t have a winning record and didn’t go to a bowl.

Today, however, it looks like the streak is over. And Bob – who isn’t much to look at but nevertheless has been my friend since the 70s – nailed it on that January night in 2000. People today don’t appear to know how to act, and it sure seems like there is a group of people out there who want to fire everyone in sight.

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It's Time To Admit To Myself Something About Virginia Tech Football

It’s the day after another bad Virginia Tech loss. You’d think by now, I’d be getting really good at handling this sort of situation.

But yesterday’s loss really bothers me. This one showed me something I guess I’ve sort of known in the back of my mind, but the maroon and orange parts of my brain kept keeping it from rising to the surface.

I can’t ignore it any more.

It all centers around the state of the team in the third quarter of yesterday's game for the Hokies against Boston College. Virginia Tech played the first half with emotion, aggressiveness and momentum, and each good play seemed to feed that and create another good play. The team was confident, and they seemed to be having fun.

From the time they left the locker room at halftime, however, all of those elements were gone, specifically on offense. That's when the game for all intents and purposes was lost.

I'm not a guy who calls for people to be fired, as I don't know what was really called, what an athlete didn't execute, or what a quarterback did or didn't see when a play didn't work. I tend to judge those kinds of conversations as none of my business.

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Recent Comments
Guest — Wade Johnson

Not ready to make that concess...

Nobody is more disappointed than I am, just ask my wife, but I have been to the games and what I see on offense and defense is dif... Read More
Monday, 05 November 2018 08:49
Dave Scarangella

Totally agree with that last s...

Not going to a third-rate bowl game because you barely got to 6 wins isn't going to be that big a letdown. But as far as recruitin... Read More
Monday, 05 November 2018 08:57
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Hokie Fans The Morning After Ga. Tech Debacle: Dazed & Confused

It’s the morning after Georgia Tech’s romp through Blacksburg, and it seems like most Hokie fans are feeling like the Virginia Tech defensive line played last night.

Dazed and confused.

That Georgia Tech would win the game was not a huge surprise to those who have followed Virginia Tech for any length of time. That they would treat the Hokie defense the same way Alabama did back in 1973 when the Crimson Tide won 77-6 WAS a big shock.

This was like watching a high school game where one team was clearly superior to the other. One team just lined up and ran the same 5 or 6 plays over and over again, as if to tell their opponent “here it is, try to stop it.” Virginia Tech couldn’t. It was so dominating, Georgia Tech didn’t complete a single pass and still put up 49 points. They only attempted one pass, as their running game was so dominant, they didn’t need to throw it.

It’s not like they didn’t know what was coming, either. Georgia Tech’s old-school triple option offense has bedeviled the Hokies for years. Over the last four years, the Yellow Jackets have lost 23 games, so there are teams out there who have figured out how to deal with it. But to Virginia Tech, it has been kryptonite.

Last night may have been the worst of the performances.

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Five Things I Learned Watching Virginia Tech Rally To Beat UNC

Virginia Tech’s comeback win over North Carolina last night was one of those games where Hokie fans should be glad the standings have only columns for wins and losses, and not areas where a game can be judged as “pretty”, “ugly” or “lucky.”

As a result, the Coastal Standings of the Atlantic Coast Conference only show that Virginia Tech is 3-0 in league games, in first place, and has a one-game lead over Miami and Virginia. But last night’s game showed more than that; here are five things I learned in watching them last night:

1. This team has heart. Yeah, I know everybody says that about their team. But last night they found themselves in a situation where only two miracles would prevent them from losing the game. They were late in the 4th quarter. A North Carolina touchdown – given the way Virginia Tech’s defense had played all evening – was a virtual certainty. That TD would have given UNC a two-score lead, and there wasn’t enough time for the Hokies to counter. The only thing that would grasp defeat from the jaws of victory for the Tar Heels would be either an interception – and there was no way UNC was going to throw the ball so close to the goal line – or a Virginia Tech defensive player came up with a hard hit or a strip of the ball that resulted in a fumble. Realistically speaking, the odds of that happening were right up there with a super model giving me a call during a timeout and asking what I’m doing after the game.

But it happened (no, not the thing with the super model). Safety Tyree Rodgers put his helmet into the midsection of UNC running back Michael Carter – who had run through the Virginia Tech defense all night with the same ease most of us would walk through a shopping mall – and the ball popped up in the air. Cornerback Jovonn Quillen grabbed it, dropped it, grabbed it again, then fell down on the two yard line. Half the miracle was done, but now the other half – having this offense go 98 yards – had to happen.

Coaches tell you in practice all the time that you can do things like this, but they rarely happen. The Hokies DID drive the length of the field, they DID score the winning touchdown, and they DID add a two-pointer to make sure a field goal didn’t beat them in the final minute. Such is the stuff legends are made of, and is also the stuff confidence, belief and heart are made of. There were probably players on the field who hoped they could do something like this, but didn’t really know if they could.

Now they know. Which could be a huge asset down the road this season.

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After Today's UVA Win Over Duke, The Rivalry May Finally Be Back

I have been warning my Virginia Tech friends that they need to watch out for Virginia, because this year they have a good quarterback in Bryce Perkins, a fast receiver in Olamide Zaccheaus and a couple of good defensive backs in Juan Thornhill and Joey Blount.

But secondary to that is what I’m seeing every week. The team in Charlottesville is buying into what Coach Bronco Mendenhall is selling, and with each win, their confidence is growing.

Last week it was No. 16 Miami. Today it was Duke in Durham.

I’m not sure how much credit to give for the win because the Blue Devils could arguably be the worst 5-1 team to walk this earth. Pro scouts seem to like quarterback Daniel Jones, but all he showed today is that he has a strong arm that allows him to throw interceptions into double coverage much farther down the field.

Duke’s offensive line didn’t help him any either, as they protected their quarterback the way I exercise: Not very well and not very often.

But it was a win. The Cavaliers are 5-2, they play their next three games at home, and will probably be even more confident by the time they come to Blacksburg at the end of the season. For 14 years, the Wahoos have had a tendency to get late into games with Virginia Tech and start thinking “how are we going to lose THIS year.”

That’s not going to happen this year. They have some balance. They believe. And no matter what the most hard-core of Hokies wants to believe, they have a good football team.

They do have weaknesses. The biggest has been in the kicking game, but they seem to have found one in Brian Delaney. He was their kickoff man until last week, when they used him as the placekicker against Miami. He responded with three field goals, including a 46-yarder, and the Chantilly kicker was the toast of the media circuit this week because of it.

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I Still Can't Say Thanks Enough For Everything Frank Has Done

Today it was announced that a monument celebrating Frank Beamer will be unveiled at Moody Plaza, located on the Southwest corner of the Lane Stadium footprint adjacent to Beamer Way. It will happen about 3 hours and 15 minutes before kickoff of Saturday's game between Notre Dame and Virginia Tech.

My first thought was "I wonder if younger Hokies realize just how bad things were when Frank took over the program?" They probably know him as a former coach, I thought, or even a nice old man they see on television from a long time ago. But maybe not the guy who totally transformed this program into what it is today.

Three years ago, when it became apparent Frank would retire, I wrote this to summarize just how I felt. Seems appropriate to re-post it now....

To truly appreciate what Frank Beamer has done for Virginia Tech, allow me to share some of my earliest memories of being a Hokie.

The year was 1973, my senior year of high school. The check was in the mail to the admissions office, and I was going to be spending the next 4 years in Blacksburg. I picked up the Sunday Virginian Pilot in Norfolk (my hometown) and there was a story on Virginia Tech losing to Alabama in Tuscaloosa. By a score of 77-6.

That’s no typo. 77-6. Laughingstock wasn’t a strong enough word for how the Hokie football program looked back then.

My four years at Virginia Tech would be the four years of Jimmy Sharpe. The wishbone worked in the second year, as the Hokies won 8 games, but didn’t get a bowl bid. Things then fell apart as the team would go 6-5 and then 3-7-1. Sharpe would be fired. A football player would die in the dorms the day after a game in 1977, and Virginia Tech was in the national news for all the wrong reasons.

Meanwhile, teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference were the envy of all of us. Why not Virginia Tech? many of us thought, but the perception was simply we were not good enough. In 1977, an expansion committee actually sent a group to Blacksburg to examine the possibility, but they stayed all of about 45 minutes. Their minds were made up before they ever got there.

The Hokies were small potatoes.

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Here Is How I Hope The Frank Beamer Story Ends...

One week from today, I hope to be hearing of a press conference in Blacksburg, where Frank Beamer announces his retirement at the end of the season.

It’s not that I don’t like Frank. Quite the opposite, I think Frank is a legend who has taken Virginia Tech football to heights unimaginable. The two images I will always have when I think of Frank are the Sports Illustrated cover that said “We Belong” and standing on Bourbon Street the night before the 2000 National Championship game in New Orleans watching 40,000 Hokies adorned in maroon and orange.

Those two images showed the Virginia Tech program I have watched since the early 70s had mushroomed into college football royalty. In our wildest dreams, none of us thought that could ever happen. And it’s all because of Frank.

As such, I have looked forward to the day I could stand, cheer and give ovation after ovation at the final home game Frank coaches. He deserves to hear the love, support and respect he’s earned for what he’s done. Unfortunately in sports, that rarely happens as the decision to no longer coach – either due to health or performance – comes after that final season and there is no adequate way to say thank you.

Frank’s farewell has been coming for some time. The program is in a 4-year skid, sliding from playing in the national title game and being a regular occupant of the top 10, to a barely ranked team, to a team not ranked at all fighting to just have a winning record and keep the streak of making a bowl every year since 1993 alive.

That streak will end this year as the team is 3-5 and will not win its remaining 4 games. The Hokies play this week at Boston College, a venue they have historically struggled at; go to Atlanta to play a Georgia Tech team that is sky high after an upset of Florida State Saturday; come back home for 6-1 UNC, then finish on the road at UVA. Going 2-2 would be a best-case scenario, 1-3 is more likely, and 0-4 is certainly possible.

Nothing good lasts forever, and it has been the hope – and fear – that things do not end badly when it is time for Frank to retire. To quote an old movie line, however, “things usually do end badly…or they wouldn’t end.”

More importantly, Frank – who just turned 69 – doesn’t look or sound good health-wise. He couldn’t be on the sidelines for last year’s bowl game because of a medical procedure and if you listen to his postgame interviews on the radio, he just doesn’t sound 100 percent healthy. I’m no doctor, but I’ve heard Frank for decades, and something isn’t quite right.

All this reminds me of Bear Bryant in his final year at Alabama, and illustrates exactly what my biggest fear is. Bryant – who turned 69 in September of that year (Frank turned 69 in October) – decided toward the end of the 1982 season that the sixth-place finish in the SEC wasn’t good enough. He was quoted as saying, "This is my school, my alma mater. I love it and I love my players. But in my opinion, they deserved better coaching than they have been getting from me this year."

Bryant too had health issues, having suffered through a mini-stroke and heart problems the previous year that affected him to the point he occasionally slurred his speech when being interviewed. Only four weeks after he coached his final game in the Liberty Bowl, Bryant died.

I don’t want to see that happen to Frank. I want to see a full crowd in Lane Stadium for the game against North Carolina with the sidelines packed with all of his old players. I want to see him carried off the field by all of them win, lose or draw. I want to be there for if nothing else, to say thank you for the memories of a lifetime. Then I want to enjoy seeing pictures of him living the good life with his grandchildren while being a great ambassador for the university in any way he chooses.

In a way, I wish Frank had done this last season. He had beaten the eventual national champion, beaten in-state rival UVA in the final game of the regular season to make a bowl, then won that bowl game against a pretty good Cincinnati team. All despite struggling all year to barely have a winning record.

In any event, I have two tickets on the 30 for the Nov. 21 game with UNC in Blacksburg. I will be there to cheer on Frank one more time, because whether any of us know it officially or not, it probably will be his last game in Lane Stadium as head coach.

It would just be great if an announcement could be made beforehand so we could all celebrate the moment. And say thanks…for some great, great football memories.

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Recent Comments
Guest — Doug

Doug

I am totally with this opinion. Its time for a great celebration for the outstanding career of a great man and college coach, and... Read More
Monday, 26 October 2015 12:04
Guest — WoodyHogg

A Pirate's salute to Frank!

I am not a Hokie. In fact, I am a Pirate! An avid one! We have had a great rivalry over the years. It is a good home and away ... Read More
Monday, 26 October 2015 21:55

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