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Extending Whit's Contract A Deal That Needed To Be Done

It’s not a huge secret that I’m not one of Whit Babcock’s biggest fans.

But today’s decision to extend the Virginia Tech Athletic Director’s contract through 2029 is an absolute no-brainer in my mind. It needed to be done.

That's because these are strange and interesting time in college athletics. With the looming specter of COVID in the background, I don’t think anyone can say for sure what’s going to happen one month from now, let alone 5 years from now. I’m sitting here in my office right now, with two tickets to a football game with North Carolina only 25 days from now.

I’m not 100 percent sure I’ll go. Or if it will even be played.

All because of COVID.

On top of that, the subject of conference realignment has come back from the dead like Lazarus, as  Oklahoma and Texas are supposedly leaving the Big 12 for the SEC in 2025 if not sooner. This supposedly will start a string of domino-like moves that could blow up the college football landscape as we know it, with teams changing conferences and maybe even breaking away from the NCAA.

The smart play in both of these is to have an experienced AD at the helm to navigate the proper course. As Ricky LaBlue wrote in this story, Whit hasn’t been perfect, but he’s done a lot of good things. He knows the lay of the land, he has assembled a team around him, and no school wants to be dealing with a brand new person driving the bus when all hell possibly breaks lose in college sports in 2025.

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Virginia Tech Extends Babcock's Contract Through 2029

True to its historical modus operandi, Virginia Tech once again valued continuity and stability in the athletic department when the university extended director of athletics Whit Babcock Monday.

The extension, which inks Babcock until June 2029, heightens the probability that Babcock will select Virginia Tech’s next head football coach.

Whether that is a good or bad thing is yet to be determined. Excluding football for a moment, Babcock has mostly made excellent coaching hires since arriving in Blacksburg in 2014. The list is actually quite extensive.

We can start with the men’s basketball program, where Babcock has made two hires already. Buzz Williams elevated the basketball program in true mercenary fashion, coaching the Hokies to consecutive NCAA Tournament bids (including a Sweet 16 appearance) before bolting for more money in a bigger conference. Babcock then hired NRV native Mike Young, who pushed the Hokies back into the NCAA Tournament in just his second season.

Then there’s Kenny Brooks, who’s headed the women’s basketball program since March 2016 and won 63 percent of games he’s coached. Brooks’ team made their first NCAA Tournament appearance this past season.

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This Was Like Being Given A Mountain Of Hokie History

It is no secret that the internet can be one of the biggest, most toxic bastions of negativity, rudeness and know-it-all-ism mankind has ever created. Its lack of civility, kindness and grace has driven me to the point that I wonder every morning why I even bother logging in to social media.

But occasionally amidst this giant overgrown colossus of thorns, a rose emerges. Such was the case 12 years ago when a total stranger on Twitter mentioned her children’s enjoyment of bobbleheads. She was in my town and I had a few extra ones of the original Skreech, as well as some other Nationals gear.

We met up at a local coffee shop. I gave her the merchandise. She tweeted to all her friends I wasn’t a stalker (which we laugh about to this day). We’ve been great friends ever since.

Then in 2019, with everybody in this region trying to get tickets to the Nats’ first appearance in the World Series, she texted me she has two extra. My wife and I were there that night the World Series finally returned to DC, and I have a bunch of wonderful memories from that I’ll enjoy the rest of my days.

All because of that bloody thing called Twitter.

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Virginia 11th, Virginia Tech 32nd In Learfield Directors' Cup

It would have been easy to dismiss or overlook the Learfield Directors' Cup rankings this year, coming, as they did, following a school year when there was no assurance that many sports would even be conducted.

Virginia and Virginia Tech finished 11th and 32nd respectively among Division I programs in competition for the 2020-2021 Learfield Directors' Cup rankings that reflect athletic success.

There was no Directors' Cup competition in 2019-2020 due to the coronavirus. Prior to that, Virginia was eighth at the end of the 2018-2019 season and the Hokies were 49th.

Texas won the 2020-21 Directors' Cup title, marking only the second time an institution other than Stanford has taken the title. 

The ACC had six teams in the top 25, compared to the Southeastern Conference with eight.

North Carolina was ranked fourth and led the ACC schools, followed (in order) by UVa, Notre Dame, Florida State Duke and N.C. State in the top 25.

One explanation for Virginia's drop was the inactivity this year of sports such as women's basketball, which played only five games, all before Christmas, after playing 30 games the previous year.

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After 15 Months, We Finally Crossed The Finish Line...

I still clearly remember the moment it all began: It was March 12, 2020, the Washington Nationals were playing an exhibition game with the New York Yankees, and at 1:05, my new dog Maggie and I sat in my favorite chair and turned on the television.

By the time the game ended at 4 PM, every other team in every other sport had shut down their seasons. Soon everything would be under some sort of shutdown, restriction or other regulation to execute a strategy called “two weeks to flatten the curve."

We all know how that turned out.

But today…without warning or fanfare…it is now officially over, at least the way I look at it. It would be over, I thought, when the day came where I could leave the house, drive to a stadium of my choice, and go see one of my favorite teams without any sort of capacity restriction.

With Virginia Tech announcing today that there would be no such restrictions this year, and Lane Stadium was free to be 100 percent full of orange and maroon-clad fans, bouncing up and down while singing every verse of “Enter Sandman” as fireworks went off overhead and football players tapped hokiestone with their hands at the end of a tunnel leading to Worsham Field, the last domino has fallen.

It’s over. As a Southwest Airlines commercial once noted, you are now free to move about the country.

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FCS Playoffs Have Put Joy Into Trying Times For Stinespring

The prolonged Football Championship Subdivision playoffs have put some joy into some trying times for Bryan Stinespring, the assistant head coach for Delaware, which visits South Dakota State with hopes of moving on to the FCS title game.

Stinespring is in his first year at Delaware after coaching stints at Virginia Tech, James Madison and Old Dominion, where the hiring of new head coaches and staffs left him looking for a job.

He landed at Delaware, whose head coach, Danny Rocco, had been an assistant at Virginia when Stinespring was at Virginia Tech. While Stinespring coached offense and Rocco coached defense, they were also recruiting rivals.

There were some coaches on Rocco's staff whom Stinespring knew, including former Virginia Tech player Chris Cosh, who put in a good word in Stinespring's behalf.

Stinespring was gone for the next seven months due to COVID-19 but it also gave him the opportunity to return to Clifton Forge and spend time with his mother, who had Alzheimer's and eventually passed away.

"My brother and I took care of my mother and allowed her to stay at home, mostly because of my brother's efforts," he said. "We were able to do some things that, in another year, I wouldn't have been able to do. So, I'm actually thankful for that part of it.

"We were looking for silver linings a little bit and that, for me personally, was one. It's truly a devastating disease for everyone really."

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A Simple Act Of Kindness I Will Never Forget

Because the patio on the back of my house seems to perpetually be covered in shade, I’ve just finished an hour or two of doing exactly what my wife, doctor and friends have all told me not to do: chipping and shoveling away all the ice.

I mean, I could wait until it melts in late June. But there’s a WonderBeagle who enjoys seeing just how far she can get me moving on the ice, and I don’t wish to fall down out there between now and late spring.

In the course of wrestling this frozen bear, I had to take breaks because – as everyone seems to very much enjoy reminding me of – I’m an old man. It was during one of these breaks I found myself scrolling through Twitter, and two posts caught my eye. One was the fact today is Giving Day at Virginia Tech, and as the name suggests, they want you to give something to the University.

The other involved a younger journalist with a small newspaper here in Virginia. He was mentioning he was using a gift card to buy himself lunch instead of making one because he was too tired from all his long hours at work.

It hit me right in the feels.

I have a complex relationship with journalism these days, because many of the larger publications have turned the profession from a search for the truth to a search for ways to repeat the narrative. Not surprisingly, there are many out there who rank the profession’s popularity right up there with used car salesmen and telemarketers who somewhere during the call say “but wait, there’s more.”

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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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Ricky LaBlue

Ricky LaBlue

A longtime sports fanatic, Ricky is now channeling that passion into the world of sports media. Meet Ricky LaBlue.

Stephen Newman

Stephen Newman

The only things he loves more than following Virginia Tech and Washington sports teams are dogs. Meet Stephen Newman.

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