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Staff Roundtable: State of the Program

Changes in Attitudes, Changes in Latitudes, Everything Remains Quite The Same

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Editor's Note: Now that there is time to catch our breath, the staff has wanted to touch on attitudes and perceptions surrounding the football program. Last season, the home sell-out streak ended, and the sentiment of a good many fans was that the team wasn't worth the planning and effort it took to get to Blacksburg on football Saturdays. The GobblerCountry staff probes a few topics that are near and dear to everyone's hearts. Please feel free to contribute your opinions in the comments below.


How do you see the Virginia Tech football program as a whole? Have we exceeded expectations, or failed to meet them? How do you think it compares to other programs? What do you see when you look at this program?

James: The Virginia Tech football program is something to be proud of. The main problem is that we set the bar TOO HIGH! The spot reserved for the crystal ball is creative, but it looks to be a corny mistake. We've had the hopes for years of being an elite program, but it looks as if we are settled into an above average rating. We used to be a consistent #10ish, but overnight the program has developed inconsistency which is depressing for the program that was praised over the years for being THE consistent program in college football. Not so much anymore. One of the major factors is that we can recruit well and develop players, but we lack being able to recruit elite talent like the top programs in the nation. Until we do that, don't expect a National Championship anytime soon.

Justin: I have fleeting memories of my first football games during the first few seasons of Frank Beamer's tenure in Blacksburg. I was quite young, but I can remember seeing a smaller stadium half full for games against Rutgers. Starting with that, it's amazing the Tech program has come this far. At its best, the program is probably a perennial top 15-20 player. Not quite elite, but solidly second tier in the ranks of top college football. Fans from SEC schools and other big timers see us as a nice, clean program that has trouble winning big games. Unfortunately, that's pretty accurate.

John: Virginia Tech football isn't just a program, it's a way of life. I live it, I breathe it. In many ways Blacksburg has become Virginia Tech football, and vice versa. I don't think we've ever truly been elite. In 1999, it was like we were invited to the cool kids' table because we had the new Batman lunchbox. We had a good run. Schools like FSU are miles beyond us and a lot of that has to do with tradition, more athletic funding, and more boosters. We have tradition, but not like the big boys do. All in all I think we've exceeded all expectations. We really should never have been as good as we were for nearly two decades.

Krista: Anytime you reach the title game, it raises expectation levels drastically, and not being able to get back to that point is an obvious failure. In the early 2000's, VT was on our way to becoming a "big name" program, then we made a few bad hires, got complacent, and convinced ourselves that 10-win seasons are some sort of moral victory. I see the program at a crossroads. There are obvious parallels to be made with Beamer, Bowden, and JoePa at this point. Foster and his staff have proven to be very consistent on that side of the ball. Either Loeffler rights the ship offensively and we turn the direction of Penn State, (minus the whole Sandusky mess, obviously) who rallied back to respectability there from '05-'09, or we travel the Florida State path and suffer through a passel of 8-5 and 7-6 years before Beamer is chased out of Merryman for good with torches and pitchforks. What is separating us from the "big boys" is a national championship. If we want to realistically be mentioned in the same conversation alongside them, we need to earn our place. Unfortunately, Frank, that's not done just with conference championships anymore.

Chuck: We are, and mostly always have been, an above-average program. I used to call us perennial #12. If we were #5 we'd find a way to dip, if we were #18, we'd find a way to finish strong. Sadly, I wish those days were back, where we only lost to the two best teams on our schedule.

Are the fans justified when they start complaining and spreading negativity? Are they out of their element, or does all the ranting has some merit? Some examples are the people who cry for Beamer's firing every year, the Logan Thomas haters, the people who think we deserve to have a championship every year, etc.

James: The fans are NOT justified when spreading negativity. The program has given us a BCS title game appearance, various conference championships, a decade of dominance over the French (haha), and great football year in and year out (only decent in the past two years). The attacks on Beamer are uncalled for. He's devoted so much to Virginia Tech and the community. Yes, he's getting old, but hey, let him be. We've been spoiled compared to other programs and negativity comes from bad apples, especially the new incoming students at Virginia Tech who leave at halftime or even earlier, and who's hearts aren't into football. Meanwhile, fans aren't very realistic about the team. Expectations are either too high or too low. Fans must meet the team halfway and come to grips with the fact that a ten win season isn't going to happen every year.

Justin: The fans are almost never justified when they go after an individual player. The two most polarizing players in recent memory were both quarterbacks, Sean Glennon and Logan Thomas. Both were put in tough positions to succeed. Glennon was a dropback passer with a horrid offensive line. Logan was a terrific tight end prospect asked to play QB because there was no one else. Both guys did their best with mixed results and were heavily criticized. But really it's the coaches that put them in those spots in large part due to recruiting misses on offense. Sometimes, fans fail to see beyond individual failure to look at the bigger picture.

John: I think the fans are out of whack. Let's be realistic. We are an agricultural and technical college in the middle of the mountains. We have a good recent tradition but we aren't truly a contender. Why build up all this negativity? We should be celebrating an 8-4 season, not bashing it. Was Logan Thomas a bad quarterback? A lot of the time, yes. Has Frank lost all control of special teams? Most definitely. But we need to take things into perspective. Logan wasn't and isn't a quarterback, and Frank made some mistakes as all people do. While some of the negativity truly is justified, I don't think there is a time and place for it at Virginia Tech.

Krista: There's nothing that makes steam come out of my ears quite like an armchair know-it-all. It's easy to confetti-toss negativity up in the air and let it rain down on anyone and everyone; it's far more respectable to place blame where it truly lies. Unfortunately, most Negative Nancies don't seem to understand where that is. Regardless, their frustrations are coming from a genuine, honest place and cannot just be scoffed at because they're negative energy. All passionate Hokie fans want the same thing; it's just that some have figured out a healthy way to channel their frustrations in ways that may actually make a difference, while others spin their wheels and dig themselves a bitter, sad little hole.

Chuck: There are two types of negativity. That which is directed at the individual, and that which is intended to address the situation at hand. I am not absolving myself of the raw emotion and vitriol that accompanies every bad offensive play call, or ridiculous special teams miscue, but I do my level not to curse Frank (in public). Certainly those who beat the same drum over and over may have valid points, but it has begun to fall on deaf ears.

Honestly, that sounds pretty bitter doesn't it? I suppose when you've invested 250+ games in a team, and it's won two or three of the forty of them that TRULY matter, negativity starts to set in. I think Hokie fans set themselves up a bit too early on a pedestal they hadn't truly earned. I often find myself supporting the troops in spite of the way the battle is being run from strategic command.

Ultimately, you can grow frustrated with the player but it's the coaches who get paid the big money to put the athlete in position to succeed or to fail. We shouldn't ever boo the players. Unfortunately, the booing from the stands must be interpreted, and all too often is mistaken for verbal abuse towards the players.

Are fans being realistic about the team? After the GT win last year, another Tech sites' message board amped up the national championship talk. Is that right? Have we been so spoiled that we complain about an 8-4 season?

Justin: Anyone that thought last season's crew was going to make a national championship run was way too excited about ugly wins over Marshall, East Carolina and Georgia Tech. There were problems from the get go and most reasonable people expected a transitional year for the new offense. I think realistic expectations for Hokie football got a little "out of whack" as coach Beamer might say during the mid-2000s. High on a wave of post Vick hysteria, the media kept hyping Tech into a top-five team and the fans bought into that as the norm. It isn't. The norm most places is 8-4 and a bowl game.

John: We were spoiled by our little championship run and the streak of ten win seasons. When you succeed all the time you raise the standard. Now when we don't win ten games the fans view it as a failure. It's perfectly understandable, but not a viable reality. No, we aren't being realistic about the team, though we are being realistic in terms of what our expectations have become.

Krista: Fans are so bipolar--everything registers in such extremes and rarely ever in the middle. Again with passionate Hokie fans, we just want to skyrocket out of this low we're in as quickly as possible.At 7-6, the 2012 season was a modern Hokie rock bottom. Some folks believed Loeffler would come to Blacksburg, wave a magic want, and get us back into a BCS bowl. While that does happen with a new offensive coordinator hire from time to time, it never happens at schools with a severe lack of both quality depth and legitimate offensive playmakers. I don't think casual fans understand the depth of the mess Loeffler inherited.

Chuck: Most fans don't want to see 7-5 and 8-4 as a permanent landing spot. But sadly, it could be for the next few years. So they will either overestimate VT in hoping against hope; or they'll purposely underestimate us because the sky is falling. Perhaps in the latter fan's mind, it is sending a subliminal vibe to Beamer so he'll step down. Above all else, I hate to be wrong in my predictions, so I strive to get my bid right regardless of built-up resentments.

Where do you see the team in 10 years? (National championship, James Johnson-esque program decline, etc)

James: I honestly don't know. Consistency is key, but the program must keep improving year in and year out in order to get to the ultimate goal of a national championship. I see the program changing drastically if the present is of any help in figuring that out. The coaching carousel will continue to go round as Beamer will retire. Who comes next? Hopefully Foster, maybe Shane. Someone outside the program? Who knows? The program looks to be changing for good as we speak.

Justin: Post Frank Beamer football is exciting and worrying. The man has had a lot of success and done so with integrity. He hasn't gotten a national championship, but if the next head coach comes remotely close to his example the program is in good shape. Of course, college football is changing dramatically. We're entering the playoff era and before we know it players could have a union. It's not the best time to go through a coaching transition, even if Tech hires from within and simply elevates Bud Foster.

John: What goes around comes around. Like it or not, Virginia Tech football will return to it's former state of averageness. Frank will eventually retire and I don't believe another coach will be able to do what he did for a very long time. In ten years we will be the VT of the 1980s once more. We will make some bowl games, but rarely return to the top 25. We just don't have what it takes to be a contender, and that's ok, it's not who we are.

Krista: Reply hazy. Try again.

Chuck: In 10 years? I potentially see a dying sport. If we claim to be an evolved species, eventually parents are going to stop letting kids play and the pipelines will be stunted. I don't think we'll be watching the same sport as we know it. This might make all of this seem silly in retrospect. I'm serious people, enjoy it while it lasts.  While this is a good question John, so much can change in 10 years with coaching, realignment, TV, I just hope VT can keep up and remain relevant. I can tell you this much: If Frank is pulling a JoePaterno  and still coaching and I'm still here writing about it, someone toss a clock radio in the bathtub with me.

Bonus: Do you like the Hokies Respect campaign? (Should it be toned down, removed completely, or stay the same. Do we need to bring back "stick it in" and related items that made Weaver's shun list)

James: Hokies' Respect. That's what it's all about. This is the absolute truth. Wherever I go, my friends and I stress the motto. You respect the other team and their fans, you will be respected back. When Nebraska came to Lane: Free ribs. Georgia Tech opener for the Orange Effect game: All you can drink Budweiser products form the Budweiser RV. Alabama for the Chick-fil-A Kick Off last season: Free peach moonshine. R-E-S-P-E-C-T gets you feeling right and gets you the compliment, "You Hokies are the best fans I've ever met."

John: I hate it. It should experience the pain of a thousand exploding suns.I do like to think of VT as a classy school (but not TOO classy...ahem....UVA). I think we did just fine without the PSA

Krista: Reminding people to be human was necessary from time to time back in the day during our heated series vs.WVU. Beyond that, football should never have the etiquette of tennis, and I didn't appreciate Jim Weaver trying to be my nanny. Mentioning the campaign a couple of times via videoboard ads is totally fine, but I just remember feeling so beat over the head with it. I would say we need to bring back "Stick It In," but these days, I'm not sure if the student section wouldn't rather toss a beach ball around or try to start the wave for the 400th time. *yawn*

Chuck: When the Hokie Respect program was implemented, I wasn't going down for games, as my daughter was a newborn. But when I did make it back down: my goodness, they really beat you over the head with it don't they? Have we had that much of a problem over the years? A couple cutesy little double entendre chants deserves this whole "THING" to be made out of it? Certainly the situation is over-policed and over-emphasized.