The A.C.C. spring meetings are heating up, and Gobbler Country was lucky enough to chat with A.D. Whit Babcock. Babcock has had some serious decisions to make in his tenure. He helped transition the football program to a new head coach. He handled that particularly delicate matter with class and respect. Babcock and his team did a masterful job welcoming head coach Justin Fuente to Blacksburg, while being mindful of the Frank Beamer legacy. Babcock also hired Buzz Williams, who has turned around the fortunes of the men's basketball program. The basketball team is currently projected as a potential Top 25 team for next season. The indoor facility adjacent to Lane Stadium is one of the finest of the country, and the envy of many in the A.C.C. As you might imagine, Whit Babcock is a tremendously busy man, and we were lucky to have him for five questions.
Gobbler Country: How important is it for you and other A.C.C. athletic directors for a 24/7 A.C.C. network in terms of growth and exposure for the conference? Are there currently plans in place to expedite this?
Whit Babcock: As you know, discussions relative to this important and popular topic are ongoing. Commissioner Swofford and our ACC committee have been working diligently with our TV partners; I’m sure Commissioner Swofford will provide us with any updates as appropriate at our upcoming ACC meetings in May and beyond. It’s probably best that we just have one voice on that topic, and that one voice should be John. I have great confidence in him and his team in the ACC office.
Gobbler Country: What is the biggest critical need you see for the athletic department, and what steps have you taken to address them?
Whit Babcock: I would say one very critical need in the near and long term is to set the course for the next generation of the Hokie Club, and to promote and encourage our fan/alumni engagement in helping us fund our scholarships for all 22 sports and nearly 600 student-athletes. We need this strong foundation to build our entire department on. Getting this key piece of the foundation set is critical for us to reach out goal of being the best athletic department, across the board, in the ACC. It’s about students and it’s about competing at the highest levels.
Gobbler Country: Are there any ongoing talks in your group for conference expansion/extraction, and is that something that even comes up in conference leadership meetings?
Whit Babcock: No. It doesn’t and hasn’t come up. It’s nice to have some stability in our league and hopefully the conference realignment shifts are over for a while in the vast majority of the conferences. We feel very good about how the ACC membership is positioned.
Gobbler Country: How important is brand marketing/positioning for the future of the athletic department? What do you feel is the most important asset at your disposal to raise brand awareness?
Whit Babcock: A lot of people understandably talk about branding. It’s the buzz word for many these days. It’s much more than a logo or slogan, however. Our brand is simply, how do others perceive us? Do they have affinity for our brand? Do they want to align with it? Does it inspire loyalty and passion? Do we "demonstrate the brand" daily as a department and stand for what we say we stand for? It is authentic? A small but powerful example….I believe the "This is Home" campaign speaks to the fabric of Virginia Tech and what we are all about. It’s real. We demonstrate it every day and it resonates with the Hokie Nation. As far as an asset at our disposal to raise brand awareness, that’s a good question…I would have to say, more often than not, that our students are almost always the best brand messengers for our university and program.
Gobbler Country: What has been the hardest day you have experienced as A.D. at Virginia Tech? What has been your favorite day?
Whit Babcock: That’s a great question, I love my job. It’s more like a lifestyle than an occupation though. The logo never comes off so-to-speak. No one day is ever the same as the previous one. I like that. The hardest days are typically personnel related or, God forbid, when you have the death of a student-athlete. That’s the worst day. Nothing ever prepares you for that and as a parent it hits home even more.
I don’t know that I have one favorite day, that’s a great question, but no one single day stands out. Game days are usually my favorite, in all sports. What a cool job to be around young people and athletics! I believe in the student-athlete experience and all that it teaches. Game days are much more fun than meetings!