Now we come to the conclusion of this series with a serious look at what amounts to the most critical element of this transition and the directional changes in the football program as a whole. If you have taken each of the polls you may or may not have noticed a pattern of response illustrating a general attitude in regard to each of the topics covered in the articles.
The first poll was intended to gauge the enthusiasm level for the transition, and the range of “feelings” going on in the fan base. The fundamental reality of college sports (outside of the scholarship factor for student-athletes) is that it is entertainment for a niche fanbase. This audience reality will limit and funnel monetary decisions and operational capabilities. The reality, not enough cash flow, no fancy stuff is the rule. Football might generate lots, but it also costs a huge amount. We’ll talk about college football, finances, myths, and legends in a later series of articles. For now, just know that Virginia Tech has a limited resource base, and that resource base is only growing a bit more in relation to other “power” programs.
The first poll question was about the transition.
So, how are you feeling about 2022’s sports outlook?
There were no secret sauce statistical tricks in any of these questions, most especially this one, but the results were interesting and a bit encouraging. There was a total of 368 votes in this poll, and the first question was an indicator of interest (for whatever reason) in thinking about the football program. Remember, there are still many people in Hokie Nation that, frankly, don’t give a fig about football. Qu’elle surprise? Non?
Both basketball teams fine, football meh... (54 votes) - 15%
This was interesting because it was a relatively high number for a “football” school. Comments as to why folks chose that response would have been interesting to read. I am sure there are several motivating factors there.
There is always hope left. I hear the wrestlers and swimmers are good. (40 votes) - 11%
This response was also intended to illuminate some of the less enthusiastic feelings without being completely dismissive of the football program in general. With 11% of the vote total added to the 15% from the first question, we have more than a minor pulse occurring of less than neutral feelings about the football program. That’s a quarter of the respondents, and though not a scientific poll, is indicative of serious sentiment.
Pry’s going to be great. Things are looking up for football, and I’m excited. (236 votes) - 64%
This was the big fish for positivity, the numbers pushed just a hair past 2/3rds and to the general fanbase gives a good indicator that there will be some slack given and the good will for the transition might last a bit longer than the usual power football two or three seasons.
On Football, I’m from Missouri... Get to me in March about basketball... the rest, yawn. (38 votes) - 10%
Only 10% of the folks who answered the poll were skeptical and looking to see some other sports successes happen, at least for a while. This might just be the most realistic 10% within the voting body, or it’s just reflective of fatigue with the entire football “thing”. They are in total wait and see mode without being too negative.
The second question series was strictly about the coaching hire and how folks generally felt about it.
Which one of the three “feelings of fandom” are you in regard to the coaching hires?
With 376 votes, it ended up being the most voted upon of the polls in the series. All were straight forward responses to a pretty straight forward question; Negative, Neutral, and Positive. The numbers actually were a bit surprising.
Disappointed and underwhelmed. There was a hope for some serious head coaching chops, and what we got was a pile of assistants. (22 votes) - 6%
This was obviously the negative response, and the result was a pretty low 6% of the vote. Is that encouraging or not will remain to be seen, but this straight up query gave everyone an opportunity to be honest about their feelings on the coaching hire.
Guardedly optimistic, but there is still just a script being read for PR, and a slow turn up that makes me concerned. (172 votes) - 46%
This is IT, Pry is not the guy following “The Guy”. The staff is impressive, and Pry is enthusiastic about getting started. So am I. (182 votes) - 48%
These two questions ended up in a virtual tie. That’s a really interesting occurrence if you remember the responses to the first question. The 2nd response is completely neutral with a definite show of reticence to go further than cautious optimism. The third question was specifically intended to present a positive outlook. However, 94% of a big block of Gobbler Country readers are either enthused by the change in staff, or cautiously optimistic. What that means will unfold over the next few seasons. Maybe we’ll revisit these questions after the 2022, 2023, and 2024 seasons to see how the opinions have changed.
The third poll question addresses that critical problem of the player personnel hole.
The program finds itself in, after the 2021 debacle, rescue, and bowl fizzle, a kind of pickle. The 277 respondents had an interesting take, and we even generated a comment comeback.
Do you see that there will be enough cleanups and fixups to keep the team in plus win territory before the new recruiting effort begins to land players?
It better have, there is little patience for wallowing around at, or around .500 with booger bowls to lose. (26 votes) 9%
There had to be an obvious “all bummed out” question, here. It was encouraging to see that it only received 9%. Cautiously optimistic is a good thing, completely destroyed about not getting what we could never have and thinking that we can is a recipe for unhappiness. I have the money for a nice house, not a mansion and a yacht.
The Hokies are in for a multi-year stretch of rebuilding and fixups getting to or beyond .500 for a few seasons will be a miracle. (137 votes) - 49%
This answer ended up sinking below the 50% mark over the last few days of the poll period. It still finished 10 points ahead of the more optimistic response. Something says “reasonable expectations” are met with “reasonable results” somewhere in some book of wisdom. This staff has much to learn, develop, fix, and rebuild. Lots of folks are thinking that it’s just going to take a while to do.
There are the makings of a good team, right now. It just takes a better strategy, use of players, and play calling and Tech will be challenging for the Coastal, soon. (108 votes) - 39%
The 39% of the GC audience who commented via their votes, have a really sunny attitude about this transition and are looking for a pretty quick turnaround. These sorts of responses, though sort of admirable, are also worrisome. People with great expectations also have rapid shifts in opinion once disappointment sets in. There is great love in the spirit; but the spirit is often weak and fleeting.
Who cares? The NIT? That’s the best we’re gonna do? The NIT? Yeesh... (6 votes) - 2%
There are those folks who, for whatever reason are not focused on football, now. The men’s basketball team is struggling and the prospect of recovering enough to grab an NCAA bid is rapidly fading. We’ll see how the emotions settle in if the path is Madison Square Garden, or back to the practice court. That reaction should also advise the sunny optimists on football, too.
No, it’s not newspaper for fish and chips at a British Pub. It looks like Hokie Nation (well that which is represented, here at Gobbler Country) is pretty prudently engaged in the transition with realistic goals and expectations in mind. The issue will always be that those people will need to pipe up and make their thoughts known as the transition progresses.
No one who is a football analyst is going to walk away from these changes without a whole lot of questions hanging in the air. The major observation from the coaching article is pretty plain. This staff has no real head coaching experience in its upper levels. It has no FBS head coaching experience at all. That’s a legitimate worry.
The next observation is that the player personnel roster is shot full of holes and paper thin in many positions. Even with some plug-ins from the portal (of which there are some complaints coming in over the scuppers) the next few seasons are going to be difficult. Fielding a complete team for 2022, and probably 2023, is going to be a challenge.
The final note is with that perceived all important “recruiting thing”. How will the high school players react to offers from Virginia Tech, and will they actually respond positively to the offers? Right now, the fan expectations might be set just a little too high. We won’t know until late next year, when Early Signing Day rolls around again. Will Pry have better success? That is an open question.
NCAA Football is Changing
We leave with that last issue, on the table, and a complete unknown. It’s also the potential future of the program. What sort of experience will those players be signing on for? In the next series we are going to look at the potential future of college football, and FBS football in particular. There are big name FCS programs, North Dakota State (which just won the Division I FCS National Championship), and James Madison (which challenged for it up to the semi-finals) stepping up to FBS level mid-major conferences.
FBS football is changing, reorganizing, and maybe even toeing the pool of professionalizing at some levels. We really need to look at that and what it might mean to Virginia Tech, and the ACC.