'Take Your ball and go home' - Temple kicked out of BIG EAST
The Roth Report
March 8, 2001
By Bill Roth

It might not be as dramatic as the scene in HBO's The Sopranos, but it's close.

You might have seen the episode when Sal Pompensiero is invited onto a boat with mob boss Tony Soprano for a meeting with the rest of the borgata. They talk, have a few drinks, then Tony, along with his 'brothers' Silvio Dante and Paulie Walnuts empty their clips, shooting Sal repeatedly. Then, they dump the body in the ocean.

On February 16th, BIG EAST presidents held a special meeting in North Jersey -(Sopranos fans will love that irony too) to discuss Temple's status in the league. As you know, Temple joined the eight-team conference in 1991 and is the lone football-only member remaining.

While West Virginia, Rutgers, and Virginia Tech became all-sports members of the league in the past decade, Temple was notified in 1996 that to keep its football membership intact, the Owls would be forced to meet certain criteria in terms of stadium availability, competitiveness, and most importantly, attendance.

At the meeting in February, Temple's new president, Dr. David Adamany, presented facts to the other presidents about the Owls' increasing attendance, a planned new stadium which it would share with the NFL's Eagles, and an improving football team. He then asked his fellow presidents for a long-term commitment from the BIG EAST.

The presidents did just the opposite, voting to expel Temple from the league following the 2001 season. The decision essentially kills Temple's dream of being a major football power and potentially could mean the death of the program.

Temple receives approximately $2 million annually from the BIG EAST and that payoff is perhaps the only reason Temple has been able to field a team and aspire to be a major Division-I player.

But despite the BIG EAST's money, Temple's football program has been a big-time money loser. For example, the school received $1.8 million from the BIG EAST in 1999, but still ran up an $800,000 deficit for football. Overall, Temple athletics lost $6.2 million on a total budget of $11.7 million that year.

By comparison, Virginia Tech made roughly $3.65 million on athletics during the 1999-2000 fiscal year. Tech's athletics budget was roughly $25 million, bolstered by the Sugar Bowl appearance. Most of the profits were used for capital improvements. Even without a BCS appearance this year, Tech expects to turn a profit of about $500,000 for 2000-2001.

Without the BIG EAST's financial support, there's practically no way Temple can continue to field a team. No other league - including Conference USA, the Mid-American, or the Division I-AA Atlantic 10 Conference - could generate that kind of revenue for the Owls.

Thus, Temple officials are scrambling, vowing to sell 25,000 tickets for every home game this season (thus meeting BIG EAST criteria), field a terrific team, and meet any other league criteria. Temple will do anything at this point to try to change the minds of the presidents.

It's not going to happen. The decision has been made, and Temple's 9-58 conference record along with its stadium and attendance issues have cost the Owls any chance of playing big-time football any longer. Despite Temple's wishes, there won't be a reversal.

"I think our statement is pretty self-explanatory," BIG EAST commissioner Mike Tranghese said. "From the beginning, we didn't have our feet in the cement on this thing. [Temple] wanted us to give them a chance through 2003.

"Our presidents talked about it. They reviewed the criteria. They spent an awful lot of time on it. They just didn't agree with [the request]. So they arrived at this decision."

From the president's perspective, they spent nearly $20 million over the past decade to support Temple's program. They clearly got no return on that investment and felt odds of that changing in the future were slim.

A sad event for college sports? Perhaps. It's unfortunate for the Temple players, coaches, fans, and recruits, who just last month signed binding letters of intent to play for a school in the BIG EAST.

But at some point, a school must carry it's own weight, and the presidents felt that time had come.

So, they called the Owls in for a meeting in New Jersey and - to borrow a line from Tony Soprano - 'whacked 'em.'

Hokies in hunt for junior college help
Expect Tech men's basketball team to sign two junior-college players, including a point guard, during the recruiting period this spring.

"We certainly need another big guy," Tech coach Ricky Stokes said. The Hokies finished last in the BIG EAST in rebounding this season, averaging just 34.6 per game.

Of even greater concern is the point guard position. The Hokies had 329 assists, but a painful total of 555 turnovers this season, the worst assist/turnover ratio in the conference. Not surprisingly, Tech was the league's worst shooting team (41.3 percent) and averaged just 65.6 points per game, which ranked 13th in the conference.

In the fall, it appeared that freshman Chris Exilus would be Tech's point guard of the future. He started the season opener against VMI and scored 20 points and had six assists and just one turnover.

But as the season progressed, his turnovers increased and his playing time evaporated. By the season finale against Pittsburgh, Exilus was essentially Tech's fourth guard playing behind Carlos Dixon, Brian Chase and walk-on guard Drew Smith.

"Playing point guard as a freshman is very tough, especially in the BIG EAST," Stokes said in defense of Exilus.

But the Hokies don't want to go through another season like the one they just endured and that's why Tech is in the hunt for a junior-college point guard.

"We need someone a little older, with a little more experience there," he said.

Despite the 8-19 season, Stoke was upbeat and more than hopeful as he reflected on Tech's first season in the BIG EAST.

"You know, someone asked me if I would've rather played in the Atlantic 10 one more year with a young team," Stokes said. "We might have won a few more games, but I told them 'No.' I thought the BIG EAST experience was a good one for us and a learning experience for our players and coaches and fans too. The teams in the league have raised the bar for us and now we know where we need to reach."

Hokies will return to Louisville's Freedom Hall and Tallahassee
Call it Metro Conference Flashback. The Hokies will be playing at both Louisville and Florida State this coming season. As you might recall, the Hokies, Seminoles and Cardinals were all members of the now-defunct Metro Conference from the 1970s to the mid-90s.

While it's been six years since Tech last played at Louisville's Freedom Hall, Ricky Stokes and his team will play two games at the historic venue this upcoming season. Tech will participate in the John Thompson Foundation Classic at Freedom Hall on Dec. 6-7. Tech will play Murray State in the first round and either Louisville or a team to be determined in the second round.

Other non-conference games for the Hokies next season include road games at Florida State, Virginia and Old Dominion. Tech will play Chattanooga, Mount St. Mary's, Radford, Gardner-Webb and VMI at home. Tech is also likely to add to more home games, with Liberty being a good possibility. Overall, Tech will play 15 games at home during the 2001-2002 season. By the way, the Hokies strength of schedule this past season ranked eighth in the BIG EAST and 79th nationally.

The Roth report appears weekly in hokiesports.com-the newspaper and is posted for the general public on hokiesports.com.

The opinions expressed here are solely those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Virginia Tech Athletics Department, hokiesports.com, or it's advertisers.