Hokies Wait On State Approval To Begin Stadium Expansion Project
The Roth Report
April 11, 2001
By Bill Roth

The land has been cleared and crews with bulldozers continue to work late into the night and on weekends preparing the area behind the south end zone at Lane Stadium for a massive, 11,000-seat expansion.

However, even though this expansion project will not use any state funds, it still must have state approval - something that has yet to occur. This delay had some folks in Tech's athletics administration - and at Burruss Hall - sweating in recent weeks.

"When the state legislature adjourned without approving a budget, we didn't have the authorization to bid this project, even though no state funds would be used," Tech Vice-President for Administration and Treasurer Ray Smoot said. "Originally, this was going to be a $26 million project. Now, it's a $37 million project and we had state approval at 26, but not at 37. So we couldn't bid the project."

At least not yet.

The university plans to bid the project Sunday (April 15), but Smoot said Tech can't accept any bids until after it receives state approval.

The $37 million, which will include a massive double-decked seating arrangement, private boxes, new locker rooms and media facilities, will come from contributions, ticket revenue, luxury suite sales, and athletic revenues. The university plans to debt finance the project without using any state or taxpayer dollars whatsoever.

"The governor can approve - on an emergency basis - a project such as this since no state funds are being used," Smoot said. "We have asked Governor [Jim] Gilmore to do exactly that and are very hopeful to get approval very shortly."

While state approval isn't a 'given' at this point, Tech officials feel optimistic the state will allow the project to commence in the coming weeks.

"I feel better now about it than ever," Smoot said. "I am very, very confident."

Money Part II
While on the topic of budgets, it was learned in the last week that three major Division I schools were making significant changes to their athletic programs because of budget shortfalls.

At Iowa State, a seven-figure shortfall led to the school eliminating its baseball and men's swimming program. At Nebraska and Kansas, men's swimming also has been dropped.

And at Virginia, the school has announced a four-tiered approach to financing its athletic programs. Only football and men's and women's basketball will receive complete funding. Other sports will offer scholarships on a need basis only, much like schools in the Patriot League.

The dropping of sports is nothing new. But it's a phenomenon occurring with increasing frequency throughout the country.

Already this spring, we've seen more startling examples of the changing world of college sports. We've already seen the BIG EAST jettison Temple from its football membership, primarily because of that school's lack of financial contribution to the league. And when basketball coaches are forced to resign even though they win 20-games and take their teams to the NCAA Tournament - as was the case with Tennessee's Jerry Green - there's no doubt every year college sports become more and more of a big business.

As mega-conference supporters have stated for years, if there were only six huge conferences in this country, there'd be a lot more money for the schools which play at the highest level. They might have a point, and more growing support, especially at schools in the Big Ten and Big 12, which are losing money on athletics despite the massive revenue sharing of those respective leagues.

While college basketball fans enjoy the progression of teams like Gonzaga and Hampton in the NCAA tournament, CBS likely wouldn't pay any less for the men's basketball tournament if only the top six conferences participated. In fact, it might pay more.

Sure, the tournament has charm and the upsets and drama of the early round games are thrilling. But if Gonzaga is in the NCAA Tournament, then Michigan is out. And so is its basketball coach, who was fired after the season. So, instead of spending money on its student athletes, the school is buying out the salary of one coach while paying its new one an even higher salary.

Yes, Gonzaga had a better team than Michigan and deserved to be in the NCAA Tournament. But if the 'power' schools in the so-called 'power' conferences keep losing money, they're eventually going to find a way to keep every piece of the pie for themselves. Ultimately, that means cutting out the little guy.

Bottom line is this. If you're an athletics director at a school which is not in a major conference, your job is going to get a lot tougher in the next decade. There's only so much money and the big boys are going to figure out a way to keep it - whether the NCAA likes it or not.

Money Part III
Notre Dame's Troy Murphy became the third BIG EAST underclassmen to declare for the NBA draft when the two-time conference player of the year made his announcement on April 10. Murphy joins Seton Hall freshman Eddie Griffin and Villanova junior Michael Bradley as three BIG EAST stars who are bolting the league early.

Murphy averaged 21.8 points and 9.2 rebounds per game for the Fighting Irish this past season. The 6-foot-11 forward is projected as a mid-second round pick.

Bradley, who transferred to Villanova from Kentucky, averaged 20.8 points and 9.8 rebounds for the Wildcats this past season. NBA scouts project him as a middle to late first-round pick.

Griffin is projected as a lottery pick and perhaps a top-five selection in the upcoming NBA draft. The 6-9 forward averaged 17.8 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 4.4 blocks per game as a freshman for the Pirates.

The loss of these three stars - while not unexpected - is another blow to the league, and college basketball in general. And hey, don't blame the kids for leaving. After all, Murphy's coach at Notre Dame (Matt Doherty), Bradley's coach at Villanova (Steve Lappas) and Griffin's at Seton Hall (Tommy Amaker) all left for other jobs.

Face it. If the coaches are going to bolt for the money, so are the kids.

TV decisions will be made later this year
With ABC taking over as the new network of BIG EAST football, you can expect to wait later in the season to learn which games will be televised by that company's various networks. As a result, the kickoff times for most Virginia Tech football games will remain TBA even once the season begins.

In the past, the BIG EAST - along with CBS- conducted a mid-spring draft in which the networks chose from the most attractive games. Starting this fall, however, each ABC network (ABC, ESPN, ESPN2) will televise five BIG EAST home games for a total of 15 BIG EAST national television or national cable games. Since it controls all the games, ABC/ESPN can wait till the last minute (12 and six-day windows) to pick the most attractive games each week.

Last year, there were 22 nationally televised BIG EAST games, so the trickle-down effect - with only 15 this year - means the noon BIG EAST game of the week, produced by ESPN Regional Television, will be more attractive. In addition, there will be more non-televised games than in the past.

As of now, the only Virginia Tech game scheduled for network television is the December 1st home game with Miami. While more games will be added, we may not know until the week of the game the exact network and kickoff times.

Spring game radio news
The Tech spring game, to be played April 21 at Lane Stadium/Worsham Field, can be heard throughout the Roanoke and New River Valley areas on WBRW, 105.3FM, "The Bear." Pre-game coverage begins at noon, with the kickoff slated for 2 p.m. eastern time.

If you live outside the coverage area, you can listen on your home computer via Yahoo. Find the links on hokiesports.com.

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.