Tech's football players to spend summer in Gentry's classroom
The Roth Report
May 9, 2001
By Bill Roth

This is final exam week at Virginia Tech - the time of year that all of us who've graduated from college really enjoy because we can revel in the following most joyous fact:

We don't have to take 'em anymore.

Years after graduation, I still get chills thinking about finals, those long term papers, bubble sheets and blue books. So if you're a Tech student, good luck studying for your exams. I'll be home watching the hockey playoffs.

Anyway, this is also a great time to be on campus because - by the end of this week - there will be plenty of parking spaces again since the majority of Tech students will be going home for the summer. Just kiddin'!

Seriously, this is a great time to be on campus because Tech's football team will be spending an awful lot of time in the Merryman Center weight room, getting even stronger. And it's a good time to learn about the real heart of the team.

"This team," Hokies' offensive coordinator Rickey Bustle said last week, "will be the most physical and powerful football team we've had here."

That's a pretty impressive statement when you consider the Hokies set the all-time BIG EAST rushing record in 1999, only to eclipse that mark in 2000. If anything, Tech's become more of a power team in the past couple of seasons.

In all, 55 Tech football players are enrolled in school for the first summer session, which begins soon. Sixty-two players are scheduled to be enrolled in the second summer session later this summer.

Mike Gentry, the assistant athletic director for athletic performance, will start his 'third quarter' of pre-season preparation on May 21 with a workout regime designed to, as Mike says, "increase their mental and physical toughness." Now that sounds like fun, eh?

The early summer workouts are all about physical conditioning and to prepare Tech's players for the upcoming Ironman competition later in the summer. So once the Hokies finish their exams, Professor Gentry will be waiting for them.

And one final thought about finals.

Cliff Hillegas, one of America's most widely read authors, died last week.

Don't know him?

I would've never made it through 10th grade Honor's English without ole Cliff and I'm sure many of you have read his works too. Cliff Hillegas was the founder and author of Cliff's Notes. You'll find them in every academic book store (and in the hands of thousands of Tech students). They were terrific study guides for me (trying to get through Shakespeare as a 10th grader was brutal) and I'm sure many of you felt the same way reading the Bawdy Bard.

So, on Finals Week 2001, here's another 'thank you' to Cliff Hillegas who understood that 'Brevity is the soul of wit.'

I think that's Hamlet, but I'd have to consult that old black and gold book just to make sure!

Congratulations to Big Nat and others
Among the thousands of Virginia Tech students who will graduate this weekend are three ex-football players - Nathaniel Williams, Jamie Forrest and Robert Adams.

Williams, who came to Tech in 1995, turned out to be an outstanding defensive lineman for the Hokies. He redshirted his freshman year, but blossomed into a reliable player and a good team leader. He was a 'man' on Tech's team and we're all proud of Big Nat.

As for Adams and Forrest, injuries ruined what could have been terrific careers for both. Adams, a defensive end from Gladys, Va., was a top five prospect in The Roanoke Times list back in 1996. In fact, he was regarded as Tech's top signee at the time - although that class also included Ike Charlton, Shyrone Stith, Shayne Graham, Carl Bradley, Anthony Midget and others. Forrest, from Lynchburg, was a highly-touted linebacker who also saw injuries curtail his football career.

It's nice to now that these two will graduate this weekend, and that they stuck with their academic goals even when their athletic careers ended. Congratulations to all three ex-Hokies on a job well done.

All games, sold out again
It's official. There are no season football tickets left for the 2001 season.

That was the word from Sandy Smith, Tech's director of ticketing, who reports that season ticket sales for this season are actually greater than last year.

"We have nothing left to sell," Smith said. "We're going to be ahead of last year, which really says a lot about our fans."

With the redesign of Lane Stadium, visiting teams will receive just 1,800 tickets to sell to fans and contributors. If any visiting team does not sell its complete allotment, the unsold tickets will be returned to the Tech ticket office for individual game sales. Teams have until July to return any unsold tickets to Blacksburg.

Tech has sold out every game since the Virginia game in November of 1998. That's a streak of 13 games (14, if you count the sellout crowd which was in attendance for the weather-cancelled BCA Bowl).

Gator Bowl Looks for BIG EAST Extension

Gator Bowl Executive Director Rick Catlett confirmed that his bowl has begun contract negotiations with the BIG EAST with full intentions of extending its current relationship with the conference. There is one year left on the current deal, which gives the Gator the second team from the league or Notre Dame.

"We have been very pleased with our current arrangement and hope to renew our deal with the BIG EAST," Catlett said.

Having Notre Dame part of the mix, however, is paramount in getting this deal done. The Gator can select the Irish twice during a four-year period.

"Absolutely," Catlett said. "Notre Dame being involved is critically important."

All of the Gator Bowl's contracts - those with NBC, Toyota, the Atlantic Coast Conference, and the BIG EAST - expire after the 2002 game, but Catlett expects all parties to renew their deals.

One change, however, could be the possibility of bowls 'trading' teams to avoid rematches and create better match-ups - an item Catlett has lobbied for over the past several years.

"We are taking a close look at what the Cotton Bowl will do this spring," he said. "In the past, that bowl had exclusivities reserved for the conferences of its participating teams. Same with the Citrus Bowl. For example, no other SEC or Big Ten teams could be playing at the same time as the Citrus Bowl.

"But if we lift the conference exclusivities, which I think could happen starting with the Cotton, then all of us will have more flexibility. We, for example, might be able to send a Notre Dame or a Virginia Tech to the Citrus Bowl, and get Auburn in the Gator Bowl."

Meanwhile, many folks in his community - and those in south Georgia - are quietly hoping Georgia Tech wins the ACC this season, opening the door for the Gator to snatch Florida State for its bowl game. The Gator has the second pick from the ACC.

Florida State drew over 54,000 in Jacksonville this past August for its game with Brigham Young.

Meanwhile, the BIG EAST will send a team to the San Francisco Jeep Bowl on December 30th at Pac Bell Park. That bowl, which has moved from Hawaii, pits BIG EAST No. 4 vs. a Pac-10 team.

This will be the final year the BIG EAST will send a team to the Music City Bowl in Nashville. Beginning in 2002, that game will pit a Southeastern Conference team against a Big Ten team.

So, the BIG EAST's bowl lineup for 2001 looks like this:
League champion - BCS
Team No. 2 - Gator Bowl, Jacksonville, January 1, 2002, vs. ACC.
Team No. 3 - Bowl, Phoenix, December 29, vs. Big 12.
Team No. 4 - San Francisco Jeep Bowl, San Francisco, December 30 vs. Pac-10.
Team No. 5 - Music City Bowl, December 28, Nashville, vs. SEC.

Gilmore gives green light
As expected, Governor Jim Gilmore has approved Tech's $37 million Lane Stadium expansion project. Requests for proposal, sent to regional and national contractors on April 15, are due back next week.

"Hopefully, we'll be able to pick one which can complete this project within our budget," Tech Vice-President Ray Smoot said.

Smoot said the bids will be reviewed by Jim McCoy, Virginia Tech's director of capital design and construction. A final decision should be made by late June.

The 11,000-seat, double-decked expansion project should be completed in time for Tech's 2002 football season.

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