Tech starting tradition of retiring jerseys
By Jimmy Robertson
September 10, 2002

For the second consecutive week, the Virginia Tech athletics department will retire the jersey of a former football player. Before the Marshall game, officials from the department plan on retiring the jersey of current head coach Frank Beamer, who played for the Hokies from 1966-68 and stands as the school's all-time winningest coach. Before the LSU game, the school retired the jersey of former quarterback Michael Vick, who led the Hokies to back-to-back 11-1 seasons and to the national championship game in 2000.

The athletics department's policy regarding the retiring of jerseys is simple. It allows for a jersey to be retired in acknowledgement of an individual who has won an established national award in their sport, while allowing the number to continue to be worn by others. For example, Vick earned an ESPY as the college football player of the year after his freshman season and Beamer received seven coach of the year awards after the 1999 season. Tech also plans on retiring the jerseys of Cornell Brown, the Football News defensive player of the year in 1995, and Corey Moore, who won the Nagurski Trophy and the Lombardi Award after his senior.

Some wonder about the logic of retiring jerseys versus numbers. Retiring jerseys saves on numbers, while also honoring the athlete.

This policy also creates value to a particular number, allowing for a number to be worn by others. Current tailback Kevin Jones wanted to wear No. 7, Vick's number. Maybe some youngster or blue-chip recruit will realize the great players at Tech who have worn No. 7 and strive to keep the tradition of great play associated with that number. That has happened at Syracuse, where many players consider it an honor to wear Jim Brown's No. 44.

Tech's policy follows in line with the policies of other prominent football programs. For example, the University of Nebraska retires jerseys, not numbers, and recently retired the jersey of Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Eric Crouch. The school has not retired Crouch's number, nor the number worn by Johnny Rodgers, who also won the Heisman Trophy nearly 30 years ago.

Prior to the new policy, Tech had retired the jersey numbers of four former players - Bruce Smith, Carroll Dale, Frank Loria, and Jim Pyne. Three of the four have been recognized, and the fourth - Loria - will be recognized during Tech's game Thursday night against Marshall. Loria died in 1970 when a plane carrying the entire Marshall staff and team crashed in a mountain outside of Huntington. Loria's family will be on hand for the ceremony.