The Kroger Roth Report
A Television Primer for Saturday:
Hokies, fans prepare for big day in front of the tube

November 13, 2000

By Bill Roth
My ole buddy 'Harry the Hokie' called this past Sunday morning with a quizzical, concerned tone in his voice. Harry - a Virginia Tech fan from way back - bleeds orange and maroon like few others. He's got Tech pictures on the walls of his game room, a VT vanity plate on his maroon conversion van, hasn't missed a home game in decades and even hung his Hokie Club plaque next to his wedding picture above his fireplace. The guy even named his dog 'Bruce.'

Harry wants to see the Hokies play in the Fiesta Bowl badly. In fact, he went as far as raiding his local Sam's Club of every last box of Tostitos Chips in an long-shot attempt to sway the Fiesta's team- selection committee.

Anyway, there was a sincere sense of desperation coming from the other end of the phone from this life-long Virginia Tech supporter.

Harry: "Hey Voice, it's Harry. You know, I'd go to Jacksonville to see the Hokies play in the Gator Bowl, 'specially if it was those boyz from Clempson. But I'd like to see Tech in the Fiesta or Sugar Bowl this year. What's it gonna take to get the Hokies in the BCS?"

Me: Harry, it's 6 a.m.

Harry: I know Bill, only six more hours till the Beamer Show comes on TV!

Me: Grrrrrr.

Harry: Anyway, I'm not sure who to pull for in the Civil War in Oregon, the Apple Cup in at Washington state, or the Miami-Syracuse game at the Carrier Dome. I'm gonna watch every minute of each game, but I don't know who to pull for. You wanna come over? I still got 17 dozen boxes of Tostitos left from last week."

Me: Click.
Well, if truth be told, there are a lot of reasons (like $13.5 million of 'em) that Tech would like to play in a BCS bowl game once again this season. Securing a spot in the Orange Bowl, site of the national championship game, is a near mathematical impossibility for Virginia Tech. But Tech has a shot - although not a great one- of getting into either the Fiesta or Sugar Bowls if the Hokies defeat Virginia on November 25th.

So we did some research, made a zillion phone calls, and came up with an answer - albeit one printed with a 'subject to change' disclaimer in bold print.

Some basics: There are two ways Virginia Tech can gain a spot in the BCS. One is through the Big East via the league's automatic bid and the second would be as an at-large team. As you know, there are six automatic berths and two at-large slots to the BCS.

So who should Harry - and Hokies everywhere - pull for Saturday? Here's a primer:

Oregon at Oregon State: Forget everything you ever read about Appomattox. The Civil War resumes this Saturday in Oregon when the No. 6 Oregon Ducks visit No. 10 Oregon State at 3:30 p.m. Eastern time. If Oregon wins, its locks up a spot in the Rose Bowl. That would be bad news for the Hokies since No. 5 Washington (9-1) is a very attractive at-large team for the Fiesta Bowl.
    A 10-1 Washington team - the only squad to defeat No. 2 Miami - would certainly get a BCS bid. So, from Tech's perspective, the best scenario would be for Oregon State to win at home and Washington to win at Pullman, sending the Huskies to the Rose Bowl and Oregon and OSU to non-BCS bowls. That means you've got to pull for Dennis Erickson and his red-hot Beavers to defeat their arch-rivals.

Washington at Washington State: This is the "Apple Cup" and if the 3:30 game (Oregon-Oregon State) goes Tech's way, then you start cheering for U-Dub on the road. If not, then pull for WSU. Washington, even with a loss at WSU (which would make the Huskies 9-2), could go to Tempe. So as a Tech fan, you'd rather see the Huskies locked into the Rose. While Washington may be a big draw for the Fiesta, that may not be the case with either of the Oregon schools. That's why Pac 10 Commissioner Tom Hansen is hoping for wins by Oregon and Washington. In that scenario, Oregon heads to the Rose and Washington likely to the Fiesta.

Notre Dame at Rutgers: Are you kiddin'? Don't expect an Irish loss this week, but hope for one next Saturday when the Irish visit USC. A 9-2 Notre Dame team is a near lock for the BCS.
    But if the Men of Troy can find a way to salvage their season - as they've done in the past - by upsetting the Irish at the Coliseum, then 8-3 Notre Dame is likely Gator Bowl-bound, sending the Hokies to the BCS. But USC has lost six of seven heading into this weekend's game at UCLA.
    Just hope somehow that Notre Dame drops in the BCS rankings in the next couple of weeks. If Notre Dame is not in the top-12 in the final BCS rankings, they are not eligible for the Sugar or Fiesta.

Miami at Syracuse: Believe it or not, Virginia Tech is still alive for the Big East's automatic bid should the 'Canes lose at the Carrier Dome. If Tech and Miami both finish 6-1 and the Hokies are ranked six or more places ahead of Miami in the BCS rankings, Tech gets the nod even though the Hokies lost in Miami.
    Miami must also face Boston College on November 25th. If Miami loses both, then Tech is the outright Big East champion and will play in the Fiesta or Sugar. But that's a stretch, even for ole Harry.

There's not really a way to explain this scenario simply. Like a Palm Beach, Fla., presidential ballot, you've got to study the thing long and hard before realizing how it works.

Simply put, there are two at-large bids for the BCS and at least four teams likely to be in the running: Virginia Tech, Notre Dame and the two Pacific 10 teams. Any other team ranked in the top 12 of the BCS ratings with at least nine wins is eligible too.

If Oklahoma loses in the Big 12 Championship game, it joins the mix and the Sooners would likely get an at-large bid to the Sugar Bowl in a student vs. pupil, Stoops vs. Spurrier game. In that scenario, the Hokies are a lock for Jacksonville.

What Tech - head coach Frank Beamer and athletics director Jim Weaver specifically - will do in the next two weeks is campaign with the vigor of a presidential candidate.

Here are Tech's selling points:
  • Michael Vick: The Hokies have the nation's most exciting player on their team and have one of the nation's highest scoring teams (40.1 points per game).
  • Television draw: Tech's 2000 Nielsen rating for the Sugar Bowl was a BCS record 17.5.
  • Ticket sales: The Hokies have sold out their allotment for tickets each year during their current seven-year bowl run. A Tech vs. Florida matchup in the Sugar Bowl or Tech vs. Notre Dame matchup in the Fiesta Bowl is guaranteed to sell out.

So the Hokies have a lot going for them, but they're going to need a little bit of help. They'll play the 'Vick card' as hard and as often as possible. On the field, Tech must take care of business against UVa.

Behind the scenes, you know Tech's administration - and the Big East office - will do all it can to get the Hokies to New Orleans or Tempe.

But it may not be enough.
Me: Harry, pull for Oregon State, Washington State, Syracuse and Rutgers.

Harry: I gotta cheer for Rutgers?

Me: Yep. And if any team ranked ahead of Tech loses, consider that a good thing.

Harry: Wait. I gotta pull for Dennis Erickson too?

Me: Bud, you wanna go to Tempe or not?

Harry: Awwwright. Go Beavers!

Internet Mania
Ok, getting silly now.

My buffet buddy, Mike Burnop, and I receive frequent interview requests from radio stations nationwide to talk about the Hokies and Tech football in general.

Last week, a station from Denver asked for an interview even though it's not a 'real' radio station - just a couple of guys in a studio who send their signal out via streaming audio on the internet. There was no real 'broadcast' and - as far as I knew - there were no listeners either.

At first, I thought the guys were a couple of Vegas bookies looking for some inside information, but their questions were too vague ("What is a Hokie?") for a true gambling service.

But since they went through the trouble of setting up an interview through Tech's sports information office, we had a nice, brief talk, although I spent most of the interview trying to log on to their site to see if they were legit. You could probably hear the rat-a-tat-tat of the keyboard in the background.

The internet - and its related technologies - are certainly changing everything we do, including how we cover the Hokies. Tech broadcasts are available worldwide now on the internet, and each week, we hear from listeners in foreign countries who are following the games on their computers. Burnop, for example, is big in Bosnia.

The Hokie Huddler has become hokiesports.com the newspaper. Many of you are actually reading this week's Kroger Roth Report on your computer screens, getting the news and insights instantly instead of waiting to get the information days later in the mail. (Thus, our new slogan is "Always Good, Always Fresh, Always the Kroger Roth Report").

Of course, Virginia Tech, thanks to its marvelous computer science infrastructure and commitment to digital transmission and computer technologies, has a very cyber-literate student body and alumni base. As a result, Hokie supporters love the internet.

From a fan's perspective, you must distinguish between the good and bad sites out there, which are putting out misinformation . This, apparently, can be a challenge.

Many 'unofficial' or 'fan' sites have the look and feel of official web sites like hokiesports.com. At times, it can be hard to distinguish between the two unless you look closely. For example, headlines from last week:
Official Site: André Davis has a sprained ankle.
Unofficial Site: André Davis is an alien from Mars.

Unless you look closely, you'd be unsure if Davis missed the Central Florida game because of the ankle injury or because the atmosphere in Orlando would irritate his Martian lungs and Earth's gravity would limit his jumping ability.

We're being totally tongue-in-cheek here (of course) because there are so many sites out there today. About half the e-mails that come into Tech's athletic department begin with a reference to the internet.

When a note begins "Dear Sirs: I read on the internet that...," it's now an instinctive reaction to hit the 'delete' button before finishing the entire letter.

How to stop the misinformation? Start your own site of course!

Hokie senior Nick Sorensen has one (nicksorensen.com) as do many other Tech students. Tech coach Frank Beamer's new 'Beamerball.com' site includes the coaches' personal journal and other information on the coach and his life.

No secrets are disclosed - although Cheryl Beamer has printed her secret recipes for Coca Cola Cake and Poppy Seed Chicken, two of Frank's favorites . Now some fans are concerned that the University of Alabama will lure Beamer to Tuscaloosa by promising a lifetime supply of Poppy Seeds.

Just kiddin'.

Newspaper sites are a very good source of information because fans can click and read stories and columns from around the country - usually for free. Robert Anderson - who covers Tech for the Bristol newspaper - does a wonderful job for Fox Sports' site dedicated to Tech.

What bothers some administrators are those independent message boards which allow people to post (anonymously) their opinions on players and coaches. Although some, like University of Virginia athletics director Terry Holland, used the forum to conduct a much-publicized dialogue with fans regarding the status of football coach George Welsh.

Message boards are like radio talk shows. You can't take what you read too seriously if you're a fan and you can't take anything too personally even if you're called an 'arrogant snot.'

Old-school reporters get intimidated by the speed of which information gets sent to the public. Fact is, it's darn hard to break a story anymore if your newspaper doesn't have a crack web staff who can get news out to the public in an instant.

But it's here and it's good. There's an on-line community of people who read the entire text of a newspaper every day without even touching the paper itself. They then discuss the issues with their peers without seeing them face to face. They listen to a Tech game without ever turning on their radios.

As broadcasters, journalists, administrators , coaches and players, we need to understand how and why it works. But fans must recognize which sources are accurate and legitimate and which ones aren't.

And for the record, André Davis had a sprained ankle.

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.