Hokies arrive in New Orleans
By Jimmy Robertson
December 28, 2004

NEW ORLEANS - The ninth-ranked Virginia Tech football team arrived in New Orleans late Tuesday morning to begin preparations for its Jan. 3rd Sugar Bowl date with the No. 3-ranked Auburn Tigers.

Tech's 110-player squad left Blacksburg at 7:30 a.m. for Roanoke and got on a charter flight bound for New Orleans. The rest of the travel party, which included coaches, trainers, managers, administrators and numerous family members, left Blacksburg at 8:30 a.m. and got on a second charter for New Orleans that arrived in the Crescent City about an hour later. Both groups took buses to the team headquarters at the Marriott on Canal Street, just a few blocks from the French Quarter.

The Hokies, as they've done on their previous two trips to New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl, will practice on the FieldTurf practice fields at Tulane University. Later Tuesday afternoon, the players and coaches left the hotel for Tulane, with the strength and conditioning staff putting the players doing a series of wind sprints. Tuesday's practice constituted the Hokies' normal "Sunday" practice routine as they work up toward game day.

Late Tuesday evening, the players and coaches gathered for a team meeting, with head coach Frank Beamer laying some ground rules for his team's stay in New Orleans. Those rules, on the very first page of each player's bowl itinerary, dealt with treating people with respect and doing nothing to embarrass one's teammates and the university. He also addressed doing the little things, like dressing appropriately and treating the hotel staff at the Marriott with respect.

"The last time we were down here [in 1999], we were at the Hilton and the people there told me that we were the best behaved group they'd had in about 10 years," Beamer told his team. "I want to hear the same thing this year coming from the staff at this hotel."

Beamer also addressed drinking and breaking curfew, which was at 2 a.m. for Tech's first night in New Orleans.

"I always tell my Keith Short story and I wish he were here right now," Beamer said, referring to the former Tech center who broke curfew on his first night in New Orleans in 1995 and ended up riding a Greyhound bus for 26 hours back to his hometown of Ashland, Va., the next day. "He rode in a nice plane down here and stayed out a little too late, and rode a bus on the way back."

After Beamer spoke, he introduced Captain Jeff Winn of the New Orleans Police Department. Winn spoke to the team for nearly 20 minutes, warning the team of possible pitfalls.

"New Orleans is the queen city of the South," Winn said to the team. "It's a terrific city. But we're like any other urban city. We've got our share of drugs, gangs, and things like that. So use caution when going out and be aware of your surroundings."

Winn explained the city's laws regarding open beverages (basically, if you leave a bar or nightclub with an alcohol beverage, you need to have it in a "to-go" cup). He encouraged the players to stay in groups while out and he told them to be aware of pick-pockets, encouraging them to keep their wallets and money clips in their front pockets.

He also told the players that more police officers would be working in the French Quarter as the week went along. He informed the players that they needed only to seek out an office if potential problems arose, or ask any of the police officers around if they had any questions.

"Feel free to approach any of our officers on the street," Winn said. "That's what we're here for. Just remember to show those officers a little respect. Some of them work 12- or 16-hours shifts and they may be a little low on patience. But as you guys know, a little respect goes a long way, and they'll be more than willing to help you."

At the end of the meeting, Beamer warned his players about getting into a war of words with any Auburn players or Auburn fans whom they may meet while out on the town.

"It doesn't do any good," Beamer said. "The game is played on the field. That's what people are going to remember.

"Let's not screw this thing up by doing things we shouldn't be doing. For you seniors, this game is going to be the last game you'll remember. Let's not mess it up. I want you guys to have fun, but I want you to remember why we're here."

Tuesday night, Tech's players went to a bowl welcome party at a local bowling alley. The party ended around 9 and the players were free until 2 a.m. to do as they wished.

Tech begins its game-week practice on Wednesday. The Hokies hold their "Monday" practice at Tulane University at 12:15 p.m.