Two former bitter rivals surprisingly get together this spring to share ideas
The Roth Report
April 5, 2007
By Bill Roth

Talk about your unusual sights. There was West Virginia University head coach Rich Rodriguez and three of his assistants standing on the practice field at Virginia Tech, watching the Hokies go through spring drills.

"I'm sure there were some people who did some serious double-takes," Hokies' offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring said.

You think? For years, Tech and WVU were rivals, and at times bitter, bitter rivals.

But now, with the teams in different conferences and no future games scheduled between the two programs, the head coaches agreed to compare notes and techniques. Thus, Rodriguez and other members of his coaching staff traveled to Blacksburg recently to visit with Tech's staff and watch a Hokies' spring practice. The result was the gold and blue of WVU mixed in with the Hokies' orange and maroon. And everyone got along marvelously.

"It was a good visit for both of us, a learning opportunity," Stinespring said. "There will be a follow-up visit, too,"

Stinespring, though, wasn't sure if that would occur in Blacksburg or Morgantown. "We're going to get together again," he said.

Oh geez, this is like Ronald Reagan-Mikhail Gorbachev, Part II. We're getting along now?

Many will find it curious to learn that Rodriguez and Tech's Frank Beamer, whose programs staged some ferocious battles on the field over the past 20 years, are close enough - and who respect each other enough - to agree to let their assistants visit and share insights and techniques. In a way, however, it makes sense. The two schools don't often recruit the same players, they aren't going to play each other (at least in the regular season) for at least 20 more years, and both programs have been very successful in recent seasons.

The collegiality is admirable on both sides but it does bring us to the following conclusion: The Virginia Tech-WVU rivalry is officially over. It's dead. We're now chums.

Here's how it works: We don't have to catch Amos anymore, and you guys don't have to block Cornell Brown. We've got us a deal.

I found it somewhat ironic when former presidents Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush traveled together to raise money for tsunami relief in Southeast Asia, they were backslapping and getting along just famously, like two old pals. Turns out, they liked each other. Liked each other the entire time. Who knew?

Next thing you know, Ben Affleck and J-Lo will be back together and Karl Rove will be co-hosting a talk show with John Kerry.

Anyway, now we have this image of Coach Beamer and Coach Rod sitting around the table, having a cold one, and laughing at how a flirtation with Crimson helped both of their wallets.

In the end, if it helps both programs - which was the goal of both coaches to begin with - then it was worth it. And if the Hokies win a game using a new technique or two, we'll just have to credit - gulp - our new buddies from Morgantown.

Spring notes
Tech coaches like the approach, attitude and demeanor of this team through the first week or so of spring workouts. It's clear that some guys are much further along now than they were last year, including linemen Ryan Shuman, Nick Marshman, and Richard Graham.

"We've had three mental errors I've noted all spring," Stinespring said. "Last year, we had 10 the first day, eight the next, and eight the next. We're not making those mental errors and the snaps we took on the run last year are helping us now."

The move of Ed Wang from tight end to tackle is proving to be a good one. Wang has the good feet the coaches like and he's put on the weight. He opened spring practice at 310, but quickly dropped back to 300.

"We anticipate he'll be able to be 310 and keep it there by the fall," Stinespring said.

Wang and tight end André Smith are two guys who have clearly been on a mission to help this team in 2007.

  • TGIF. That's the theme of the offensive line for this spring. Marshman and Matt Welsh have classes on Monday and Wednesday and are missing practice those days. So they only practice on Friday. With Sergio Render missing all of spring with a knee injury, we're not really seeing any cohesion with the offensive line this spring. You'd like to see Marshman out there every day, but academics come first. We'll have to wait till August to get a feel for the 2007 offensive line.

    The Hokies have their first full scrimmage on Saturday and that will be the first chance to see the quarterbacks under pressure. Clearly, Sean Glennon is ready to prove that he can bounce back from his bowl game performance in a big way. And Ike Whitaker is showing that he wants to take control too. Ike is taking care of the little things and picking things up much quicker this spring.

    The Voice's Mailbag
    Where do you feel Zabian ranks among all-time greats at Tech? Finishing near the top in scoring, steals and assists, while also making the ACC all-defensive team twice. Not to mention he carried us on his back to many huge wins, like at UNC; and led us to our first Big Dance in years. I would think he would eventually get his number retired, or at least his jersey. What are your thoughts on Zabian? Michael, Salem, Va.

    There's no question that Zabe and Jamon Gordon both had terrific careers for the Hokies and should be considered among the top-25 players at Tech. Zabe might be in the top 10. However, neither was a national player of the year, a major national award winner or a consensus All-American, which is Tech's current policy on retiring jerseys. Also, that policy is to retire jerseys, not numbers. For example, Michael Vick's jersey is retired, but his number (No. 7) can still be worn. Zabe is a great kid and I'll miss his magnetic personality and sense of humor. He'll always be The Hokie from Pahokee!

    You gave the total athletics revenue figures in this week's Roth Report. In a recent Raleigh News-Observer, there was an article about a possible short fall of revenues from the NCAA due to a poorer than normal showing by the ACC in the NCAA Basketball Tournament. It was stated that the ACC schools could receive a lesser amount of money in future years. What is the possible affect on VT athletics and what are the total VT athletics expenditures now? Harry, Roswell, Ga.

    This wasn't the tournament it could've been for commissioner John Swofford and the ACC bean counters. The conference was poised for a huge NCAA Tournament windfall, but it didn't happen. First a primer. The NCAA awards money from the men's basketball tournament to each conference based upon the number of teams in the tournament and how successful those league's teams are over the course of a six-year period. The NCAA units are determined by adding the number of teams and number of wins each year in the tournament. Thus in 2007, the ACC earned 14 units.

    Later this summer, the ACC, and each member school, will split the value of the 80 units the conference has accumulated from 2001-2006, with each unit being worth about $177,000. But next year, the league will have 78 units (losing the 16 units it gained from the 2001 tournament, and adding 14 from this year). Clearly, the ACC could've had a huge year in the NCAA Tournament with seven teams involved, but it didn't happen. Here's a year-by-year list of NCAA Tournament units the ACC has accrued.
    2007 - 14
    2006 - 10
    2005 - 16
    2004 - 19
    2003 - 9
    2002 - 13
    2001 - 16

    For 2005-2006, the Virginia Tech athletics department's reported revenues were $48,543,003 and the department's expenses were $45,195,501. So when someone asks "What is the budget for the Tech athletics department?", $45 million is a fair answer. Not all schools report financial data the same way, so it can be hard to compare to other universities, but that's the safest number to use.

    With all due respect, 1995-1996 was clearly the best year in the history of Virginia Tech's revenue sports (football and men's basketball). The football team took home the Hokies' first and only BCS win and the men's basketball team won an NCAA Tournament game (and their loss was to the eventual national champions). I will agree that this year the Hokie hoopsters notched three of the biggest wins in Virginia Tech sports history, but sadly they and the footballers ended the season poorly. As Frank Beamer always says, 'It's not how you start, but how you finish.' Jym, Annandale, Va.

    I'm with you on the 1995-96 season. The Hokies won the Atlantic 10 Conference Commissioner's Trophy for the best mark in all sports. However, I don't think it's fair to say the 2006 Tech football team 'ended the season poorly.' That team won its final six regular-season games and shouldn't just be remembered for its bowl loss. One of the reasons the Hokies will be picked to win their division in the ACC this fall is they were the hottest team in the league at the end of the season and return 16 starters.

    I'm a soccer fan and have a daughter that plays for the Va. Tech women's soccer team. What do you think about how Tech will fair in the ACC this fall season? And even though Tech was near the bottom, their play didn't indicate that they were a last-place team. Also, now that the eight freshmen picked up last fall have a year under their belt, will they make a bigger impact this year? John, Leesburg, Va.

    Coach Kelly Cagle's team played great during the second half of last season, and you're right, it was a young squad. Freshman Julian Johnson and sophomore Laurie Beth Puglisi became a potent offensive duo and Johnson led the ACC in assists last year with 20. Rising sophomore Emily Jukich also returns, meaning the Hokies return their top three scorers for this coming year.

    North Carolina (as usual), Florida State, and Wake Forest were all ranked among the top 12 at the end of last season, and the ACC was once again regarded as the top conference in women's soccer and that will likely be the case again this fall. Yet, an NCAA bid for Tech's women's soccer team is not too far in the distant future. You can be sure of that.

    I know much is made of the aged Cassell Coliseum, but a new practice facility still should put Tech in the vanguard of ACC programs. My question is this: if we put together a paint combination, perhaps rows of maroon seats, rows of orange seats, and maybe some white or combination coloring, wouldn't that make Cassell look even better? Add in a coat of white paint on the walls to make it look more spacious, and opponents will shake their heads, thinking there has to be more than almost 10,000 people in here. Drew, Winchester, Va.

    Thanks for your question. The seats in Cassell were stripped of their paint and refinished to reveal their original wood color, which looks great. Cassell looks best when there are fannies in the seats. That, along with a good basketball team, makes it a tough place to play. The No. 1 project for Cassell right now is to make sure people who buy tickets come, or get their tickets into the hands of those who want to see the games. The lighting could be improved, and there are some other small items that need work, but the No. 1 thing now is creating an atmosphere that paint or logos or the new video boards can't accomplish. Only fans can do that.

    We have questions. You have answers. A) Did you really have anything to do in painting a VT on the football field at UVa before the Hokies played there a couple years ago? B) Did you really say Fergalicious on the radio during a game this past year? Scott and Dan, Blacksburg.

    Scott and Dan:
    A) Will never tell.
    B) Well, yeah. Coleman's dunk at Duke was more than vicious, it was... well, 'Fergalicious.'

    Listen to the play: Refresh: Needs Flash: Flash MP3 Player

    This is more fact than question. I saw your response to the question about Dale Solomon and who is the best ever VT b-ball player. I remember watching Dale play at VT during my early student years at VT. I happened to find a link that has an interview with Dale done over a year ago: Thought you and others might find it interesting. B.Wilson, Laguna Nigel, Ca.

    Thanks for sharing.

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