Promising recruiting class gives Hokies hope for future

Blacksburg, Va., Feb. 8 – Merryman Athletic Center: All of the Virginia Tech football offices can be found in the Merryman Athletic Center, where visitors are welcomed by the school’s logo at the main entrance. Photo: Ben Anderson

by Ben Anderson–

On Feb. 6, high school seniors across the nation signed their letters of intent, pledging their allegiance to the universities where they will be spending the next chapter of their lives.

Virginia Tech will welcome 20 freshmen next year from the 2019 recruiting class.  According to 247Sports, the Hokies’ 2019 recruiting class ranks 26th nationally and third in the ACC with an average player rating of .8739.

Maybe the most impressive position group coming in for the Hokies is haul of offensive linemen.  Losing three starters on the line, this position group needed to refill depth and talent.  Offensive line coach, Vance Vice, got to work this offseason and will welcome four freshmen and one transfer to the offensive line room next fall.

According to ESPN, offensive guard, Doug Nestor, who flipped his commitment from Ohio State last Wednesday, is ranked the 72nd best recruit in the class of 2019.  Nestor, along side Coastal Carolina transfer, Brock Hoffman, could see playing time for the Hokies as early has next fall.

After the transfer of multiple offensive weapons this offseason, Jaden Payoute and Keshawn King will be competing for playing time as soon as they step on campus.  Rivals.com has Payoute listed in the top 40 wide receivers in the nation and King as the 23rd best running back.

 247Sports quoted head coach Justin Fuente on last season saying, “We were awfully short-handed out there. Awfully short-handed. We can’t be that short-handed again next year.”  With these new recruits committed to Virginia Tech, Fuente will look to add depth and stability to his roster.

Blacksburg, Va., Feb. 8 – Football Recruiting Employee: Zaire Turner works as a recruiting assistant for the Virginia Tech Football Program. Photo: Ben Anderson
Blacksburg, Va., Feb. 8 –Student Recruiting Assistant: Hannah Richards volunteers as a student recruiting assistant for the Virginia Tech Football Program. Photo: Ben Anderson

SPORTS: Hokie football working through obstacles

 

Tyrod Taylor during pregame prayer
Photo credit: techsports on Foter.com / CC BY-ND

by Riley Wyant, Danielle Jeffers–

Following the loss to Old Dominion University on Sept. 22, Virginia Tech football has faced many struggles. During the matchup, starting quarterback Josh Jackson broke his left fibula and had to be carted off the field in the fourth quarter. He will be sitting out the rest of the season following an intensive repair surgery.

Post-game internal controversy in the locker room led to the dismissal of Defensive End Trevon Hill. Hill led the team in sacks and was one of the star players on the defense. His dismissal will impact Bud Foster’s defense in future matchups as the Hokies fight for a chance at the playoffs.

Ryan Willis, a transfer from Kansas, is now Virginia Tech’s starting quarterback but the team seems to be unfamiliar with the new dynamic. After the loss to ODU, the Hokies regained their confidence and beat Duke in Durham on Sept. 29. Unfortunately, the winning streak didn’t last as the team lost against Notre Dame last Saturday at home. There is an obvious lack of consistency and chemistry when it comes to the young team.

The Hokies are traveling to Chapel Hill this weekend to take on the UNC Tarheels. Will the team win and regain momentum or disappoint once again?

The old Tiger Woods is never coming back

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ATLANTA, Ga., Sept. 24 – Tiger is back – Eldrick Tiger Woods fought his way to his first victory since 2013. A 5-year gap that included multiple back surgeries. Photo: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

 

by Zack Perhach–

Here is my prediction for Tiger Woods’ next season: there will be a time, maybe within the first week or so, where Tiger will hit a 5-iron. The ball will jump high into the air, the crowd will begin yelling. Eldrick Tiger Woods, eyes still locked on the ball, will begin marching. Walking with confidence toward the hole, following his shot. He’ll pull the club down to his waist, all the while still marching forward.

In that moment, it will all feel real for Tiger Woods fans. Their one true question will be answered: is Tiger back? For those fans, it will feel like he’s back. Each and every one of them will believe again in that moment.

But the reality is, Tiger isn’t back. At least not the same Tiger, but that might be a good thing.

The Tiger Woods of old was a new breed of golfer. He was athletic, hit the ball far, and he drove his game down his opponents’ throats. He thrived in scenarios with somebody chasing him.

That was the Tiger who held the World Golf Rankings #1spot; a spot he held for 683 weeks. That is not a typo. Tiger was the world’s best golfer for almost 13 years until he wasn’t.

Today’s Tiger returned to golf ranked 1,199th in the world. He worked hard, and through the grind made his way to the 13th spot in just one season. He even recorded his first win since 2013.

The Tiger that won the 2018 Tour Championship was not the same Tiger who won all those other tournaments in years past. When he sunk the final putt to win, he didn’t pump his fist, he didn’t throw his ball in the air, he didn’t do any of that. Instead, he paused, took a deep breath, and hid his face as he tried to hold back tears.

Eldrick Tiger Woods’ game is changing. He’s older, slower, and less flexible. Despite that, he still owes the sport more. His last exit wasn’t the one a king deserves. Old Tiger is not back, but the new Tiger is here, playing the game for the game’s sake.

Big heels to fill in VT Athletics

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BLACKSBURG, Va., Sept. 10 – Department of Intercollegiate Athletics – Desiree Reed-Francois spent three years with the Hokies before accepting the AD job at UNLV. Photo: Zack Perhach

by Zack Perhach–

The Virginia Tech Athletics Department lost one of their key members this past year, as Desiree Reed-Francois stepped into the role of Athletic Director at University of Nevada Las Vegas.

Reed-Francois worked as Deputy Athletic Director under Virginia Tech Athletic Director Whit Babcock. She was hired by Babcock twice; once at Cincinnati and again and Virginia Tech. One of Reed-Francois most critical accomplishments was the hiring of Virginia Tech Head Football Coach Justin Fuente while maintaining Defensive Coordinator Bud Foster on staff.

Despite this success story, the landscape for women in collegiate athletics, especially at the level of athletic director, is bleak. Just five women are currently in the role of AD at a Power 5 (ACC, SEC, Pac 12, Big 12, B10) conference. That is five out of 65.power 5_AD map

Andra Scaliti, a Virginia Tech student-athlete and member of Collegiate Women in Business, says that the problems women face in the workplace are similar in most corporate environments.

“Women in the world of sports specifically can experience overwhelming setbacks from long-held stigmas,” says Scaliti.

Patti Phillips, the CEO of Women Leaders in College Sports, says that athletic departments looking to hire need to look at the numbers according to Pew Research. Women Leaders in College Sports is an organization whose main purpose is to draw attention to this disparity and help promote women into positions of influence in the world of collegiate sports.

“Intercollegiate athletics has traditionally been a boys’ club, and not reflective of the population as a whole, or even the population on college campuses,” says Phillips, “There is still sexism, racism, and homophobia in this male-dominated industry. That is not always because the person at the top is mean-spirited…there’s an intrinsic bias in business to preserve the status quo.”

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In the world of collegiate athletics, the status quo, according to Harvard Business Review, often leaves out women. Despite just five of 65 AD jobs in the Power 5 being filled by women, that figure represents progress. Just a few years ago, that number was lower and a few years before that it was zero. Stories like Reed-Francois prove that while the progress is slow, collegiate athletics are moving in the right direction.

 

SPORTS: Recent evolution of Hokie football

By Jacob Thompson, Ashley Vollrath, Rebecca Choate —

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Photo on Foter.com

 

In November 2015, Justin Fuente was named head coach of the Virginia Tech football team.

“I am looking forward to a bright future for our football program under the direction of Coach Fuente,” said Virginia Tech President Tim Sands, “He has demonstrated a commitment to excellence, integrity and the values that Hokies espouse.”

Previously the head coach for the University of Memphis, Fuente is regarded as one of the rising stars in college coaching.

Regardless, Fuente had big shoes to fill, as former head coach Frank Beamer was coaching with his alma mater since 1987. Beamer’s 280 wins and 23 straight bowls were something to marvel at.

How do the last two years of Beamer Ball compare to Fuente’s first two seasons with the Hokies? In this week’s sports podcast, we analyze how the football team has changed and how student life has evolved as a result.

Motor Mile Speedway changes course, looks to future

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Fairlawn, Va., March 14 – Motor Mile Speedway – The inside wall on the front stretch is emblazoned with the logo of Shelor Motor Mile, whose owner is a part owner of the track. Photo: Ryan Dye

 

by Ryan Dye–

Motor Mile Speedway in Fairlawn, Va. knew something had to change. With attendance down – a trend that currently plagues more than just the small-town short track racing scene – ownership decided to try something new.

The track announced in November their plans to cut their ties with NASCAR, choosing not to renew their NASCAR sanction for the 2018 season. A NASCAR sanction means the track was on the schedule for a NASCAR sanctioned event. Without renewing the sanction, the track will no longer have weekly points-paying oval races.

“Track ownership made the decision,” said Public Relations Manager JW Martin. “A lot went into it…and it was ultimately decided that the racing aspect of our program was unsustainable moving forward.”

In its place, the track released a seven-event schedule running from April through September consisting of special one-off events. Of those events, the annual monster truck show – which according to Martin sold nearly 7,500 tickets alone last year – will make its return along with two demolition derbies.

While the cost of the sanction itself played a role, the speedway also didn’t want to raise their prices to the fans of the track.

“In a way, the tracks and the race teams, they cannibalize one another (for sponsorship money) or you pass that along to your race fans,” Martin said. “You begin to up-charge them for concessions and tickets, and we did not do that.”

In 2017, the track announced that they would discontinue bracket racing at the drag strip situated just behind the backstretch in favor of more emphasis on the Friday Night Fury drag racing that allows amateurs to race their street vehicles.

A controversial decision at first, Martin noted that attendance actually increased last season, which led to the track choosing to bring back standard bracket racing for the 2018 season.

While Martin doesn’t know if that success will be replaced on the oval track, it was still something ownership had to try.

“The track ownership, their position on it is every year is a new year. They are always revisiting the business model and I think anything is possible for 2019.”

 

 

Digital News Delivery: App tournament challenge

Photo credit: GoonSquadSarah on Foter.com / CC BY-ND

by Jake Thompson, Regan Magarity–

The second week in March signifies the unofficial start of a month-long college basketball holiday known as “March Madness.” Beginning with Selection Sunday, sports fans from across the globe will spend days crunching numbers, studying analytics, and performing nonsensical acts in order to construct the perfect bracket.

In years past, fans were forced to print countless paper copies of their masterpiece which not only hurt the environment, but also became a mess when the bracket was inevitably busted.

ESPN, often regarded as the worldwide leader in sports, intervened with a user-friendly online interface called ESPN Tournament Challenge. The challenge can be accessed online via ESPN.com or can be downloaded for free on the App Store.

ESPN TC allows fans to build more than 20 different brackets, create and join groups with friends and celebrities, and offers luxury programs such as winning a free car to those who reign supreme and pick the perfect bracket.

ESPN offers fans data from each team’s season to date and how teams compare before an impending match up. Stats range from points per game and rebounds to conference record and Rating Power Index.

In this week’s vodcast, we take a look at the ESPN Tournament Challenge and how you can take advantage of its features to create the perfect March Madness bracket.

 

 

Stagg Bowl Says Goodbye to Salem

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Salem, Va., Dec. 13—Stagg Bowl XLV: Mary-Hardin Baylor will take on Mount Union in the 2017 NCAA Division III National Championship. This season marks Mount Union’s 20th appearance in the game, while it will be Mary Hardin-Baylor’s 3rd. Photo: Brady Hess

by Drew Davis, Brady Hess–

A tradition is finally coming to an end.

The NCAA Football Division III Championship is preparing for its final game in Salem, Virginia on December 15, 2017 after 25 years.

The “Stagg Bowl” was listed with the Division II softball championship and Division III men’s basketball final four as other marquee events leaving the area back in April 2017.

Mike Stevens says he can still remember the “slick” video that the City of Salem pitched to the NCAA in an attempt to host the game.

“I remember 25 years ago when this thing was brought up as an idea and I thought it was absolutely crazy,” said Mike Stevens, the Communications Director for the City of Salem. “They’re never going to get this thing here.”

Against all odds, in 1993, Salem became just the fourth city to host the Stagg Bowl, joining Phenix City, Ala., Kings Island, Ohio and Bradenton, Fla. on the list of hosts.

The game in Salem will be remembered for its high scoring contests, an appearance by nearby Bridgewater College in 2001 and the 2009 Snow Bowl.

Stevens noted that in 2009 the entire Commonwealth of Virginia was covered in snow but the only sight of green was the Salem Football Stadium.

While the NCAA has had a lot of success in Salem, they look to build in larger places.

The Division III football title game will call two new places home over the next four years. The game will be in Shenandoah, Texas for 2018 and 2019, before traveling to Canton, Ohio for 2020-2021.

The void left in Salem will not go unnoticed.

The football game leaving Salem will help contribute to a financial hole in the Roanoke Valley. The three events combined led to a $3 million to $5 million impact, according to The Roanoke Times.

However, with these losses, Salem can also count their gains. The city will host Division III women’s basketball tournament games in 2019 and 2021, Division II women’s lacrosse matchups in 2021, and Division III women’s lacrosse and Division III softball contests both in 2021 and 2022.

The final game will feature some familiar foes to the Roanoke Valley. Mount Union will make its 20th appearance in Salem, having won their last title in 2015. Mary Hardin-Baylor will make their 3rd appearance, while trying to defend their national title from 2016.

As the Stagg Bowl moves on, it will be interesting to see if another city builds a connection to the game like Salem.

“It has meant a great deal to the whole Roanoke Valley and especially the folks of Salem,” said Stevens, who was the sports director for WDBJ-TV in Roanoke for 23 years. “I think for a city the size of Salem to host an event of this magnitude that’s on ESPN for 25 straight years, it really is one of the greatest success stories in sports marketing in the Commonwealth ever. It’s unheard of.”

Hokies go bowling…once again

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Blacksburg, Va. – Dec. 11, 2017: The Camping World Bowl, previously referred to as the Russell Athletic Bowl, takes place on Dec. 28, 2017 in Orlando, Florida. The Hokies hold the trophy in their bowl memorabilia museum in Merryman Athletic Center on the Virginia Tech campus. Photo Credit: Mary Desmond 

 

by Mary Desmond, Freddy Mesmer–

The Virginia Tech football team is preparing for a trip to Orlando, Florida to compete in the Camping World Bowl game. This is familiar territory for the Hokies.

“For us, it was really nice to be playing in the Camping World Bowl, which is where we played last year for the ACC Championship, so it was nice to kind of remember being there and doing this and that,” Danielle Bartelstein, senior director of Football Operations, said.

The Hokies also have been in Orlando for the Russell Athletic Bowl back in 2012 against Rutgers. The Hokies won this matchup 13-10 in overtime.

The Hokies have a significant history in Bowl games. They currently lead the NCAA with twenty-five consecutive bowl games. According to the Hokiesports website, the Hokies are one of only six programs in college football history to go to a bowl in at least 20 straight years (Nebraska, Michigan, Florida State, Alabama, Virginia Tech and Florida). 

It started back in 1993 when the Hokies traveled to Shreveport, Louisiana where they took on the Hoosiers of Indiana. Virginia Tech downed the Hoosiers 43 to 20 at Independence Stadium. They have played at Independence stadium three times over the years. Once in 1984 and again most recently in 2015 for a matchup with Tulsa where the Hokies came out on top in a high scoring affair, 55-52.

During former head coach Frank Beamer’s time in Blacksburg, he led the Hokies to twenty-three straight bowl games. His overall bowl game record was 11-12. Beamer brought the Hokies to a total of five BCS Bowl games.

These games are the most highly rated of the bowl games and are typically played on New Year’s Day. This exposure helped shape Virginia Tech football into the program it is today. Retiring in 2015, he ended his coaching career in Shreveport with the win over Tulsa.

With the end of an era with Coach Beamer, the athletics department hired current head coach Justin Fuente. Fuente has led the Hokies to consecutive bowl games in his first two years at the helm. In his first season in 2016, Fuente found himself coaching a ten win team.

The Hokies capped off the 2016 regular season by winning the ACC Coastal division and playing Clemson for a shot at the ACC championship. The Hokies fell short of this goal but ended up pulling off a miraculous comeback in the 2016 Belk Bowl.    

The Hokies go into the final game of the season hoping to finish strong. The team will play Oklahoma State on Dec. 28, 2017 on ESPN.

Changes in high school athletics

by Brady Hess–

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Blacksburg, Va., Dec. 3—Have a Ball: Football, basketball and baseball are a few of the many sports that student-athletes across the country have an opportunity to participate in during their high school glory days. Photo: Brady Hess

Southwest Virginia is just one of the many places this time of year where student-athletes are beginning to make the shift from football to basketball. The shift is not an uncommon one to make and is one that athletes embrace with pride. The shift has its challenges but overall the multisport athletes will tell you it is worth it.

“Some advantages are playing with my good friends. The quick turn is nice because I’m already in shape,” said Blacksburg High School junior Drew Babcock. “The transition can also be a little difficult.”

The transition from a physical game like football to the finesse game of basketball is a difficult one. The conditioning for both sports is different, presenting a challenge that Blacksburg junior Cole Epperley said is the most difficult in the transition.

“Basketball is muscle memory and football does a lot of wearing and tearing on the body,” said Richlands basketball assistant Patrick Wade. “Most times when we get players they have some nagging injuries and are a bit overweight because they have been lifting weights and aren’t as mobile.”

Based on the success of your football program, basketball season can become delayed. This can set you back on the hardwood in regards to team chemistry and planning for a big district game. However, while to some, it appears that there are many drawbacks to participating in a handful of sports, the good can outweigh the bad.

In recent years, the debate over which is more beneficial, being a one-sport athlete or a multisport athlete has became popular. In a March 2017 USA Today article, the NCAA collected information from 21,233 student-athletes on this topic. The results show that 71 percent of Division I football players were multisport athletes.

In 2015, pictures hit the web in regards to Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer is more likely to recruit athletes who played numerous sports than to seek after a one-sport athlete.

Athletes can be met with disapproval by coaches who frown upon athletes who seek to be apart of multiple teams.

“Not all coaches are this way but there are some out there that do not want athletes to play other sports and to only focus on theirs,” said Christiansburg Director of Parks and Recreation, Brad Epperley. “This, unfortunately, is a total disrespect to the student-athlete.”

Recently, the Virginia High School League changed the way high school sports are handled. Instead of having “seasonal” practice where there were a couple weeks off between each sport, coaches, players and administrators are now met with the option for “year-round practice.” The elder Epperley disapproves of this, saying that this can limit the number of sports that athletes can commit themselves to.

With implementations of year-round practice and play, the landscape of high school athletics has changed completely. With this change, expect there to be a lot of conversation on whether or not playing numerous sports is a good or bad in the near future.

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