Sunday, August 26, 2012

Learn by Listening

Quick story.  I had a couple summer jobs over the years to help pay my way through college.  One of them required a training session with other college students.  Most of the other students were extremely outgoing, except for one.  He pretty much spoke only when someone addressed him.  Our boss made the comment, "The quietest ones in the room usually know the most about what's really going on in the room."  From that perspective, it is healthy to just sit and listen to other people - you can learn from them whether they intend to teach or not.
With the whirlwind of conference realignment, specifically to the extent that it affected Old Dominion University, it can be hard for us fans to objectively assess events from a fresh perspective.  I sought the input of someone who has displayed an appreciation of both FBS and FCS football, as well as a perspective of someone in the Commonwealth. 
Enter Matthew (@HokieGuru), an acquintance I made through Twitter.  You can read his official qualifications below, but it's important to stress how good a guy he is.  I've never once read him berate players/schools, nor make snarky comments about them.  These are the type of people we enjoy at VBR Productions.
He was kind enough to answer some questions of mine, and I hope you find it as insightful as I have.
@HokieGuru, Matthew, is a blogger at Jon Pence’s site, SCACCHoops, where he has his famous Twitter 200 (of which @vabeachrep made the cut), and Jeffrey Fann’s site, All Sports Discussion, where he is known for the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) blogger panels.  Matthew is a longtime season ticket holder for Virginia Tech men’s basketball and football.  He is probably one of the few Hokies that remember when Virginia Tech men’s basketball was bigger than football.  He is probably one of the few Hokies that remember when Virginia Tech men’s basketball was bigger than football.  Matthew is also a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the United States Basketball Writers Association.  He is also a member of the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association (e.g. so he’s an accredited member of the ACC media).
1.      Your Twitter handle is @HokieGuru.  What is your affiliation with Virginia Tech (alumnus, fan, etc.)?
Well, I’ve been a Hokie for as long as I know.  Much of the early part of my Hokie love came through my uncle.  I’m originally from North Dakota (one of the very few Hokies from North Dakota) and my dad’s brother moved to Blacksburg in 1971 - and taught at Virginia Tech for 35 years (he retired at Emeritus Dean of the College of Education in 1996).   My cousin graduated from there with his PhD in Educational Leadership in 1995.  So, there’s a huge family connection there.  We’d make trips from Illinois to Blacksburg in the summer and the fall – I’ve gone to Virginia Tech football games for several years (I know you’re going to ask me some basketball questions and I’ll focus on that later in your Q&A).  I’m old enough to remember when Virginia Tech football used to lose to William and Mary (and yes, I have much love for the Colonial Athletic Association), but then see Virginia Tech in the national title game.  So, I’ve seen the Virginia Tech football program transform itself into a consistent national power.  I’m also old enough to remember when Virginia Tech men’s basketball was bigger the football - that was the Charlie Moir era.
Personally, I completed a graduate degree from Virginia Tech in 2008 (I was on a ten year plan – don’t hate lol).  I completed a Master of Public Administration (I’m a federal career civil servant here in the Washington, DC area).  I serve on an alumni advisory board for the Virginia Tech’s Center for Public Administration and Policy.  I’m also a donor to the Virginia Tech Athletic Foundation - and have season tickets to Hokies football and men’s basketball.
In the Internet world, you’ll see me blog at sites like SCACCHoops and All Sports Discussion.  I blog and tweet about Virginia Tech and Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) athletics (a lot haha).
2.      For a fan of the Hokies, you also express an exceptional interest of FCS football programs, specifically Georgetown University and North Dakota State.  What is your affiliation with these schools?
Old Dominion fans and players hope to unseat NDSU as national champions in 2012.
Well, I’ve been a DMV resident since 1996, so I do follow the schools in this area – plus, I’m a Georgetown University public policy education and athletics donor, so I do have a vested interested in the Hoyas.  And I’m a Georgetown University alumnus – graduated with an Executive Master of Policy Management in 2011.
As far as North Dakota State University (NDSU) is concerned (I’ll also talk about the University of North Dakota), much of that comes from North Dakota being my childhood home.  I went to undergraduate school at Mayville State University (in Mayville, ND), but spent some academic time at the University of North Dakota – and I almost went to graduate school in 1996 at NDSU (but decided to take a job in the DMV area) – I was so close to going to graduate school there, that I almost had a job lined up in the financial aid office – had the apartment lined up, etc.  My uncle would have been part of the starting backfield in 1963 – the entire backfield (e.g. tailback, fullback) from North Dakota State College of Science (one of the state’s few junior colleges that has football) was offered scholarships from NDSU – but he blew his knee out.
Most of my family has ties to the University of North Dakota – my parents both received advanced education degrees there – and one of my sisters attended law school there.  My grandfather was a quarterback at the University of North Dakota in 1936 and 1937.  I go to the “Frozen Four” (e.g. the Men’s NCAA Division I Ice Hockey Final Four) always hoping North Dakota will be there. 
I must say that I think the quality of FCS football is high – I’m a fan of it – and I become a little bit disappointed when I see some teams move up to fast to FBS.  I realize that teams move up to FBS football because they are trying to bring in new revenue sources – and because of conference realignment, sometimes moving up to FBS is necessary.  I have much love for the FCS and hope it stays around.  For every Boise State success, there are also more failures – Louisiana-Monroe comes to mind.
3.      Who are some of your favorite athletes (mainly football players) from these schools?  How awesome was former NDSU and Buffalo Bills great, Phil Hansen?
"If you're going to play hard this game, where were you the last 15 games?  Don't tell me you're going to play extra hard this game.  You should've been doing that all season.  That's part of being a professional.  That's part of being a Buffalo Bill, too." - Phil Hansen
From Georgetown, of course, I have to the hoops players like Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, Dekembe Motombo, Jeff Green, etc.   Such a storied history there.  I’m a big fan of the new guy, Otto Porter – baller.
From Virginia Tech, I could go on for days with this question (I will add a few hoops players in here for good measure):  Bruce Smith (teammate of Phil Hansen), Allen Bristow, Reggie Steppe, Dell Curry, Bimbo Coles, Antonio Freeman, Cornell Brown, Jim Druckenmiller, Torian Gray, Antonio Banks, Ace Custis, Maurice DeShazo, Corey Moore, Shayne Graham, Andre Davis, Willie Pile, Ben Taylor, Pierson Prioleau, Michael Vick, Eric Green, Vegas Robinson, Dwight Vick, Matt Lehr, John Engleberger, Ike Charlton, Anthony Midget, Kevin Jones, Vincent Fuller, Bryan Randall, Lee Suggs, Ernest Wilford, James Anderson, Darryl Tapp, DeAngleo Hall, Vince Hall, Xavier Adibi, Jake Grove, Cedric Humes, Josh Hyman, David Clowney, Jeff King (NFL Tight End, who also walked on to the men’s basketball team), Will Montgomery, Chris Ellis, DJ Parker, Jimmy Williams, Roland Minor, Josh Morgan, Brandon Flowers, Justin Hamilton, Aaron Rouse, Justin Harper, Victor Harris, Eddie Royal, Brandon Ore, Ed Wang, Kenny Lewis, Jr., Stephan Virgil, Cody Grimm, Steven Friday, Barquell Rivers, Jaymes Brooks, Jason Worilds, Marcus Davis, Tyrod Taylor, Dyrell Roberts, Cris Hill, Eddie Whitley, Kam Chancellor, Danny Coale (yes, it was a catch), Rock Carmichael, Josh Oglesby, Darren Evans, Ryan Williams, David Wilson, James Gayle, Jayron Hosley, Davon Morgan, Prince Parker (who also walked on to the men’s basketball team) Jarrett Boykin, Logan Thomas, Atone Exum, DJ Coles, Malcolm Delaney, Kyle Fuller, JC Coleman, Luther Maddy, Zach McCray – and I could go on for days.
Corey Moore had significantly less of an impact for the Buffalo Bills than fellow Hokie Bruce Smith.  Suffice it to say, Bing provided no pictures of Moore as a Bill.
For NDSU, I would say Phil Hansen (yes, you’re right, he’s awesome), Tyrone Braxton, Joe Mays, DJ McNorton, Marcus Williams (such a dynamic athlete at CB – has a chance to be NDSU’s best football player ever – if he had a better jump shot, he’d be playing hoops at Wake Forest – his on the ball defense is epic – he could be player of the year in FCS football this year – I have no idea how he escaped from the Twin Cities – what was Minnesota Gopher Recruiting Nation thinking?  Their first priority should be to have a “State of the Twin Cities”, like Howard Schnellenberger had for the “State of Miami” – put a wall around the Twin Cities and keep the best players in – thankfully, they let Marcus go to NDSU - and beat them twice), Sam Ojuri (has such outstanding vision for a young RB) – and a QB who is putting it all together, Brock Jensen.  Oh yes, just so you know, NDSU is defeating Colorado State on the road this year.  I look for NDSU to repeat as FCS champions.
Without his play to run down Lorenzo White on a screen play on 1/3/1993, the Buffalo Bills would not have completed their record comeback against the Houston Oilers.  That play cemented him as one of my favorite Bills.
For North Dakota, I would say Weston Dressler (who is with the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League).  He is a dynamic slot receiver who should be in the NFL today.  I will say, too, that I’m huge college hockey fan – and I follow the North Dakota team very closely.  Pretty good collection of players here.  Big fan of Zach Parise, Jonathon Toews, and Travis Zajac.  Phil Jackson, of course, is a North Dakota alumnus – I’m sure most of your readers have heard of him – I guess he was Michael Jordan’s coach – and coached Kobe Bryant at LA J
4.      For the longest time, there were only two FBS programs in Virginia - the Hokies and UVa.  What is the general feeling of fans of these schools about Old Dominion becoming the third FBS program in the commonwealth? 
I can’t really speak for Virginia, but I think that Hokies fans would be very supportive of the move.  To maximize athletic budgets, I think it’s important for Virginia Tech and Old Dominion to play each other in football.  We should absolutely be keeping this money in the state.  It is good for the Commonwealth of Virginia, as a whole, for the state’s colleges to play against each other in athletics (e.g. football, men’s basketball, if not all sports that field athletic teams).
And if you get a ticket to the Virginia Tech game at Old Dominion, Joe, I’ll be asking to go with you because this will surely be the most expensive football ticket in the history of the Commonwealth haha.
5.      What are your thoughts on ODU's quick rise from no program to FBS in a matter of years?  What do you see as the different challenges the program will face to succeed at this higher level?
I don’t like what conference alignment has done to the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA), but I’m very old school in that respect.  I will not only miss Old Dominion in the CAA for football, but their conference hoops tourney is one of the best in country – and I will miss the Monarchs in that event (even as someone who is not a CAA alum, I love the CAA hoops tourney – every offensive and defensive possession in that tournament is played like it’s the team’s last possession – fought so hard!!).  The CAA, for the most part, is Virginia’s conference – and I think, has much respect from the nation.  Having said that, what ODU has done from having no football program, to making the FCS playoffs in a couple of years – and then transitioning to FBS football, is nothing short of remarkable.  There is only one program that I know of that’s made similar sorts of jumps and that would be South Florida – that’s pretty good company.
There are several challenges, including financial, attendance, and recruiting challenges.  First, of course, the biggest challenge of moving from FCS to FBS is the money involved – this will certainly apply to ODU – but it’s one that I think ODU is well equipped to address.  The big cost will be the additional 22 football scholarships that ODU will have to fund.  But, those aren’t the only expenses – there’s also the added cost of extra coaches and support staff (like academic tutors) – and then there are additional scholarships that have to be funded for women’s sports for Title IX compliance.  I figure ODU needs to consistently raise an additional five million dollars per year (and will go up in future years, due to inflation).  ODU will meet this challenge because of an extensive donor and alumni base. 
Second, there’s also the challenge of attendance, but ODU students, alumni, fans, and friends of the university will absolutely fill those seats (ODU has niche here because if its donors and alums don’t fill the seats, there’s also the greater population base in the 757).  Third, football recruiting is always a challenge – the Monarchs might not pull in consistent, highly-rated Rivals prospects, but they will pluck one away here and there.  There are many, many good football players in the 757 that won’t play at Virginia Tech or Virginia – but will play at ODU.  ODU has a 757-recruiting niche that other schools looking to make the move from FCS to FBS don’t have (lots of good football being played in the 757). 
Gratuitous Old Dominion football picture.
I thank @VaBeachRep for inviting me to participate in this Q&A!!

1 comment:

  1. Nice article interesting to read