Hokie Hoops: Build a Compelling Basketball Environment

Finally, after what was possibly the worst two-and-a-half month stretch in the history of Virginia Tech men's basketball, the 2013-14 season is over. I know there's a conference tournament game still to come (and yes, a singular game, let's not kid ourselves), but I think it's time to assess the most dilapidated sport on campus.

Now I know what you're all thinking, that winning cures all ills and if new Athletic Director Whit Babcock fires head coach James Johnson, everything else will sort itself out. While that is definitely up for debate, this problem stems from something deeper than just the product on the court.

Fixing the problem that the men's basketball team has become goes much further than the job of one man. We can all have our disagreements over whether or not JJ should retain his post, and I'm sure Babcock has been thinking long and hard about that decision. However, what Whit needs to look at is how to undo the damage done to the program by years of inattentiveness. A general malaise and lack of creativity has cut this program off at the knees, and it has finally caught up to it in the program's worst season.

The team is rudderless, and television cameras in Cassell frame an apathetic fan base as they pan around broadcasting one Hokie surrounded by five empty seats. Attendance is down because the team is losing, but it's not like the current atmosphere would drive people to come to games anyway. Attendance is also down because the athletic department has created zero incentive for fans to attend home games.

Now, you may wonder how much of this is actually on the shoulders of the athletic department. The team didn't even hit double digits in the win column, is there anything that they can really do? It's a fair question, but one that doesn't explain what I'm about to tell you.

Obviously, attendance has been dreadful over the last two seasons, dipping to an average of 4,800 fans per home contest this year (roughly 49% capacity of the nearly 10,000 seat Cassell). While it's nice to blame a losing team, we all need to remember that this is not a two-year trend. Attendance for basketball games has been dropping over the past five seasons. Even when Seth Greenberg's teams were ripping off 20-win seasons in 2009-10 and 2010-11, they only filled up the place about half the time.

Why is that? Those teams with Malcolm Delaney and Jeff Allen were fun. Swagger-filled at both their best and worst, they could legitimately beat anyone in the conference on any given night. If attendance is solely indicative of the win/loss record of the team, why did the 2009-10 team, a team that started 21-4 mind you, only sell out 7 of a possible 19 home games? Sure, three of those were NIT games but that's neither here nor there. Why did a team that ended up finishing 25-9 only sell out 37% of its home games?

Just as there's an excuse now (poor play), there was an excuse that's even more puzzling: Virginia Tech is a football school. I know most of you have heard this in the past, and some of you may have said it yourselves. Virginia Tech fans are so football crazy that they simply can't support both the football and basketball team.

There is one thing about this point that I cannot argue. People love going to games in Lane Stadium. From people who haven't missed a game in 10 years, to the people who have only made it to one, it's an experience that you won't forget. From tailgating to Enter Sandman, key plays, screaming your lungs out on defense, and doing the Hokie Pokie, a game in Lane just makes you shake your head and think about how good we as fans have it. In fact, I'm sure you just smiled a little bit after reading the last sentence. It's just a natural reaction that we can't help anymore. Did you notice, though, one specific thing that I left off of that list? The games themselves.

Sure, nerds like us will remember where we were sitting on the day of insert historical Tech football moment here, but the majority of the fans in the stadium from week-to-week will remember the things that made their personal experience different than the game itself. They'll remember the atmosphere, the emotion, and at the end of the day it's what keeps people coming back, even if the team performs below expectations.

Out of everything I just talked about, why would it be so impossible to instill that into the basketball program? Why can't the Virginia Tech athletic department provide such an experience that makes parents want to take their children on a Saturday afternoon? That makes students feel like they would be missing out if they don't go? That provides the type of atmosphere in Lane six games a fall, which was once experienced in Cassell?

As tough as it may seem, it's not impossible, in fact it's not even that hard. It just takes some creativity and innovation, the ability to change things up when it's clear that they have gone stale. That's the type of thinking that the past administration either lacked or didn't care enough to apply while watching Tech hoops games morph into something so old, tired, and boring that nothing could really save it.

What can Babcock do to turn the ship around? Well, I've thought of a ton of things that could improve his product, but I would first direct him to this blog post by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban in which he details his experiences at a SMU basketball game. In it he makes a ton of excellent points, but one stuck out to me on a higher level:

If your team finds itself struggling, or if its [sic] expected to win you are in the same boat. Your hardcore fans are going to come. But you have to work harder than ever before to create value for your fans. It is during these times, when you can't control what happens on the court, that you have to work hard to improve the game experience. Not by providing apps or stats. Fans who like those things know where to get them from other sources already. Not by focusing on creating online communities. Online communities are like talk radio. The same 200 people call and participate in both.

You have to invest in things that are universally fun for your customers and prospects. EVERYONE remembers their first game. EVERY parent gets unlimited joy from watching their child enjoy a sporting event. You have to make sure that the entertainment that you provide is not only family friendly, but also engaging for all the 6 to 12 year olds in the audience. If you think those kids care about basketball you are delusional. If you think those parents care more about basketball than keeping their kids entertained for 2 hours, you are delusional and should quit your job immediately. All you have to do is remember this — EVERYONE STANDS UP FOR T SHIRTS.

All-caps aside, it's necessary to create a better in-game experience for fans, one that completely reinvents the culture of Hokie basketball fandom. The team needs its own Sandman, its own key plays and its own Hardees Chicken Tender Tailgate Shuffle. Make the game enjoyable to people on a level that, even if they watch a blowout, they want to come back. Create an in-game atmosphere that's bigger than the individual game itself.

On a larger scale, a revamped in-game experience will eventually solve the attendance problem. If anything, it's a safety net for the down years unavoidable by most every program. Things were working well enough, so the previous regime stuck with what they were doing instead of innovating. It didn't matter that things were getting slowly worse, it was working well enough that there was no need to change. To use another football parallel, fans have crushed the previous offensive staff for being stagnant, uninventive, and not adapting over time. Things were going well, and even though the landscape of college football (not to mention the ACC) was changing around them, they kept plugging along like it was 2007.

Well, things were going well for a few years and the quality of basketball was selling itself. Then the relationship with Greenberg started to devolve, and in the course of three years the team was left coach-less, directionless, and seemingly without a contingency. There was a morbid curiosity as to who would be named the next head coach, but the program had already become stale. No one felt the need to go to games, and why would they? Same ticket prices, same environment, same everything, all the while the quality of the on-court product worsened. If people didn't feel the pull to go to a Tech game in 2009, why would they go in 2013? It was a question that was deflected by Jim Weaver and company for years, blaming the lack of season ticket sales on the economy or having more home games than usual. Again, issues that could have been combated, but instead were reasoned away.

I realize that this is a pretty tall task to ask of a man who's barely even a month on the job, but after those attendance numbers I threw out, it's pretty clear that the team is currently on life support at best. If I could take him aside, I would suggest these five things immediately, and go from there:

Find Its Own Sandman

As crazy as it sounds, this is probably the easiest item on my list to pull off. As hard as it may be for some to remember, Enter Sandman hasn't always been a Hokie football tradition. In fact, it was thought up in a meeting room of the marketing department in 2000. Since then it's amped up crowds for opponents as big as Clemson, Florida State, and Miami to the Appalachian States and Western Carolinas of the world. It just works. Well, this can this be done with hoops in a variety of ways. The Miami Heat used In The Air Tonight. I traveled to Tech-Maryland last year, and came away really impressed with the atmosphere of a game that was held in the middle of winter break. Sure, they used the now-cliche Zombie Nation, but it works for them. Just find an intro that makes Tech unique, cut the lights, use a spotlight, and get the crowd get amped up.

Revamp the Cassell Guard

The section was previously titled "Do away with the Cassell Guard", but I don't think that's particularly fair. In case you didn't know, the Cassell Guard is supposed to be the entire Virginia Tech student section, although really the only people that take pride in it apply to be there. If you're going to have a student section with a name, you have to play it up. The Cameron Crazies are crazy for a reason, and while they take it to the extreme at least they earn their name. If you want it to be known that "Cassell Guard Stands Watch over their Home Court" (or whatever cheesy slogan they come up with), you have to make sure they do it right. I'm talking signs, orchestrated cheers, whatever. They need to be noticeably different from the rest of the crowd, which leads me to my next point.

Two Words: Student. Bleachers.

This is going to take some big time commitment from the athletic department, but I'm talking about ripping up the seats directly behind one of the benches and replacing them with bleachers filled with students. Currently the student section is sequestered at one end of the court, which makes no sense for a multitude of reasons. The bleachers would sit lower to the ground than the rest of the stands, therefore not blocking the view of an elderly couple that can't stand the entire game, but are so close to the court that it makes the students feel like they can directly impact the course of the game. Why do students prefer to sit in the North End Zone for football games? The seats aren't as good, and it's tough at times to know exactly what's going on. That doesn't matter. Students love the NEZ for two reasons: they're surrounded by other students, creating a chaotic and energetic environment, and they're close to the field. Even the seats in the uppermost section of the NEZ are lower than the majority of any other part of the student section. Kids love being close to the field, it only energizes them more, creating the type of atmosphere that makes college games electric.

Hold Season Ticket Holders Accountable

I know those attendance numbers during the Greenberg era look favorable, but anyone who went to a multitude of those games against schools not named Duke/UNC/UVa knows they're misleading. For years the best seats in Cassell (saved, obviously, for the biggest donors) were at best sparsely filled. Season ticket purchases is one of those things that can inflate official attendance numbers. It got to be such a problem at times in the Greenberg era that students were waiting in a standby line to be placed in the empty seats that scattered the arena. There needs to be a system in place to hold those high rollers accountable, and if they don't show up to fill their seat on at least a semi-consistent basis, offer the prime real estate to the season ticket holders that would.

Creative In-Game Entertainment

This is what makes basketball a different event than football. In both, there's a lot of dead time between TV timeouts, regular timeouts and halftime. In basketball it's logistically easier to employ more creative ways to fill that time and keep fans engaged. It's vital to make sure the atmosphere inside the arena stays just as lively after the timeout as it was before. As Cuban said above, everyone stands up for a t-shirt. In fact, everyone stands up for almost any sort of fan participation activity as long as it's fun, energetic, and not stale. The problem in Blacksburg is that they've been running the same in-game promotions and halftime shows for as long as I can remember. Don't get me wrong, I love the Delta Dental Smile of the Game as much as the next guy, but what else can we do to keep fans entertained? And yes, the Simon Says guy is always annoying entertaining, but can't we switch things up? I've heard Cassell loud for a ton of games, but one of the loudest times that I've ever heard it was when a fan sunk a halftime shot. I was in the bathroom, and the floor literally vibrated. It's possible to keep fans involved and the atmosphere live even when the game is not in play. It just takes some creativity.

If Whit Babcock can focus on those five things, I feel like the basketball program will feel new again. The team may have been bad this year, but as we've seen with other teams (Nebraska, anyone?) it only takes one good year to turn the tide of a program's fortunes. It takes real effort, however, to create an in-house atmosphere that can triumph a bad season.

Contact the editor about this post anytime by phone: (703) 646-1931 or mail: 3057 Nutley St Suite 633, Fairfax, Virginia 22031.


Oh, if only Whit could build a brand new 16,000 seat arena and hire Tim Miles before next season...

Seriously, though, these suggestions on how to improve the "Cassell experience" are solid. Just putting the students in a ring around the press row sideline and the baselines, as NC State and Duke do, would be a vast improvement. Obviously, it would immediately make Cassell a more intimidating place to play, but it would also serve to make televised games seem to be more strongly attended because viewers wouldn't be seeing empty brown chairs in the first 5 rows.

Different sport at a different college but when I was there, Liberty's Volleyball team had a really good run where they didn't lose a match for about a month. They were able to draw a pretty big crowd just by letting the students know about it and asking them to come support the team for a tough match. I think we ended up setting a school, possibly a Big South conference record for attendance at a Volleyball game. Oh and we also got free T-Shirts at the door.

That was an instance where a team that was already performing well in a sport that didn't have a great following, but I mention it because sometimes just asking students to show up and support a team can get them there.

This is a great write-up & I like your suggestions. There's always gonna be a problem though with such a low alumni base close to Blacksburg. The problem during Greenberg's heyday was that Tech was selling so many season tickets. That doesn't normally sound like a problem, but when the tickets are going to high-dollar alums in NOVA, Richmond, Charlotte, and other towns 3+ hours away, it's going to be tough to fill up the Cassell for a 9pm Wednesday night game against Clemson.

They've got to figure out a way to balance the sales of season tickets with also filling up the arena for every game. Fans want sellouts & great game experiences, but an athletic department wants to max out revenue, and certainly the Weaver regime was more than happy to sacrifice the former for the latter. Time will tell us where Whit falls.

Perhaps a better ticket-swap would help, but I think Tech will always struggle with weeknight games. That being said, there's no reason why the Cassell can't be great night in and night out given our fan base.

Bring us a pitcher of beer every seven minutes until somebody passes out. And then bring one every ten minutes.

Don't know if they do this already, but maybe the athletic department could offer some sort of partial season ticket deal. Similar to what professional baseball teams offer. Five game passes where there are a list of games to choose from, weekend game passes so alumni from out of town can actually come, etc.

#38-0 #BeatBama

they already do that

"I'm just rocking the Fuller"-Kendall Fuller
"That kid you're talking to right there, I think he played his nuts off! And you can quote me on that shit!" -Bud Foster

Case in point in lack of advertising/communication on the part of the Athletic Department

My husband and I are alumni and visit Blacksburg monthly as our daughter is a vcom student . We just can't justify 35 a ticket for bball tics but would happily pay 20 a tic as a walk up price for unsold seats. We did attend several women's bball games this year and look forward to baseball. But with so many needs in the family our big splurge is football and that gets expensive.
Go Hokies!


VT has been a basketball school too. It was with Dell Curry, Bimbo Coles. People watched and came. There is no compelling set of players, and losing has driven people away. So it isn't VT is a football school. Football started winning and basketball started losing so the tides turned. It is as simple as that. There are programs out there that are both. UCLA is a football and basketball school. but we need compelling players, a compelling team and the team needs to win. It is as simple as that. Sure, change the atmosphere so that it doesn't matter who is the coach or even if the team is a .500 team. But win. Don't feel like the program went cheap with a unready coach.

Love the suggestions. I agree on all fronts. 1) I'm an avid sports fan, played ball all through High school. Now that I'm a father of young children, I can completely agree with Cuban in that my primary goal of attending athletic events now, is to see the joy on my child's face. Unless I'm on a date with my wife, games have to be attractive to the entire family. I love the suggestions. 2) I think bringing the student body closer is key. I was at VPI during the Ricky Stokes days, and I went to almost every game. I could hardly convince my classmates to go with. If we had closer seats as students, a more electric atmosphere, I think more students would have come for the "experience". As an alum, a couple years ago, I remember always seeing a student sporting the gladiator look. You always saw this guy at football and basketball games, wielding a VT shield, full body paint, and impressive man-beard...if you've watched VT sports during the past 5 yrs, you know who I'm talking about. We need more guys and students like this. VT has a hard-nosed, tough as nails reputation. We have a stout football team, championship caliber wrestling, and reputable olympic sports. Whit needs to draw on this toughness and re-brand VT. Great ideas, I really hope Whit follows this blog.

Eat your vegetables.

Also, VT Leonidas was getting his PHd in electrical engineering. So no excuses for students not to come to games, if they really wanted to.

I was there during the 1986 and 1987 seasons. In 1986, we had Dell Curry. Our games were sellouts almost every time. I remember camping out to get tickets for our game with Louisville (who went on to win the National Championship). I remember being disappointed because I was unable to get tickets for Memphis State. I really thought that when Virginia Tech entered the ACC, the basketball program would take off. Unfortunately, it hasn't happened. Maybe the new AD will put some emphasis on basketball. A coaching change is probably needed.

To expand on Jeff's point, I was also on campus in the mid 80's. It's been a long time, but the experience in Cassell was always electric. Students camped out for tickets for a lot of games. It was Lane Stadium before CFB. As the Football program rose, the basketball fell. I'm greedy and want both. VT has awesome fans and I think we can have both.
Thought...As a NOVA alum, I can't justify season tix (Wed 9pm), but what about partial season plans like NBA and MLB. I would pay a slight premium for Sat only games. Use that to offset more seats for students during the week...


With regard to your fourth suggestion - I think you miss the point of Cuban's philosophy. You can't say it's important to create value for fans and create a great customer experience, while at the same time threatening them.

Reality has a mighty pimp hand.

It's been a while since I've been back in town for a bball game, but do they sell smoked turkey legs in Cassell? It may sound stupid, but those giant delicious turkey legs are another aspect of what makes game day in Lane so great. And who wouldn't want 3 more months of turkey legs?

Great read. My $0.02:

Why basketball games are tough to always sell out:

1) Alumni Support:

  • Weekday games - Our major alumni bases are 2.5 - 5 hours away (Charlotte, DC/NoVa), where as Duke/Carolina/Michigan/OSU/etc have a much larger fanbase within driving distance.
  • Weekend games - Football games are a day/weekend experience. It's much easier to justify a trip into town for a whole weekend of events (or at least a whole day) than it is for just a 3 hour game. THIS CAN BE CHANGED!!! I'm not sure how, but if Whit can make basketball games an all-day event, I think Alumni will be more likely to make a weekend/day trip for a basketball game.

2) Student Support (Hard to pinpoint causation; can't imagine why students would miss games when tix are FREE):

  • No reason that VT shouldn't be able to attract 10% of the student population to any game. That's roughly 3,000 students, enough to fill roughly one-third of cassel. It is an inconvenience to get to games from off campus, which is a factor. Of course the whole homework/class thing sucks, but what can you do about that?

Ways to start generating interest:

  1. Weekend games must be all day event. I know you can't exactly tailgate, but you need something to bring Alumni out.
  2. Every game needs feel cool - When a student misses a football game, they feel left out (I think - I never missed a game as a student, but I imagine that's what it feels like). It's like there's a huge party, you were invited, and you really, really, want to go, but you can't for whatever reason. And it sucks. And the next day, EVERYONE is talking about it. And all you can say is "yeah, I wasn't there, but I watched the highlights?" There needs to be an air about these games that if you can't go, you missed out. You regret not going. Sounds harsh, but creating this demand will increase ticket sales and attendance.
  3. Increased transportation - I had season tickets when I was a freshman living on campus, and made it to every game. Once I moved off campus it was a pain to get to every game. Between waiting for the bus and catching the bus each way, it was an extra 1.5 hours. Not easy. Maybe ask the BT to add a gameday loop every 15 minutes before and after the game.
  4. Bring back the half time shows - The lady who rides the unicycle while stacking glass bowls on her head was fucking awesome!!!

Ways to keep generating interest:

  1. Away game viewing parties in castle? - other teams do this for big away match ups. It would have to be a big away game, and we'd need a bigger jumbotron in cassel, but can you imagine a top 25 match up, at UVA, and putting a couple thousand fans watching the game in cassel?
  2. Make the NCAA Tourney - I realize this is virtually out of our control, but failing to make the NCAA's during those couple of 20 win seasons really took wind out of the sails of the basketball program (including current players, potential future players and fans). Even a first round loss would've generated more interest the following season.
  3. Win, and win pretty - I hate saying this, because (especially these days) I'm thankful for any win, but our teams (even the 20 win teams in 2008-2010) were painful to watch. Not saying this should dictate a new playing style or new hire, but it could be a 'tiebreaker' of sorts between candidates.

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As far as making basketball an all-day event, maybe we should try to schedule women's games right before or after the men's games so you can buy a ticket that gets you in for the day and you can watch both games.

Hell, why not host some games from nearby schools, too? Let Radford or whoever rent it out for when they play somebody, make that a third game that day. Basketball all day, wohoo!

Radford does play basketball, right?

Radford went 21-12 this season unfortunately, so they might actually ask Tech the same question. Yes, there is a dramatic talent difference between the Big South Conference and ACC play but they have a good shot of going to the NIT this year.

Rob Peterson
Charlie/Hotel Company
Class of 1999

As far as making basketball an all-day event, maybe we should try to schedule women's games right before or after the men's games so you can buy a ticket that gets you in for the day and you can watch both games.

I think they already do this.

The all day event needs to be something social. Tailgating is awesome because of the people your with. No disrespect to the women's team, but we need a social situation that will poor into the coliseum, not an additional 3 hours inside.

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It actually only happened once this year and that was the opening day that had both basketball teams and the volleyball team play in one day. They typically try not to schedule any games on the same day together, but during nonconference they tend to overlap with volleyball, thus all of the day games that happened early in the season. Since volleyball is in ACC play during that time (and it's easier for us to go from basketball to volleyball instead of the otherway around) they have priority for the evening.

Third game should be maroon vs. orange game where random ticket holders are given a chance to join either team and play one quarter each. That way the audience stays for the whole game to see if they get chosen to play for the 4th quarter. Players can be the coaches.

"Have you ever tried simply turning off the TV, sitting down with your children, and hitting them?"

Of course the whole homework/class thing sucks, but what can you do about that?

Homework? Class? What is this, school?


Some good points/ideas. Unfortunately, I see the football experience starting to go down the same path. Instead of the FB experience bleeding over to the BB program, the BB experience has infected FB.

As for the new BB intro song, I suggest "Bodies"

Obviously a better product on the floor will bring students to the Cassell, but that is not as easy to control so the athletic department needs to look at other ideas to help revamp the basketball atmosphere at VT. In my opinion that all begins with a overhaul of getting the students more involved. The bottom line is that students are not going to waste 3 hours going to support the current product unless it benefits them somehow. Students love free clothes and free food, so here are Some ideas to get the students more involved:

  1. Establish a Student Loyalty program - see below*
  2. Freebies at door for students - free shirts/koozies/etc
  3. Have a prize giveaway each game for students - Win gift cards to bookstore/local restaurants and trips to away games (hotel+ticket)
  4. Make student tickets easier - no more ticket system, make it first come first serve again
  5. Allow students to use dining plan for food - this may be possible now?
  6. Hire a new band director to revamp/revive the band - VCU Pep Band to be used as the model
  7. Create a small student section (~50?) with priority seats on the floor

*This should be implemented across all VT sports except for football. Any athletic event that a student goes to they gain 1 point for going and then 1 point at the end of the event. This can be done by scanning their hokie passport. There can also be other things at the event that allow them to gain additional points: Such as buying food at the concession, signing up for a VT mailing list, registering for away tickets, signing up for the hokie club, etc. These points can then be used to gain exclusive merchandise (hoodies, beanies, backpacks, etc) that only certain point levels can get. Local merchants can also sponsor an event and allow students to redeem some points for a gift card.

6.Hire a new band director to revamp/revive the band - VCU Pep Band to be used as the model

Sorry, but I take offense to this one. The pep band director does a damn fine job trying to add energy to an often lifeless environment. And providing VCU as the model to emulate is a poor comparison. VCU's band is comprised of students and non-students at a school where Basketball is the only major sport. Our pep band is only students, plays a larger variety of music than the MVs, often containing many current popular songs, and is in a horrible spot to actually engage with the fans. They are placed up high so that the students, who rarely attend games, have an opportunity to get prime seating rather than having the band right up front. What specifically is it you think needs "revamped/revived?" Also, if your basis for comparison was when we played VCU earlier this year, you should know that what we provided was not our pep band. That was a rag-tag group of students and alumni in the area that were willing to sacrifice their time during winter break to play at the game. VCU's pep band had a better showing because a majority of their students live in close proximity to Richmond where the game was held.

The pep band definitely does a good job and you guys are lights years better than what we are saddled with for women's games, but a suggestion I have would be to not play Fall Out Boy and Macklemore 10 times a game. It's bad enough we use that song as the intro for the team.

And getting you guys closer to the action and fans is something we have tried to get the ADs to think about before, it just gets nixed at that level. Hopefully Whit has something to say about that and it actually happens soon.

Fair enough on playing the same song several times. I know with the Fall Out Boy and Macklemore songs, they were probably playing them so much because they were brand new for this year. One problem the MVs have is an outdated music selection. Much of that has to do with the fact that it gets rather expensive to procure the rights to play the songs. So it was a big step to add those songs seeing as how they are the first set of songs from the 21st century that we've had in a while.

Much of that has to do with the fact that it gets rather expensive to procure the rights to play the songs.

Excuse my french(60wasp) but that's complete and utter bullshit. I don't want to get into a dick measuring contest with VCU but I find it hard to believe that VCU has the resources to "procure rights" for modern songs year in and year out for their basketball team but Virginia Tech doesn't. Unless it costs significantly more to get rights to play songs during football games vs. basketball games, that argument doesn't hold water.

Priority of use of funding is where I think he was going with this. Tech's leadership doesn't choose to spend the money to have the right to use the songs and VCU does. VCU doesn't have a full marching band does it? If that's the case than they don't have the dilemma of several hundred students worth of equipment to update and maintain that Tech has to spend their money on

Rob Peterson
Charlie/Hotel Company
Class of 1999

Licensing is an issue. I remember a few years ago, one of the maroon/orange effect shirts was supposed to read "enter night, exit victorious" (or something to that effect), but Metallica wouldn't allow us.

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You also need to consider that we're not necessarily just negotiating for rights to use songs during basketball. Any sensible record company (whose job it is to make money) is going to try to leverage the fact that VT football has a huge audience. They're not going to license VT to use songs only during basketball, they're going to write the contract so that all athletics are affected. At VCU, what sports does anyone follow? Probably just basketball, so their rights negotiation revolves around basketball. Despite their success in that sport, college hoops is a lot less popular than the media behemoth that is college football. Sure we can probably afford to only license songs for use at basketball games, but no one's going to sell that to us when they can have so much more.

I believe songs from the 70s and 80s will run anywhere from $200 to $500 for rights. I'm fairly certain that it's only for a short period of time too. More modern songs cost anywhere from $600 to over $1000. So as you add new songs, you diminish the total number of songs because there's not an increase in available funds.

If the HT's are still the women's b-ball pep band like it was when I was in, it's the same battles as well, especially for more current music (not everyone recognizes funk!) and with smaller #'s to get volunteers from.

The bands definitely try to keep things as pumped up as they can, but there's only so much that's in our power. It never made sense to me as to why the pep band is not smack in the middle of the student section anyway.

There's not much positive I will ever say about UNCheat but they got their seating chart RIGHT!

I'm already going to Hell. At this point it's pretty much "Go big or go home."

Yes, I was poking fun at the HT's as I know there are a couple on here. I just hate having to set up that drum stand, but they do occasionally mess with the opposing girls heads with some of the stuff they do during free throws.

Fair enough. I have not been to a game at Cassell in a couple of years so this point may have been outdated. Living in Richmond, I am only exposed to the VCU band and I think bringing the 'C-squad' to the Coliseum this year probably did more harm then good. I have had several VCU people mention how pathetic our 'band' was that night.

Just keep in mind that some of those guys at VCU get offered scholarships to be a part of the group so they should be pretty good. Our band is just volunteer students who freely give up their time whether the team is good or not.

*This should be implemented across all VT sports except for football.

Apply the student loyalty to all sports, most of all football! Fans who take time to support other programs should absolutely get better seats at football games! But I love this idea!

Freebies at door for students - free shirts/koozies/etc

They do this now - T-shirts on the seats at least.

Have a prize giveaway each game for students - Win gift cards to bookstore/local restaurants and trips to away games (hotel+ticket)

They do halfway games with potential giveaways. Some friends and I won a $250 visa card from a Geico sponsored halftime show three seasons ago. I'm not sure this will encourage student attendance much. I think hotels and game tickets might be a bit unrealistic.

Allow students to use dining plan for food

This would also be a great idea.

Hire a new band director to revamp/revive the band

I was a huge critic of our band(s) going through college. Wasn't until afterwards that I realized band members at other universities receive scholarships and whatnot. I would love to see this happen at VT someday.

Create a small student section (~50?) with priority seats on the floor

This is what the Cassel Guard is supposed to be, but even if you put them closer to the floor, 50 people is not that intimidating unless there's a few thousand backing them up.

Anytime you're trying to increase viewership/attendance for a team/sport, you need to target the less serious fans. This in itself is the challenge.

Perhaps the athletic department could try targeting certain social groups on campus, such as greek life. Peer pressure is a great way to get people to come to a game.

Another idea is to get other Student Athletes to attend and support other sports. I know they already have busy schedules, but I think it sets a great example for other students (see Denard when he was at Michigan, he would go and sit in the student section, everyone loved it).

Twitter me

I agree that the program has an identity crisis, from the coach, to the players and now to the fans. The fans certainly need the most incentive to be at the games so the most work needs to be done to get them there. Other threads on here have discussed the need for Partial Season tickets, adjusted ticket pricing based on game circumstances (Weekend vs Weekday) , and many changes that either need to be made to Cassell or if they cant should ultimately lead to its demise.

My suggestion for the Basketball Sandman: TerrorDome by Dubstep. Its kind of creepy but its got an easy rhythm that the fans could get with and it opens up after a minute with a bit faster tempo and it connects with fans as the TERRORDOME.


I don't foresee James Johnson being fired after the ACC Tournament, and if we are being honest, we might make it to the second game (We are playing Miami in the first round, who we have beaten twice this season). Beyond that game will likely take intervention from unseen powers. Do I think that JJ will do enough with the off season and with the players he has next year to be retained for the last year of his deal? I lean towards no, but you are talking about essentially having half a new team next season, between the three recruits and the two players that didn't play this season in Mueller and Kirby along with hopefully a healthy Emelogu and Smith. Anything could happen.

Do I think that with all that there will be a lot of excitement in the fan base strictly from the team? Not at all, so I agree that there need to be much more in terms of sponsored events. Give a T-Shirt or other Hokie gear item away every night, find a company to sponsor it for every home game. There may not be a ton of major companies down in Blacksburg, although its growing, but there are enough to make this happen. Make it free to the first 5000 through the door.

Allow their big wigs to do something special as part of the game, designate an employee to compete in a halftime competition, offer the company 250 general admission tickets as part of the deal. I can tell you that free T-shirts got me to more events than anything else because another T-shirt meant one day more I could put off doing laundry.

Concessions need to be drastically improved. Almost anywhere you go these days you can order food with your phone so you don't miss the game but that wasn't happening in Cassell last time I checked. You want to make it family friendly, make it so the parents don't have to try to corral two or three kids while waiting in line for concessions.

Alternatively, for those parents that want their kids to burn off some energy at halftime, create some kid participation events in the back corridor area of Cassell, such as mini ball free throw shooting or a skills zone challenge. Controlled chaos but worth it if the kids are able to sit still for the second half. At these events have volunteers taking memberships for the Hokie Kids Club. Nothing says marketing than getting the next generation hooked on gear and garb than fun entertaining stuff. (Side note, I wasn't a member of the Hokie Club before my daughter (8 months old) was a member of the Hokie Kids Club)

Create a multi-game challenge for fans. Have tickets for these X number of games and get access to a special fan event. Make different levels of potential attendance. This would help encourage people to come to those wacky weekday games if you had some of the events be for attending only a certain number of weekday games. Season ticket holders would then get access to all of these special events etc which makes having season tickets much more than just a way into every game. Sell people on the value of the extra events they can attend with a season ticket automatically. 10 special events at $30 a person ($300 value as a part of the Season ticket)

If we recognize that we are a "football school" than take advantage of it and arrange for a couple Football Signing nights, where Beamer, Foster, etc come out to support the team by signing autographs. Give away a Spring Game Program to fans that night to pump people up for the upcoming football events. Introduce the new players that have come to campus early (Ford, Williams, etc) and allow them to feel the Hokie Spotlight and hear the fans roar for them. (All events of course NCAA compliant)

Make a connection with the businesses in Blacksburg again, I recall that my tickets used to get me food discounts downtown. I don't know if they still do that but it was always a big plus to get 20% off my Hokie House breakfast at two in the morning by showing my ticket from a basketball game.

The HokieClub needs to get engaged here as well. It cant just be a football only organization. It needs to credit members for buying season tickets, and even single game tickets. Make that organization have a much more in depth measurement of the different ways that fans contribute to Tech than just football tickets. Have them get some credit for any merchandise purchased at the concessions, the memorabilia shop, etc. All the purchases would be weighed differently but it would still count for something.

Have nights where the Spring sports are in the corridors before, halftime, and after the games to drive excitement to their events, handing out schedules for their teams, Photo booths that are Tech themed, Softball player with a big picture of their field behind her with the two kids. Create memories not just around basketball like you referenced above. Make it a mini circus type environment. Create more photo type opportunities regardless. Make something with a Tech basketball player body with the hole for a face. Have a few at different heights so you can look like JVZ if you are only 5' tall.

Improve Parking and traffic flow for fans, especially those coming from off campus. The harder it is for people to park close, the less likely they are to attend. I can remember it being a nightmare to cross the road to Cassell in the late 90's with Ace Custis and crew because of all the people fighting over parking spaces.

I hope Whit has taken notice and is working to improve. I don't see him making a move with the coach until he has made some major strides in fundraising though as a whole. If he can bring in the kind of money he raised early at Cincinnati than all of our sports programs should see a huge boost.

Rob Peterson
Charlie/Hotel Company
Class of 1999

If we recognize that we are a "football school" than take advantage of it and arrange for a couple Football Signing nights, where Beamer, Foster, etc come out to support the team by signing autographs.

I think Marketing needs to hire you as a consultant or something. Seriously, I've seen at least one member of the coaching staff at every single game and yet no one has even remotely thought about that. Shane is at just about every game with his family, Cornell is there a couple times a year as is Bud. It's crazy to think there hasn't been at least one autograph night all season.

I would jump at the opportunity if it came my way. Helping Hokies enjoy VT events as a job would make it a lot less like work and a lot more like passion

Rob Peterson
Charlie/Hotel Company
Class of 1999

As part of the parking solution I would tear out the tennis courts and put in a three to four tier parking garage. If the courts couldn't be easily relocated elsewhere they could be integrated into the top of the parking garage with a high fence and net over the top.

Rob Peterson
Charlie/Hotel Company
Class of 1999

If JJ doesn't get fired this week (or soon) it's not because he has long-term potential at VT. It's because we can't afford to pay him, Seth, and a new coach at the same time and/or we couldn't find a good upgrade this year. I realize JJ has been dealt a shitty hand at Tech, but he has shown little to point to him being a good long-term coach at VT. That being said, I wouldn't be surprised to see him back next year and be canned in ~12 months. Either way, I hope our bball team improves. It would be awesome to have a good (even decent) team to root for and follow.

"Give me a fucking beer", Anonymous Genius

I like that TerrorDome....it is cool and creepy and would make a good exposition, but needs a climax or drop.

I'm not sure if it was mentioned, but a student trend I have heard mentioned, is how people choose to spend their leisure time. We have so much better quality entertainment in our own homes, and in our hands than ever before. I know there is no way I would spend the money and effort to go to a Redskin game when I can enjoy it on my big screen TV. My kids are still teens, and it is a challenge to get them out of the basement as they have so many options at their fingertips. I have heard that Administrators have noticed that trend in overall student attendance (across the nation). I'm not sure how to solve that challenge.


Kind of combining a couple ideas from earlier. Announce to the students that the best costume/group painted chests/sign/etc. will win a prize of some sort. It will not only serve the purpose of getting more students to the game, but will also get the students more into the spirit of being a fan because they'll be putting more effort into it. I could easily see more Leonidas, Hokie Joker, Hokie Trooper, and Super Hokie type costumes popping up along with people painting their faces, and stuff like that. Possibly pick finalists out of the crowd and choose winners by applause.

I agree with the idea of having the football coaches do autograph sessions at the games being a big draw, but even getting them to be a regular presence at the games in a viable and possibly accessible location would be good. Or maybe have a prize where the winning fan gets to sit court side with one of the football coaches during the 2nd half. While this kind of stuff would be less workable for football coaches early in the season, it should be doable starting sometime in January. And there would be other options that would work earlier in the season such as former players, local celebrities, etc.

Here is the thing about giving away freebies. Students don't care about basketball right now plain and simple. If marketing gives away stuff before a game students come and get it all and then leave before tipoff. If they come and realize they have to wait to get stuff, they either leave or wait and complain the whole time. When they were giving away the Nike socks for a women's game against a top 25 NC State team, that in the end, Tech should have pulled out the win, students showed up, complained they had to wait until halftime and left then either came back at half time then left again or just didn't come back which left all the regular fans without the vouchers to redeem the socks.

This year the men had 18 home games and the women had 16. To the away teams, the majority of those probably felt like neutral site games because of the lack of support and the amount of away fans that traveled or are local and were more vocal than our own fans.

From what I've heard about Whit so far, he has some ideas and I think he is the guy that can help get butts back in the seats, but for now, count me as one of the ones thankful the season is over (basically).

Very nice article Brian with a lot of valid points. First of all, Va. Tech used to be a basketball 1st, football second. You know what changed WINNING! I live up in NoVa so it is very hard to commit to season tickets for B-ball games. My wife is a GMU grad, so we invested in season tickets there since it was only 5 minutes from our house (28 years ago). They used to average 1500 people a game for years with no shows from the alumni and the student body. Fast forward, 2006. Mason goes to the final four. That year they were packing the place on their journey to Indy. You want to know why WINNING. You can cut it, slice it or dice it but if you don't win, no one will come. I don't care how many tee shirts you give away!

I was a member of Hokies on Fire, the student-led committee for basketball promotions during my years at VT. I am the only 4-year member of HoF and was on the committee since it's inception in 2008. Hopefully I can add a little insight into this topic based on what I've seen.

I have never joined the online discussions here but this post has compelled me to comment. Be easy on me.

Brian's points in this post are all valid and should be strongly considered by Athletics. The brand of Hokie Basketball has been fading. And to those on the outside, it seems crazy that we can't replicate 1/7th of the atmosphere of Lane Stadium inside Cassell. You can't expect people to show up for an event without entertainment, and if the team is struggling, the entertainment may not be on the court.

We, in HoF, tried to change this.

We wanted to create an opening entrance sequence that was Enter Sandman-esque but Athletics didn't want to change something that wasn't broken - deciding to stick with football branding because "it worked." We pitched a list of songs to replace Sandman, all falling short.

Frankly, it was almost worse to tarnish Sandman by playing it in a half-filled Cassell. Something unique to the basketball team/s would have helped drive the brand of VT Basketball. Not having a uniqueness hindered the true identity of the basketball culture. We seemingly try to feed off the success of the football team and inject the feel of Lane into Cassell. It just doesn't work.

One of the areas where we found Athletics willing to listen was with respect to the Cassell Guard section. The twelve or so craziest students (as selected by HoF/Athletics) helped establish the student section. Fans loved these guys and gals. Kids and families want to get their pictures taken with the Orangeman and the Maroon and Orange Gene Simmons from KISS. To Athletic's credit they did a fair job promoting these individuals. What they didn't do was provide a crowd of students for them to lead. Imagine if the coordinated cheers were followed by the voices of 2500+ students. That would be something.

A few of the big games, or ones tied to Blackout or Maroon Monsoon, had this crazed environment, but attendance was neither consistent nor impressive.

Instead, students were left ticketless and the seats empty. Often the most engaging student-fans were left without tickets. Stupid lottery.

At other schools, like UNC, students earn loyalty points for attending various events and competitions, which later gives them too priority for hard to come by basketball tickets. When we pitched the idea of loyalist points to Athletics it was quickly shot down.

How can giving preference to the fans that want to be at the games (while simultaneously attending other less popular events to earn points) be a bad thing?

I will say that opening up unfilled seats to students on standby(as Brian touched on) was a welcomed change they made. This really only mattered during some of the bigger games, however.

The biggest reason for the lack of change was how tightly Athletics held onto their relationship with the boosters/season ticket holders.

We fought, hard, to get the student section switched to behind the media row. Nothing is more intimidating than students 10 feet from the court. Nothing is less intimidating than students up a flight of stairs, hidden behind a basket, and only a factor for half the game.

We pitched the idea to move the section. The atmosphere would change for the better - greater home court advantage, more attendance from students knowing they could be on tv, an air of excitement in Cassell, and other fans would come to see the student section go crazy. Ultimately a few tenured season tickets would be forced to move seats, but they would get more entertainment for their dollar. Televised home games would seem more filled. Maybe a crowd mentality would take over and people would see the games and say "hey, it looks pretty full/fun/exciting, I should buy tickets to the next game."

Unfortunately Athletics was too concerned that shifting sections would upset the season ticket holders. As if the on-court product wasn't upsetting enough.

I'll leave things at that. I could touch on the actual play of the team but that is something that will inevitably shift and change regardless of the atmosphere produced in Cassell. The ideas have been pitched, it was just a matter of who can say it with the most dollars backing their voice. Sadly we fell a little short.

Class of 2012

"more attendance from students knowing they could be on tv"

I once went to a basketball game a LU because my dad came across it on TV, saw that there were empty seats in one of the corners near the court (most of LU's seating was GA), called me, and told me to go so he'd be able to see me on TV.

"Unfortunately Athletics was too concerned that shifting sections would upset the season ticket holders. As if the on-court product wasn't upsetting enough."

Funny, that didn't seem to be a concern in regards to football season ticket holders.

Never make eye contact while eating a banana.

Very happy you decided to contribute, insightful comments like this are what make the community here so great.

I'm glad you joined the conversation. We talk a lot on here about some of the things we'd like to see done, and it's pretty rare to have someone bring inside information into the discussion.

Now we just need to get current insiders involved. Quick! Someone tweet Whit that he needs to join up and start some threads.

Well done, that was necessary!!

This thread is awesome and the combined thoughts of those here show that we fans are damn smart (we're Hokies, right!), we give a darn, and we know how to get the masses that are the Hokie Nation fired up.

The comment above about us paying Seth and JJ at the same time is a key piece of data. Whit wants to do something soon and this program is the likely target of his first big action (IMHO). So, when does Seth's contract payments end? That is when we get a new coach - since the bottom line always matters for the athletics department as a whole (and I'm sure its OK, but may not be able to handle a big hit in coaches salary over the next year). If football turns the revenue generation corner in 2014 (and winning 10 games gets that done!!), then we have gone through the revenue inflection point and that will be the signal to hire a new B-ball coach.

So, if that is the case and that last Seth payment is in 2-3 years, then all of these game experience stuff will be where he will act. Its less expensive, can have some immediate impact, and let the Hokie Nation understand whom Whit is. Come on Whit, what's it gonna be? I expect we will all know pretty soon.

Or, perhaps he gets the go ahead to invest now and does a bunch of this stuff and gets us a new coach. I expect we will hear something over the next couple weeks, max. Perhaps after today.

Pain is Temporary
Chicks Dig Scars
Glory is Forever
Let's Go Hokies!!

Certainly, this is an area where I definitely can lend some insight...

What it comes down to, and what we in HoF always focused on, was visibility.

We worked with Athletics and Coach Greenberg to establish Chalk Talks before weekend home games. For those of you unfamiliar with Chalk Talks, Greenberg would join students at D2 dining hall and review his game plan for the upcoming game. He would chat with students while they ate lunch for about an hour - taking questions, drawing up schemes, describing match ups. Nothing compromising to his plan, but certainly packed with information. He was engaging and excited, more than we could have asked for.

Students who made it to all 8-10 Chalk Talks over the course of the season earned some sort of price and Greenberg often brought some giveaways. He had a pair of tickets to the Duke game for the upset in 2011. Often the kids who were the biggest supporters of the Chalk Talks didn't hold season tickets. They were subjected to the same lottery that the less passionate and dedicated kids entered. Alas, life isn't fair, but Greenberg wanted to generate a passionate fan base and spent the time to help us generate visibility. He was a character you couldn't miss.

No knock on JJ but he doesn't have that same presence on campus. Heck, seeing Greenberg get rowdy during a game was part of the fun. A couple of students dressed as Greenberg, bald cap and all, for the big games.

He was visible and he made an effort to connect with fans, especially students.

I'm not sure what the atmosphere around campus is these days with JJ at the helm. I'm sure it's different, but I doubt Athletics has stepped up their game to make up for the big persona Greenberg had. There was always a sort of hesitation about doing things all out with regards to basketball. They need to spend more time and effort with connecting to students, not the donors/season ticket holders. I think they assume because students turn out for football, they'll turn out for basketball.

That's just not the case with this schedule. Juggling 30+ games in a season, many of which are mid-week, match-ups are lost on some. It's hard to track for the average student. It's not a "every Saturday except for one Thursday night game," schedule. Students have a ton going on, and unless they are made aware of the upcoming games consistently, they won't keep track except for the big games that get more buzz. An email notifying them the lottery for games XYZ is not enough.

We held a viewing party for the opening away game against K-State in Squires Student center but received only a late push of publication from Athletics. They control the media (web, FB, Twitter) tightly, which is fine, because they do have a brand/name/reputation to uphold, but it was too painful to get our message pushed out via their avenues. Same gripes when it came to a pre-game tailgate we hosted before an ACC matchup.

It came down to HoF standing in front of their classes, repeatedly blowing up Facebook and passing out info on the Drillfield to get the word out for events. Maybe I'm wearing a rose tinted glasses when it comes to this but we had moments where Cassell was great. It's all about effort. If Athletics is unwilling to step up, it needs to be the students. All it takes is a dedicated individual or two to make a bigger change than you'd think.

Class of 2012

"Things were going well, and even though the landscape of college football (not to mention the ACC) was changing around them, they kept plugging along like it was 2007."

So what I gather is that Virginia Tech Basketball and the Former Football Offensive Coaching Staff is similar to ""The Puppy Who Lost His Way." The world was changing, and the puppy was getting... bigger."

In all seriousness love the article. I think you have some great ideas and I would love for us to turn the basketball team around. I love watching our bball team and I loved to hear the announcers say that they loved coming to Cassell because of how lively our student section was. It's gotten to the point where they don't say those things anymore. Additionally, some fans don't realize what a difference they can make. The players go out and win the ball games, but the noise from the fans can be a momentum shifter. In the past we were able to do that in Bball and Football, but the atmosphere for both has slowly gotten weaker in the past few years.

“These people are losing their minds. This is beautiful.”

I don't know if it is just me but I think one of the major factors that will forever hold back VT is its location. This is especially prominent for basketball. Obviously, we all know and love Blacksburg but I imagine most of the alumni live at least 4 hours away from Blacksburg. I failed to make it down to Blacksburg this year for any game, football or basketball. It wasn't for a lack of want to go down; it was more because from Philadelphia, Blacksburg is roughly 7 hours away (driving) or $400+ for a flight to Roanoke. I would have loved to come down and see any game but I dont have the time to devote at least 14 hours in a weekend to drive all the way down.

I wouldnt even consider doing that for basketball. Not to mention the games scheduled during the week. Theres just no way for me to justify taking that much time to get down there. I am only a graduate student and I think my schedule is more flexible and conducive to making long road trips as opposed to someone who works a regular 9-5 job Monday-Friday.

I think if Cassel to be packed it would require more of the alumni base living in an area that would make seeing the game more accessible. Thats more of an issue that VT cannot control. It would have to be an economic solution such as bringing more jobs to Roanoke and making that area larger. However, as for now, and Im speaking as a young recent graduate, there are just more opportunities in larger cities that put me outside of the realm of returning to Blacksburg on a semi regular basis. Maybe when Im older and have a family, steady income, and not moving every few years I could see going down more. As of right now the biggest thing holding me back from seeing games is location.

This is exactly why selling families that do live in the Blacksburg/Roanoke area that a Virginia Tech basketball game is an "experience" is of the utmost importance. You aren't likely going to fill the seats with Alumni or Students so getting the casual fan or the parent that just wants something different to get their kid(s) away from their PS3/4/XBox360/1 is critical. Look at a lot of the "universities with major fan bases" and you will see a ton of fans that never went to the school and might not even have had a relative go to the school but because they live in the area, its the place to go for entertainment. I know there were a few members here that chimed in on the HokieClub thread recently that said they didn't go to Tech but have been HokieClub members for 30 years. Those are the kinds of fans you have to get to these events to really be successful due to the lack of the other categories.

Rob Peterson
Charlie/Hotel Company
Class of 1999

If you are 4+ hours away, when you have a family (at least young kids) you will go down less, not more. I used to go to 4 or 5 games a season, now I'm down to 1, maybe 2.

On that note, I know this isn't directly related to improving the Cassell environment, but several people have made the point about alumni being so far away. Could they look to engage distant alumni by scheduling recurring home and homes with schools in those areas? UNC Charlotte, VCU, Richmond, Mason, GW/Georgetown, ODU, etc. I have gone to all the MD games in College Park except the last one and I'd be at Mason, GW or Georgetown in a heartbeat. I know it doesn't impact Cassell attendance directly, and maybe I'm in the minority because I watch all the games anyway, but I feel much more disconnected from the bball team than the football team.

Or, I dunno, they could recruit some Fullers to play basketball.

As I said above, We have had Mason season tickets for 28 years and Va. Tech came in one to play. Vt had there usual late let down and mason won. I was told by the prior ticket manager, that Va. Tech has refused to come into to the Patriot Center.

I find it a real shame with so many alumni that we can not work this game out.

I was thinking about this the other day that VT's non-conference schedule isn't great (one of the reasons for bad attendance) but also that the school doesn't make a huge effort to connect with alumni base in NOVA. Visibility is huge for alumni involvement and in order to get new students (look what happened at FGCU) a alternating home and home with GMU and Georgetown would give DC area Hokie fans a chance to see their team play every year. You could do the same thing in Richmond. If Tech played at the Patriot or Verizon Center over winter break I would be there in a heartbeat.


I don't think this has been mentioned yet, but in regards to holding season ticket holders accountable - there is a point system for Hokie Club members. To hold on to precious football seats you have to buy season tickets for other sports. A lot of those empty seats are fans that are only passionate about the football program. This practice really hurts the home atmosphere.

Quick note about swag giveaways - people love the football experience because, traditionally, it is difficult to get tickets. People love exclusivity, to have something others can't. Baiting attendees with crap giveaways make the program look desperate.

Have you been paying attention to the same bball program I have? It IS desperate.

Just another gut-wrenching, can't breathe, I lost my voice, not now, did that just happen, just gimme this one, Virginia Tech Saturday

Brian, by the way, this was a great read. I'm really REALLY interested to see how Babcock engages across everything, from reinvigorating basketball to the Hokie Club.

There's only one answer to this problem: More RED PANDA

Sorry to repeat if this was already mentioned. One thing for the family experience would be kids and adults playing on the court after the game. The baseball team allows kids to run the bases and a game of knockout with 2000 students would be awesome

West Virginian by birth, Hokie by choice

People like to deride Jim Weaver for blaming "the economy" during the late-Seth-era slide. I wonder whether either Weaver or those people considered looking around the corner to find out what was inhaling VT alumni's and fans' limited leisure dollars.

The price of football attendance has skyrocketed. Don't just look at home ticket face value and donations; look at the cost of gas and food for an alumni base centered 3-5 hours north and east, look at the number of "neutral site" or special event games, look at how many nearby road games VT alumni can travel to, look at ACCCGs, and look at travel costs for bowl games. All of these are significantly higher than they were in the Big East days. I'm not saying any of that's bad, I'm just saying that if you've got maybe $2K you can afford to drop on sports in a year, in 2002-03 that would've taken care of all the football you could handle plus a ton of basketball. In 2013 you're probably done after football season, maybe one ACC basketball home game.

I also think taking the post-ACC ticket sales bump as the new normal was perhaps a bad assumption.

All that said: the suggestions about improved gameday experience are good, but in the end hope and winning are what will improve VT basketball attendance. Nothing else.

You are spot on with the costs:
I can remember coming back from a deployment in 2001 and was able to fly into Roanoke from Hilton Head, stay at a good hotel, go to the game and go out on the town as part of a solid weekend and my total expenses were about $450. $100 for the flight, $35 for the game ticket, $190 for the hotel for three nights, and $120 something for downtown/other food over two days.

You might spend that on the hotel alone for a three night stay down there now.

Rob Peterson
Charlie/Hotel Company
Class of 1999

This is so true. We travel to the football games in a 40 ft motor coach. Gas $200, tickets $200 (4), tailgate food $200 you see a pattern here. And this doesn't even include the yearly donation. Factor in a ACCCG and a bowl game and you can easily get to $6K a season. It sure seems like the economy has not reduced the ticket prices.

Ticket prices aren't the problem... it's airfare, hotel costs, travel cost, etc. Unfortunately, these are the things that are out of the schools control.

Twitter me

An easy way to increase student attendance would be to fix the parking for basketball. Right now for games the Cassell/McComas lot is closed, so is the one behind West End, and the one next to the Cage. Not only is this a pain if you're coming from off-campus for dinner, but to go to a game you have to park in the Cage. Trying to get my friends to go to a game so we can park in the Cage and walk the quarter-to-half mile in a Blacksburg winter just to see a basketball game for a bad VT team playing some other boring team with no alcohol incentive is impossible. And these lots are EMPTY. The one across the street from the Cage DIDN'T HAVE A SINGLE CAR but we couldn't park there. The majority of students live off campus, if you want students to come to games, you have to make it easy for them and it's much too difficult at the moment.


The one behind West End is always open, that's usually where I park for games. I do agree there needs to be a better plan for students to park though.

I think one of the easiest and best ways to fix this would be a revamp of Blacksburg Transit routes. I lived in Tech Terrace for two years before they got knocked down for the new development that is going in there. For those of you who may not know what I mean right behind the old gumby's. Either way there was no way for me to get from that corner of campus to the West End/McComas/Student Services/Engel hall side of campus using BT. If i wanted to go to the gym or the dining hall I had to walk all the way there. While walking is good for you, in the Blacksburg winters I preferred not to go. Even if there was a bus that essentially just circled around campus Washington->Kent St-> Perry St -> West Campus Dr would have been good.

just to see a basketball game for a bad VT team playing some other boring team with no alcohol incentive is impossible

No one's mentioned it, but it's a fact: Football has a drinking culture. Basketball does not. The tailgates/alcohol/food/fun create a SOCIAL situation. People are drawn to social situations.

I'm not suggesting athletics hands out booze as incentive for attendance (although let's be honest; who would skip a basketball game if they gave out free bourbon?!), but athletics does need to create a social situation before the games. Targeting 3 people, who will each bring 5 people is more effective and more cost efficient than targeting 15 individuals.

What social situation can they create? I don't know (hence why the athletic department hasn't hired me).

Twitter me

basketball doesn't have a drinking culture? aww man i've been doing it wrong.

"I'm just rocking the Fuller"-Kendall Fuller
"That kid you're talking to right there, I think he played his nuts off! And you can quote me on that shit!" -Bud Foster

As an alumni living in the area (Cburg), I still can't make every game when they schedule them during the week at early times. But a $500 per ticket cost is intimidating for the product that Tech is delivering. I already get 4 season football tickets and donate to the Hokie Club at a silly (gold) level. Another $2,000 dollars is a lot of money. A tiered ticket price where I could pay half to 3/4 of that cost would get me buying season tickets instead of tickets for the 1-2 games a year I normally attend.

Well, Whit responded with a Thank You so hopefully he at least saw the gist of the information.

Rob Peterson
Charlie/Hotel Company
Class of 1999

Regarding finding their own sandman; when I was first a student there they used Welcome to the Jungle (06-07) and then for some reason got away from it. But that was an awesome entrance, rivaled Sandman on a lower scale.

I remember welcome to the jungle, you're right it was a good entrance.

"I'm just rocking the Fuller"-Kendall Fuller
"That kid you're talking to right there, I think he played his nuts off! And you can quote me on that shit!" -Bud Foster

I'm a bb season ticket holder and STRONGLY support that the students should have ALL the lower seats surrounding the court. I think the excitement in having the students support the team up close really does/would ignite the rest of the Cassell. Just look at the tradition Duke has. When I'm not attending a game I try to offer up my tickets for sale or to students, but all the empty seats this year made that impossible. When watching any of the games on TV, its sad to see our alumni fans basically sitting on their hands without any emotion. Any young bb prospects would surely be un-impressed with our support, winning or losing. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE put the students down lower and create some excitement. After all, the bb team are students, just like the Cassell guard. They should be down low surrounding the court screaming like banshees. All the alumni, young and old can be moved back up some rows to allow this tradition bloom and grow at Tech. IMHO, we need this to happen, ASAP!

H-O-K-I-E-S, Hokies!

Another thing I hate as a student and Cassell Guard general is the whole label of Hokie Respect. Sure it sounds good and creates a safe family environment but I personally hate it. Simply put if we bring a sign that has anything that could be interpreted as demeaning towards a player,school, or an idea we aren't allowed in the stadium. They are too worried that it might show up on a tv broadcast and take away from the university brand. For example in the newsletter we put on the chairs for the home games we were told we couldn't put a direct quote from the UNC website that said why P.J. Hairston was kicked off the team under our "players to watch out for" section. If you can't even make a joke about a player who is dismissed for violating NCAA regulations its easy to see how students have lost interest in the program.

If attendance "for basketball games has been dropping over the past five seasons", I truly apologize. The first year and a half of that drop off are my fault. I can't stand basketball, but I will always support orange and maroon no matter what the cost. I only attended two Hokie hoops games as a student and I regret not supporting my alma mater more. I have tried mercilessly to get back to another game in recent years, but to no avail. I am so glad that a post like this was written. Everyone is allowed to have their favorite sport, but success at every level is what is important.

Virginia Tech alumna
Hokies, Redskins, Capitals, D.C. United, Orioles

Tough to get back regularly from LoCo and the rest of NOVA.

Rob Peterson
Charlie/Hotel Company
Class of 1999

When folks look back on these last two seasons we will say "they were on vacay."

True Hokies STICK IT IN!!!

STICK IT IN Army of Virginia Tech


I hope I never, ever, speak the term "vacay."


I like the coaches name: Dave Smart
He might be a great steal, but the rules differences between the CIS and NCAA are pretty large - I bet he wouldn't come to the USA to coach.

Pain is Temporary
Chicks Dig Scars
Glory is Forever
Let's Go Hokies!!

I'm sure I'll get crucified for this, but I think Cassell itself is a big problem. I feel like I'm walking into a cattle sale when I walk in Cassell. Cassell doesn't look much better on tv, especially with those "Big Ass Fans" we put up a couple years ago. Having a nice arena can go along way to getting some good recruits to want to come play at Tech. Why would any decent player want to come to a school that's program sucks and arena is crap? Tech needs to either seriously renovate Cassell or build a new arena all together. If Tech built an arena on par with JPJ, it could even steal some concerts from the Ronoake Civic Center because let's be honest, that place isn't that nice either. I'm sure people will comment saying something along the lines of Cassell being a gem of college basketball or we can't tear down a place with so much history. What makes Cassell historic besides the fact that it's old? It's not like we would be tearing down Fenway or anything. And besides, what history does Virginia Tech basketball even have? Let's fix our arena, get some good recruits to Blacksburg, and actually start to build a legitimate basketball program.

Actually, a few years ago, coach K commented on how much he liked Cassell and how it reminded him of Cameron... he suggested wood paneling, brass railings, etc as refinements done to make Cameron a showplace.

'Its easy to grin, when your ship comes in, and you've got the stock market beat,
but the man worthwhile, is the man who can smile, when his shorts are too tight in the seat'

What I'm getting at is Tech basketball doesn't have a history that anyone that isn't a diehard Tech fan knows. Everyone knows the history of programs like Duke, UNC, Kentucky, Indiana etc. The average fan knows nothing about VT basketball. If Tech decided to build a new arena, let's just say SportsCenter won't have a "Top 10 moments at Cassell" segment.

I love Cassel. Maybe a new videoboard would be nice, but I wouldn't change a thing otherwise.

Twitter me

The video board was just updated this past year when we updated the one in Lane. I believe Cassell now has 3 video boards, a main one in the center for replays and play-by-play and then 2 smaller ones on the sides for scores and stats.

Haven't been to a basketball game since last season, thanks for the update.

Twitter me

Great stuff- but I disagree somewhat on the in-game entertainment.
The dance cam, match the pose, mystery cam have actually been pretty good this year. Like when showing two dudes on camera the mystery cam wheel stopped on 'kiss'. I thought these items during the TO's were good additions.
The all-time great was the baby race though.

'Its easy to grin, when your ship comes in, and you've got the stock market beat,
but the man worthwhile, is the man who can smile, when his shorts are too tight in the seat'

I was the SGA President back in '09-10 who helped start the Cassell Guard. I also was the student who started the first ever Hokies on Fire Blackout.

I don't think the author realizes how difficult all of this is to get started. Students don't have a "section" because alumni pay for preferred seating.

To get 20 people in guaranteed seating (The Cassell Guard) took...years.

There's a lot more than just an e-mail and a blog post to actually make some of this stuff happen.

For you to say, "Do away with the Cassell Guard" is insulting and ignorant, honestly. They do organize cheers and they are responsible for getting the student section riled up. The idea came from Texas A&M's Aggie Yell Leaders. It's important to have "leaders" of a section, because guess what, we aren't Duke. We don't have loyal basketball fans.

Brandon J. Carroll
Class of 2010

Brandon, welcome to TKP. have a Turkey Leg. You have some time invested here. Kudos to you for defending what you created. Note everything in this thread would be changed. I think the Cassell Guard is great idea, it needs to have a larger presence.

And, We. Must. Have. Loyal. Basketball. Fans. Period. So, the question is how to help create that. If you don't start developing, you don't ever get there. I think you had the vision to help start the path there. We need to grow off of that.

Pain is Temporary
Chicks Dig Scars
Glory is Forever
Let's Go Hokies!!

Thanks, Smitty. I was "bcarroll260" on HokieHaven awhile ago. Not sure if that makes sense to you...but I hope it does.

And I worked with TechHoops.com awhile back to help get feedback on Hokies on Fire and the Cassell Guard.

I think it has to start with the AD. And, I think a lot of the author's points are valid. Hold season ticket holders accountable.

But, at the end of the day, VT Athletics is measured in dollars, not in fan loyalty. Students are not worth nearly as much as alumni in terms of dollars.....especially for basketball.

And alumni want to sit down in the front, and have a beautiful view of the court. They don't want to jump for Enter Sandman (see West Stands during a FB game).

So, if the AD is committed to building a student-centered basketball culture, he has to start with the students.

Get them involved with the process. Possibly forego short-term revenue gains for long-term sustainable basketball culture change.

And, then it'll create a virtuous cycle.

Students involved in process --> more loyal students --> better basketball atmosphere --> better recruits and program...possibly some key wins --> more money from alumni --> students involved in the process to make it even better.

And, that cycle starts with the students. Period.

I loved Jim Weaver, and I sat on some committees with him as a student, but he was not a student-centered AD

Brandon J. Carroll
Class of 2010

95% of the west stands is standing or jumping for the entrance on the football games. Be careful where you are slinging hash.

You missed the point. During the majority of the game, they are not. Just like in basketball, the majority of the game, alumni aren't as intense as students. West is never as wild as East.

I'm an alumni, and I can tell you that students will have much more energy than I will against Miami on Thursday this fall when I make a trek back to Blacksburg.

Brandon J. Carroll
Class of 2010

Here's an idea though...alumni don't want to go watch a basketball game in a boring environment. Excitement around the program is created in 2 ways: performance on the court and atmosphere at the games. The atmosphere is determined by the fans and those who have the most energy and easiest access to the games are the students. So while alumni may not want to stand up, they can certainly sit in a different location. Even if the student section was just the area behind the benches, it would be a drastic improvement. When was the last time we actually sold out all of our season tickets for basketball? I honestly don't know this answer, but we can create a demand by placing the student section in a better location, allowing more students to go rather than doing the standby seating after tip-off, and creating more energy in Cassell. Alumni can sit behind the basket or on the side with the media still.

I've never seen Cassell Guard start a cheer or get the student section riled up. I think most people's perception of the Cassell Guard is that they're the people who stand around in the funny costumes.

Jarrett, but at least there's structure. What they do at games and how they function can be fixed.

Or, what in your eyes should athletics and the student body do? Just randomly organize with no structure and suddenly have a great atmosphere?

Brandon J. Carroll
Class of 2010

All I know is my freshman year (2011) me and one of my best friends who had season tickets 4-5 rows behind the Cassell Guard pregamed the UNC game like a football game. Besides it being one of the most fun I've ever had at a sporting event, we ended up starting a large majority of the chants in the student section on our own. I think the problem with the cassell guard is that it seems to be a different part of the student section. The Cameron Crazies are the whole student section, not just a part of it. If the whole 'Cassell Guard' mentality could be transferred to the whole student body rather than just a select portion of it, I think that could help improve the enthusiasm during games. Just my 2 cents as a current student and avid basketball fan.

As it is, Cassell Guard is a fun thing to watch and I really applaud them but, speaking as a student, I forget they're there about 5 minutes into the game. I'll admit I haven't been to that many bball games since coming here but I could count on one hand the number of times they got a chant going that the entire student section took up.

On that note, anyone remember the special chant we got going for Marcus Smart last year? THAT was sweet. Calling him out before most of the world knew who he was.

Just another gut-wrenching, can't breathe, I lost my voice, not now, did that just happen, just gimme this one, Virginia Tech Saturday

That was awesome, I hate him he's such a whiny baby. But that wasn't started by the Cassell Guard I don't think because of Hokies Respect. Same with Who's Your Daddy at Seth Curry last year which I started. The best cheers that the student section leaders at other schools would start you have to start at the upper levels because of Hokies Respect. The OKState game also brings up student section location, there were a ton of students at that game *cough*me*cough* that had to sit on the other side. It would have been so much louder all game if everyone was in the student section.


I don't recall the Marcus Smart thing because I haven't paid much attention to basketball.

But I sure as hell remember the Cassell tormeting DJ Strawberry so many years ago.

Oh yea! Thanks for the reminder. That Was Awesome! And the timing was so perfect...

Pain is Temporary
Chicks Dig Scars
Glory is Forever
Let's Go Hokies!!

I don't think anyone here thinks that this write up and a simple acknowledgement from the Athletic Director of the information is going to change a whole lot. It might get the information a fresh look and it might do nothing at all. It cant hurt to make sure that the administration see's that the alumni actually does have an opinion of the current product when they are making decisions for next season. Small piece of the pie but every little bit helps.

I am in full support of students round the court. I was at Tech when the Corps of Cadets sat right behind the opposing team at the football games and can remember getting into plenty of opponents head, having them run their mouths at us and lose track of the game. Still remember one of the linebackers from Syracuse falling flat on his face because he was yelling at us when he was supposed to be on the field, so rushing to get back out there he tripped over a fan cord, helmet hit their special teams coach, and he didn't make it for the next play. I would love for this kind of environment to be the norm at the basketball games, but money talks unfortunately.

Rob Peterson
Charlie/Hotel Company
Class of 1999

That's an epic story, Rob. I can only imagine the football atmosphere during the Michael Vick era. Must have been amazing.

I can't complain. We had Tyrod, and the Hokies were amazing when I was a student.

I went to Orange Bowls against Cincy (win) and Kansas (loss).

That Nebraska game is still one of the best moments of my life. The pure emotion of the entire stadium was just.....beyond words.

Brandon J. Carroll
Class of 2010

The biggest change and most positive change for bb would be to allow the students to sit down low surrounding the court. Or at least on the players side which faces across from TV cameras. That's about all you see on TV broadcasts and the students would be charging up the team (i.e. Duke)! When the fans get the Cassell rocking again, it will (as it has in the past) become a VERY formidable court to opposing teams. The students should be down low supporting their fellow students. They are the future alumni and would totally understand sitting behind the student section in the future. It's a process and tradition Hokie nation needs to start, regardless of coach, regardless of team strength. Just like fb, we're all family and need to pull together.

H-O-K-I-E-S, Hokies!

Right. Put the students all the way down to the floor on the side the cameras face, then put the benches, press area, and alums on the side closest to the camera.


Pain is Temporary
Chicks Dig Scars
Glory is Forever
Let's Go Hokies!!

I just had a thought watching these tournaments. Someone let me know if they think it's feasible or not:

How often do we play two games on consecutive days?

I ask because it would be great to bring a few ACC teams into Blacksburg for a weekend and sell out the Cassell for a collection of games. For example, bring UVA, Wake, and Pitt into Blacksburg and host a doubleheader on Saturday and another one on Sunday.

Saturday: VT vs. Pitt, UVA vs. Wake
Sunday: VT vs. Wake, Pitt vs.UVA

This would accomplish a few things, I think:

1) It would give us a chance to knock out a couple of games in a weekend where we wouldn't have to sacrifice school days for games and travel.
2) It would look like tournament time. Two games in rapid succession in the same location. But it wouldn't matter if you lose, as you'd still have the game the next day.
3) It would turn a basketball game into an all-weekend event, making it nicer to travel for the games for people who aren't in the area. People above have mentioned that they don't really want to travel for a game. Well, what about four?
4) It would sell out the Cassell. I mean, if we can't sell out a home game with our fan base, why not try to sell out using four fan bases?

Some other thoughts:
a) It would increase tourism to Blacksburg. We already know the town can kinda handle 70,000 people because football does it, so the town should be able to handle the extra crowd for the smaller coliseum.
b) We could sell tickets to the two Saturday games or the two Sunday games in a package so you could chill and watch basketball all day. Or you could buy a weekend pass and watch all four.
c) The host team could obviously rotate so each team could host a mini-almost-round-robin once a year or once every two years or however often it would happen, and all ACC teams could get big crowds in their towns.
d) Bring a few women's teams in, too, and increase the number of games you get in a day. Think of all the basketball you could play in a day!
e) Build a big ass screen outside Cassell and project the games onto it so you could have general admission tailgaters hanging out in the parking lot, watching ball all day. A few roach coaches and street vendors and you'd have a veritable farmer's market of basketball. Now that we have a big ass video board in Lane, you could do it there. There's already a bunch of seating! This outdoor thing might be tougher because basketball happens in winter.

It would be like the WHFStival...for ACC basketball!

The teams local to DC usually participate in something like that. The BB&T Classic, although I think it may not happen this year, usually brings four teams in for a single day.


I like your premise of making it an entire weekend event, although you would need to make sure that the Sunday games were done by early afternoon if you wanted to keep a large contingent of fans that travelled. People aren't going to want to miss work.

It might be a challenge getting the ACC to work with you and this could be the better opportunity to work on our in state relationships. Plan for it to be a rotation of Virginia teams. VMI, Richmond, VCU, George Mason, George Washington, JMU, Radford, Old Dominion, Longwood, Liberty, Hampton would all be options. Tech could probably host something like that every year if they rotated through that entire list with an agreement to Home and Home series on the return for the slightly larger schools on the list.

Rob Peterson
Charlie/Hotel Company
Class of 1999

Yeah, definitely something that would have to be in the OOC schedule. Don't see that happening for ACC play, but I'd be all for having ODU, Radford, and VMI or whoever else in there for a weekend of games. Just means a couple of 12 hour days for the support staffs and a lot of coordinating for court time and locker rooms. We have tournaments for volleyball, but that is a lot more low key and easier to manage.

That is awesome! Along those lines, I went to a UNM game at The Pit last year, and they gave out red glow sticks to everyone and turned the lights off for the player introductions. Perhaps not quite as impressive as Cleveland's light show, but much easier to pull off and still a really cool effect. It was really an incredible atmosphere all game.

Not the bagman VT deserves, but the bagman VT needs right now.

Why don't we just build the floor out of a touch screen so we can project things from below?

Then we could add effects, like adding a ripple every time the ball hits the floor so it looks like they're playing on water.

Or flaming footprints if a guy hits three shots in a row, NBA Jam style.

Then we could see if a guy's feet were on the line when he shot a 3 or was nearly out of bounds.

And we'd never have to change the floor for volleyball, we could just load volleyballflooring.jpg.

but then you try to load the basketball court and this happens...

If they run it on Windows, that's what they get. Run it on Linux, interface it with the Android OS so that the students can all download a free app, sync it up in Cassell, and vote on what the floor should be at several points the game. Invent the Future and drive up attendance in one shot.

best idea for a bball floor since...

Commonwealth Cup Champions since Sat, Nov 27, 2004 at 4:05:00 PM EST

Fantastic idea Horse!! I bet that would cost a pretty penny...haha


Like a video game! Cool.
Maybe when the super hot player goes for dunk the floor could also react and propel them from 1/2 court for a dunk!

Pain is Temporary
Chicks Dig Scars
Glory is Forever
Let's Go Hokies!!

I came here to post this vid.

Is this a promo vid because if I was in the crowd I'd be screaming my head off if I saw this.