Small Potatoes

Is Virginia Tech able and willing to compete with other Power Five football programs?

As with nearly everyone else in the orbit of Virginia Tech football, I was preparing for the Hokies to move on from Justin Fuente this week. I had a fun column planned about the coaching search and what parameters are needed to course-correct back into ACC Coastal contention (at the very least).

And, like everyone, I was caught off guard when word leaked out on Monday evening that we were all wrong. The whole athletic department is operating under business as usual, and Fuente is keeping his job:

If this was indeed Whit Babcock's decision (we'll get to that), I respect the hell out of him for it. Do you know how hard it is to look out your window, see an angry mob rabidly calling for heads to roll, look them in the face and tell them no? It's the decision of someone who has accepted the difficulty of leadership, which is quite an unappreciated burden.

But wooooo buddy did Babcock make a lot of people mad. I feel like in the message board community, we tend to see our little world of intense fandom as the overall opinion of tens of thousands of people who follow Tech football. It's not, and it's not particularly close. There are plenty of Hokies online (and even some on this fine website) who don't mind Whit's decision to retain Fuente one bit. Many of them see the decision similarly to Dave Braine's choice to ride it out with Frank Beamer when things got tough.

But when Babcock took to the podium to "discuss all things related to the Virginia Tech football program" he infuriated more than 400-500 angry Twitter accounts.

If you're trying to avoid negativity heading into 2021, I'd recommend not reading the replies there. But let's just say people did not respond well to that pull quote in the moment. Looking back with the proper perspective, a bit of time to cool tensions down and reading his actual quote from the press conference, Whit got a bit of a raw deal:

"If you can be involved, please do. It hurts us when you pull your support. You are really hurting all 22 sports, scholarships, all of that. If you are able to participate, we now need you more than ever. We have 20,000 donors strong and working our way up. Those that threaten publicly usually don't give that much, but we do know some of you feel that you can't invest in us. It is a gift, we will receive it when you are ready to give it.

That's not nearly as bad as it was made out to be, and he almost said the opposite of what was conveyed to the masses online. But this isn't Mike Barber's fault, he's a reporter trying to quickly transcribe bits of pertinent information from a press conference that wasn't wholly accessible to the public. Fans were online constantly refreshing their feeds for updates from the collective beat because it was the only way they could stay informed.

And that, my friends, is really the root of the problem.

The Virginia Tech athletic department announced a press conference, and speculation ensued. Word leaked that Fuente would be retained, speculation intensified. And by the time the actual press conference arrived, after weeks of rumors, fans were desperate for real information, not message board gossip or third-hand chatter. Real insight, directly from the source.

And instead of making that press conference live for the public to watch, the Hokie brass treated it like any ole Tuesday afternoon forum. They adjourn the meeting, and find their feeds basically like this:

Social media is not the place that waits for a multi-thousand word transcription of a mostly eloquent, insightful look into the state of Hokie athletics. It reacts in the moment, as soon as something becomes news. It's an instantaneous medium. But instead of understanding that maybe, just maybe, they didn't play this right, they blame the reporters for trying to report on it.

This is not a platform to bash Whit Babcock. The man is only human, I would've probably said something similar and he did great things with his mea culpa-fundraise for the Hokie Club the next day. He seems like a truly genuine person who loves Virginia Tech and is trying his best.

But what this does bring to light, is a problem that has been lurking in the corners of Hokie athletics for nearly a decade. Virginia Tech, as an entity (from administrators to coaches to fans), has not proven itself equipped to be a modern, successful Power Five football program.

As I prepared for my column covering Fuente's replacement, I focused on one singular box I'd check if I were running the search: Power Five experience. Last winter it was baffling to hear exactly how much Fuente's flirtation with Baylor opened Tech's eyes. Of course you need more money, of course you need more recruiting staffing and glitzy graphics and football-centric facilities. That's the norm, and every year you don't figure that out, you push your football program more-and-more behind.

The ideal time for this line of thinking to take over the football program should have been during the transition from Beamer to Fuente. Frank had been at Tech for so long, it was hard to see what really needed modernizing. But a set of fresh eyes and different experiences can do wonders when it comes to refurbishment. Take the basketball team as an example. When he was hired, Buzz Williams brought his whole damn team to Blacksburg, from assistants to secretaries. It rubbed some people the wrong way, but it also thrust Hokie hoops into the 21st century.

Williams brought his own graphic designer and turned the social media accounts into borderline works of art. He got more private jet use for recruiting, and quickly signed guys from across the country. He might have won a lot of games, but the most important thing Buzz did was create an infrastructure for success moving forward. He's part of the reason Mike Young can hire someone to make this:

Isn't that just f-ing excellent? Timely, smart, funny. It's a 10 out of 10, and why more and more fans are drawn to the basketball team. They engage their fans as they're already scrolling.

Justin Fuente was a lot of things coming into 2016. He was considered an excellent offensive mind, a "cultural fit" and a borderline miracle worker for what he did at Memphis. But one thing he never had was Power Five experience at any level of coaching. He went from six years at Illinois State (FCS) to four years at TCU (all of them in the Mountain West) to four years at Memphis (AAC).

Fuente was used to doing more with less, and continued to try and do the same when he started his run in Blacksburg. But those issues go well beyond funding. Time and time again, Fuente has stubbed his toe when running into people problems, the soft skills of communicating to just about everyone.

I see him similarly to the way I see a brilliant engineer or mathematician. Like someone who can solve equations with lethal proficiency (I know I'm oversimplifying, but go with me), Fuente believes in the gospel of football. The black and white, inarguable, numbers-don't-lie reliance on the idea that you can always gameplan your way to success. He's good at it, and based his entire career on his ability to do it. But at a certain point in your career, you need to be able to do more than solve a problem on a chalkboard. You need to get to know people and form teams and show an ability to lead through adversity. And at some point, it doesn't matter how good you are at your base skill. The halls of NASA and Lockheed Martin are filled with people who are really good at their jobs, but can't get promoted because they can't handle the soft skills. And when they're put in the position to use them, they often fail.

"Justin has values," Babcock said on Tuesday. "He's a good man. He's very private. He's very family orientated, often misunderstood."

He's not wrong. And I empathize with the fact that not everyone is comfortable becoming the face of the program and being super famous to a small, vocal sect of people. But he got the job, and sometimes the demands of a role push a person outside their comfort zone.

Justin Fuente is not a bad person, at all. But he's pretty damn bad at just about everything that a modern top-25 Power Five program needs from their head coach off the field. You need someone who can build and then maintain hundreds of relationships at a time. Someone who can make donors feel special on the golf course in the morning, can FaceTime with a 16-year-old in the afternoon and then fly to talk shop with a high school coach in the evening.

It's unfair β€” and again, I empathize with that β€” but it's the reality. This isn't Memphis. It's not a Mountain West program. It's a place with real-yet-achievable expectations. But as the years push on, Fuente faces the same problems, and they keep getting bigger. Recruiting has plummeted. Transfers continue their mass exodus out of Blacksburg. Recent former players routinely torch the program on Twitter β€” and regardless of how much of their complaints are real vs sour grapes, it's a terrible look. Big name alums swing between detachment and hostility. And to top it all off, Fuente's most often-used explanation for failure has become variations of 'the players failed to execute'.

This is not how a successful football team operates at any level, but it's especially not the way one of the best 30 programs in the country do business.

And the problems extend beyond Fuente. Though Babcock should be praised for his push to get an influx of donor money into the program, you have to question why it took so long in the first place (looking at both the organization of the Hokie Club and the donors themselves). And it really doesn't matter who made the decision to keep Fuente. If it was Whit, Tim Sands or anyone else, it's the admission that 19-18 over three years is acceptable in Blacksburg.

Do you think that'd be the case at Clemson? Ohio State? Alabama? Shit, forget the big dogs, would it be acceptable at Louisville? NC State? Literally anywhere in the SEC?

No matter who's calling the shots, no matter who runs the football program, the biggest issue Virginia Tech athletics face moving forward is making sure they're prepared to compete with some of the best programs in the country, on and off the field.

And as it currently sits, they're not doing either. Here's to hoping that changes.

Comments

Another excellent article Brian. This was a good read with my first cup of coffee this morning.

Brian - excellent write-up and perspectives (as always!). My problem with this entire process is I haven't seen the one thing needed: a plan!

Fu has to change his spots. He might be a great guy behind closed doors (you know those doors he keeps closed and doesn't let fans into). I get that isn't his personality. But it's his job. He needs to develop a public personality (If he doesn't want to do it, then he needs to go back to being a coordinator or finding a different career). It will help recruiting, team building, fan engagement and donor support. How are we going to achieve this? Hiring a PR agent? Psychologist? Communications "director"? Appoint a coach to be the face of the program? ...see, no plan.

We put the K in Kwality


This! I want to support the program and I know we were behind the curve in terms of funding and The Onlines when Whit/Fu took over. I have tried to up my donating every year and was planning to bump up to bronze Hokie to get some tickets this past year before other expenses came up, but I don't really know where I stand for my 2021 donation. There have been modest improvements to the Hokie Club, the FB social media is okay at best, the recruiting is not there in terms of staff or ranking, and all of this is made worse by the fact that the program has no personality at all. We need an indentity and the fans need to see some of this grand plan or I will continue to feel like I am just throwing my money into the wind based on how this transition has gone so far.

edit - sorry I have no idea how to control the size of embeded images, if there is a way someone please let me know.

If you feel the leather in your hand let it rip.

< img src= "URL of Image" width=xxx />

xxx is the number of pixels you would like to set it

"I have a PLAN. You just need to have a little goddamn faith, Whit. I just need. more. MONEY." - Justin van der Linde

Thank you. I knew there had to be something that could be added to that shortcut, but I couldn't figure it out. I will take Morgan Freeman out of big head mode now.

If you feel the leather in your hand let it rip.

Fuente isn't changing because changing is hard. No one at VT is going to force him to change because no one thinks anything is wrong.

Thanks Brian...best even handed overview that I've seen here. JF staying was the right call but he has has a couple of big areas for growth...as we all do.

I think this puts a spotlight on the biggest issue with the Fuente program, and it's communication. At this point the X's and O's aren't going to change, but the football team would do wonders to get a "hype man" on the staff. We need to get someone that can sell the program to recruits and to current players alike. Not everyone has the personal skills like that, but in an organization you can't leave that as a glaring hole forever.

I can't help but think back to a couple years ago when we had all those players enter the portal and we got the now infamous SI article. So my #sauce on this was second hand (a former player) who knew someone in the room when they had that meeting, and he told me that the players pretty much strait up told Fuente that they did not think that he cared about them, and that Fuente was shocked and very taken aback when they told him this. Of course I think he very much cares about them, but being an introvert probably makes it seem as if he does not care, and the players that do have a great relationship with him probably had to put in more of the work to build that relationship with him.

And while I very much hope he can come out of his shell and fix these communication problems (with the players first and foremost, not to mention fans/donors), I don't really have my hopes up, its just hard to change your personality like that, and maybe he was never really cut out to be the CEO of a P5 program. Hell, most of us are not cut out for that job, I know I'm not.

This makes sense. From things I've seen, heard, and read, skills like showing appreciation and letting people know they've done well don't come naturally to most people. It's stuff that is taught in leadership and management classes and in books on developing relationships. The trick is when you don't do it, you don't realize it's a tool missing from your interrelationship toolbox, so people generally carry on doing the same thing. I'm more extroverted, but I needed to be taught that it's a thing, and I have to be intentional about doing and saying things to let people know.

Can we just let Tapp do all of the coaches interviews?

They think that idiotic Twitter feed is what "hype" is.

VT recruit Hype man was Holoman Wiggins before he bolted for Bama. I've heard the departure of Galen Scott & Wiggins was a huge blow to the staff.

Pour some Beer on it

Wiggins was definitely beloved by the players. Same situation I've heard during his time at Bama so far.

Great article. Well articulated without becoming critical or angry.

Whit lost me this week. Yes, he's human, done a lot of good for the VT brand, and probably does a better job than most, etc. Not sure what, or who, would get me back to wanting to donate at this point. Going to be a long, hard road for all aspects of VT football for quite some time.

Great article. Really touched on a bunch of things I agree with. Fu was never a P5 coach, has no idea what it takes to be successful at this level. Money and support staff help, but it is by no means the root of his problem. You could give him a Clemson size staff, we'd still be mediocre. Also, don't give Whit too much credit for taking the road less traveled or being thoughtful in his statements. Even days later, I still think that Tuesday presser was an absolute disaster. It was defensive, dishonest in several ways, and reeked of ego. It hurt to watch (yes, I watched it). His primary job is to make football successful and profitable and he is failing.

I don't care how much money you bring in. If you don't have the right mindset, you are never going to compete.

That is the difference between Virginia Tech in the 90s and Virginia Tech today. In the 90s, every part of our administration was singularly focused on trying to make a name for ourselves in football. We saw an opportunity to contend, and we went for it. And you know what, it paid off.

Right now, I cannot say the same. And I honestly don't think it all resides with Sands, I think it started before then. I really look toward the fiasco with where to put the indoor practice facility, and the eventual caving we did to not interrupt the Stadium Woods. Like, I get it, those trees were old, but there is limited precious space, the land is owned by Virginia Tech and is theirs to do with as they please. The groups opposing the plans had little leverage to stand on, and we caved. That was the first time that we really saw that the university as a whole wasn't fully bought in to being a big boy program, as there is no way that that squabble would have held up plans at Clemson, Ohio State, Alabama, or hell, even someone like UNC or Kentucky.

We aren't a big boy program. We never will be, because, quite frankly, we saw what it took and we balked at it. We had our opportunity and we let it pass us by because we are more comfortable being a small time low pressure country town which is just glad to have a seat at the table with the elites like UVa and UNC.

And the decision to stick with the current regime was the final nail in that coffin being driven in. We are content with this. And the real problem lies with anyone who thinks any different.

"I have a PLAN. You just need to have a little goddamn faith, Whit. I just need. more. MONEY." - Justin van der Linde

That was the first time that we really saw that the university as a whole wasn't fully bought in to being a big boy program, as there is no way that that squabble would have held up plans at Clemson, Ohio State, Alabama, or hell, even someone like UNC or Kentucky.

This. Elite programs all have 100% alignment between the university, the athletic dept, the football coach, and fans/donors. I do think we were close to 100% at one point - that point was in 2000, when Frank Beamer was about to leave, and Weaver/Steger convinced him to stay BY MAKING HIM AND HIS STAFF THE THIRD HIGHEST PAID STAFF IN THE COUNTRY.

I have a variety of thoughts about how we got to this point, but the reality today is that the university, the athletic dept, the football coach, and fans/donors all have different desires and expectations.

Twitter me

Nice article. After reading your engineer / mathematician analogy, I've got our next hire covered. We can wrap this discussion up...

@hokie_rd

Whit

CJF

Great write up. After my initial disappointment in Whit's decision and disgust at his response to fans (even the corrected quote is not the best) I am slowly moving back to apathy. Hopefully in the coming years I can move back to enjoyment and excitement about the program. At this point we will have to say in Whit we trust again...

I can imagine no more rewarding a career. And any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction:
β€œI served in the United States Navy"

KCCO

I don't know where else to put this, but I definitely need to say something.

Earlier this week, I saw a recurring theme when the fact that Fuente was retained was realized. A theme that I never thought I would see.

"It wasn't worth beating UVa for this"

Like, I'm sorry, but nobody should ever say that. No, its ALWAYS worth beating UVa in anything. Watching them lift the Cup last year was just horrible to see. I hate seeing them happy. Hated that stupid ass rock breaking gimmick. Hated ESPN running the events from the postgame continually on their network for the next 24 hours. No, that was gross, I never want to see it again. I never ever want to be the kind of program who hopes that we lose to those seersucker clad brie eating cabernet sipping douchebags just to get an expected outcome.

Beating them is the expectation.

"I have a PLAN. You just need to have a little goddamn faith, Whit. I just need. more. MONEY." - Justin van der Linde

Co-freaking-sign.

Also, those people think that beating UVA changed something. What if we'd lost to UVA and Whit still came out and said we're keeping Fuente. How fucking stupid would they looked having hoped to lose to them. Also, I'm with you, I will NEVER hope to lose to them. If we went 1-11 and beat UVA, you can bet your sweet ass that you could hear me say "at least we beat UVA."

Well if you believe in the infinite Earth theory there is a timeline where that went 11-0 and another where we went 0-11 and fuente was fired in both...

I can imagine no more rewarding a career. And any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction:
β€œI served in the United States Navy"

KCCO

A coach being fired from an 11-0 team going to compete in the ACC championship and CFP means 1 thing:

Mirror-Fuente is not a good man.

Click here to destroy wall.

I think it's pretty delusional to think Whit was going to fire Fuente but changed his mind after the UVA score. He's much more thoughtful than whimsical. That said, he also shouldn't have cited Fuente's record against UVA and UNC as a reason to keep him retained (as if the totality of the records didn't matter).

πŸ¦ƒ πŸ¦ƒ πŸ¦ƒ

1) I agree. Losing to loluva is never acceptable.

2) Can you imagine what would be happening right now if we did lose that game and Whit had the presser and still didn't fire him? Hard to believe this situation could be more poorly perceived, but I think it would have been if we had lost to little brother up the road.

1 million percent. Gotta draw the line somewhere

21st century QBs Undefeated vs UVA:
MV7, MV5, LT3, Braxton Burmeister, Ryan Willis, Josh Jackson, Jerod Evans, Michael Brewer, Tyrod Taylor, Sean Glennon, and Grant Noel. That's right, UVA. You couldn't beat Grant Noel.

I think I tend to undervalue what actually took place in the Virginia Tech athletic department between 1987-2015.

Frank Beamer took over a fledgling program that was under NCAA sanctions for exceeding scholarship limits. His first two seasons would be handicapped by 20 less scholarships.

In his first 6 seasons Beamer was 24-40-2 with that 6th season being a miserable 2-8-1. It appeared as if Beamer was not the man for the job. But David Blaine gave Beamer one more season so long as he made some difficult staff changes. Beamer did just that and followed up with a 9-3 1993 season. We all know how things went from there. It was probably one of the, if not the, single most important decisions the Virginia Tech athletic department has ever made.

But the wins and losses are only a small part of the story of the Beamer era at Virginia Tech. So much more was going on in and through both the athletic department of this small regional university. As mentioned above VT was dealing with probation issues, the were Independent, and the identity of the football program was a bit unknown.

1. Beamer brought with him a vision and plan that sated we could compete at the highest level with home grown talent. The commonwealth of Virginia would be the key focus of recruiting. And with that a major culture shift happened with the football program.
2. It took 9 seasons, but after the 1995 season Virginia Tech was put on the national map in a significant way.
3. Through Beamer's leadership and Jim Weaver's support our facilities were upgraded substantially.
4. In 1991 Virginia Tech joined the Big East and then in 2004 the ACC. We were no longer an "orphan" football program.
5. On October 16 1999 Virginia Tech put College Gameday on the map.

I could go on and on here. My point is this - The one constant through all of that was the forward thinking and ingenuity of a small town local boy, Frank Beamer. So many other people played a role and likely even led the way, but one thing is certain here, things never got stagnant for an extended period over all those years. At least not until the very end. When you look back and consider all the things that happened it truly is amazing. In my estimation Virginia Tech made a larger stride from 1987-1999 than Clemson did between 2010-present (that is certainly debatable).

We certainly had the right people in place to lay that foundation, I'm not sure today that we have the right people in place to build on it.

Is coronavirus over yet?

The thing we miss about Coach Beamer is how easy it was for us to understand him, and him us. A lot of the connection we don't get from Fuente was just implicit with him. It takes work to replace that, particularly when you're not from the same place as the people you're trying to connect with.

I honestly think part of the problem, both with fanbase and recruiting, has been that Fuente underestimated how much of a cultural change it would be for him personally moving out here.

I agree. And beyond that, something that Brian pointed out, is that Fuente is a football coach. That's it. His personality isn't going to allow him to be a successful P-5 football coach anywhere really because he can't do all of those other things. That's OK. We all have to be who we are.

Is coronavirus over yet?

Good post...but it's Dave Braine and not David Blaine. Pretty funny typo (if that's what it is), though! Kind of wish we had David Blaine, he's a miracle worker in my opinion.

Haha... great catch! That is funny. I think I'll leave it for the laugh.

Is coronavirus over yet?

As someone who was young and spunky at the end of the Weaver tenure, I definitely did not appreciate the spot he put the football team in during the early-to-mid 2000s. Yes, of course Beamer was excellent, but he doesn't have the success he does without the commitment to funding Weaver poured in.

At one point, Tech had the highest paid group of assistants in the country! That's big time football shit. They were early on so many trends, it set them up for success (then got complacent and passed by, but that's another story for another day.)

Yeah, I agree with this narrative, particularly about the early to mid 2000s.

But I think what we see is both the blessings and curses of all those years. Beamer and Weaver offered something truly amazing to the institution and athletic department, but it had a ceiling, and they had their weaknesses. We waited for a while, both with a new AD and a new head football coach, to help us take that next step. Unfortunately the new regime doesn't share the same type of forward thinking prowess here in 2020.

Is coronavirus over yet?

The context of that is important. We were paying through the nose for Big East full membership from 2000-04, then when we entered the ACC, one of the requirements was that we upgrade Olympic sports to ACC standards. We got a better financial deal from the ACC on day 1 than we were going to get from the BE until 2010, but we had to immediately put a lot of that money in wrestling, and the new pool in Christiansburg, and baseball, etc etc etc.

I think the timeframe in which things really got out of whack was near the end of Weaver's tenure, for understandable reasons.

So you are saying it got out of whack?

EDIT: Sorry this is a real old Beamer joke and didn't hit.

@hokie_rd

At the tail end of Weaver's term I think we were dealing with limited administrative bandwidth (for one, early-term Weaver would never have let the Seth situation drag out like it did), and that... really got after us.

People keep bring up that we had some of the highest paid assistants in the country, but that was easy before the salary explosion that has happened in the last 20 years.

In 2000, Bob Stoops won a championship and became the 3rd highest paid head coach at $1.4 mil (2 mil in 2020 dollars). Five assistant coaches make more than that today. Todd "i can't defend 3rd down" Grantham almost makes that. In 2000 the average HC made under $614,000 in 2020 dollars, today 103 assistant coaches make more than that.

Teams are now paying OCs and DCs more than they were paying the whole assistant coaching staffs in 2000.

This is not a we were at the top and we didn't adjust with inflation and such, its the market has come crashing down and the pay is ludicrous. You can't tell me Bo Pelini is more valuable to LSU than Bob Stoops was the OU in 2000.

We were keeping up with the Jones' and then Warren Buffet moved next door.

Largely agree with your comments, but I still think that seeing our staff spending fall from #3 in the country to ~35 in 20 years does speak to our commitment to football. It would be one thing if we slipped from 3 to 17, but, as I've said in other comments, we're lacking alignment across the university, in way that hasn't been the case since Beamer was hired.

This is not a we were at the top and we didn't adjust with inflation and such

It would be interesting compare increases in revenues and cost for the university to those of the athletic dept. I'm curious if athletic dept budgets are inflating at the same rate as university budgets.

Twitter me

I would also add how we were early adopters of playing Thursday night football, and how much Beamer embraced it. It was huge when that came around because there were just not that many nationally televised games, and it was a great way to really raise the profile of VT nationally. Shoot, the first game I even went to my freshman year in 95 was the Thursday night BC matchup (which we lost, but that season turned out to be an epic run after the 0-2 start)

You're dead-on that it's soft skills.

I've had people in my replies, very in their feels about Fuente allowing the players to choose not to go to a bowl and thus ending the bowl streak, and it seems to me it's mostly because of how the football alumni are reacting. The thing is, that's a decision peer programs -- the programs we, in modern college football (not 1997), have to worry about players in 2020 transferring to and from -- are allowing their players to make given how miserable the football experience has been this year.

The larger problem is, from reading things like Derek Smith's reaction you linked, that's about the only connection the football alumni felt like they had left. I don't blame them for being upset about that thread being cut too -- but the fix has to be making them feel like a part of the program again, no matter what you have to do year-to-year to keep current players happy. Dwight Vick's interview on Hokie Hangover this week was great for bringing that into focus.

I can't go to all the games anymore because of life stuff. OK, that's my issue. But I can't watch all of the games at home either without jumping through hoops because of the ACC Network shenanigans. I know almost nothing first-hand about the players or staff anymore because the walls are 10 feet high to media, whether online or traditional -- all I get is one bombshell a year by a national writer coming out of nowhere. All I can do regularly is buy the merch and get begged to continually give more money. Feeling that disconnected infuriates me, and all I did during my time at Tech was sit in the stands. I can't imagine how mad I'd be if I had worn the uniform.

And all of this is fixable if you try. But you have to try.

I know almost nothing first-hand about the players or staff anymore because the walls are 10 feet high to media

I think this is a good point that I hadn't really thought about. Remember when we all knew the story about David Wilson and the rabbit, or his car? Or when they had the camera crew following the team around way back and we saw a bunch of players giving Eddie Royal shit about how he looked like Freddy Adu? Even though we didn't *know* the players, there was that level of connection that people felt that has been severed. It's not hard to do that, and Fuente doesn't even need to be the face of it, let people like Hamilton and Tapp do that, or even the players. Not everyone has the personality that David Wilson does, but stifling everyone from talking to anyone is the exact wrong thing to do. Open some doors, help people give a shit about this team.

I could definitely do with more "Tweedy, it's WHIP" videos.

This is a terrific post. It brings more perspective to me. Thank you.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

Maybe Whit gave Fuente a copy of the book "How to Win Friends and Influence People." Problem (mostly) solved! There is still the whole running the QB on third and long. Is there a book for that?

Everytime I read a blog or listen to a podcast on this whole Babcock/Fuente situation my opinion switches to agreement with most recent one.

Thanks a lot stupid well-argued and explained people.

These pretzels are making me thirsty.

Exceptional work as usual Brian.

As I prepared for my column covering Fuente's replacement, I focused on one singular box I'd check if I were running the search: Power Five experience. Last winter it was baffling to hear exactly how much Fuente's flirtation with Baylor opened Tech's eyes. Of course you need more money, of course you need more recruiting staffing and glitzy graphics and football-centric facilities. That's the norm, and every year you don't figure that out, you push your football program more-and-more behind.

The ideal time for this line of thinking to take over the football program should have been during the transition from Beamer to Fuente. Frank had been at Tech for so long, it was hard to see what really needed modernizing. But a set of fresh eyes and different experiences can do wonders when it comes to refurbishment.

Fuente was used to doing more with less, and continued to try and do the same when he started his run in Blacksburg. But those issues go well beyond funding. Time and time again, Fuente has stubbed his toe when running into people problems, the soft skills of communicating to just about everyone.

I've thought that the P5 experience piece was incredibly overrated, but you changed my mind with this piece.

We all thought this was a turnkey job in 2015/16, but it's clearly not (at least it's not any more). This was Whit's blind spot in 2015, and this is why the Fuente hire didn't work. Given his past experience at WVU, Mizzou, and Cincy, he had not yet been at a 'modernized' football program. Fuente, given his past, had not either. Resourcing, staffing, etc was a blind spot for everyone in the administration. It's not that Fuente is 'in over head;' he just didn't know what he didn't know.

Now we know. It sounds like Whit has a plan to expand the resources. I'm doubtful at best that Fuente is the right guy to lead this change, but even if he is, this won't be an overnight fix. It will take time to build these muscles. To be honest, I'm just hopeful that we can enough of an infrastructure in place before Fuente is replaced, so we can ensure that we're attractive to top candidates.

Twitter me

in the message board community, we tend to see our little world of intense fandom as the overall opinion of tens of thousands of people who follow Tech football. It's not, and it's not particularly close.

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

Regarding transparency of the program, I think a small positive change would be to let us know who is going to be playing week to week. Tell us what players are hurt and what a time table to recovery is. I don't really care about open practice, though little tidbits from reporters would be nice. I want to know if someone breaks their toes and is out for 3-4 weeks before they are better. I'd like to know why Waller has been out all year. It'd be nice to know why James Mitchell didn't play against Liberty. It provides the fan base a connection to the team. Sure, it gives some info to the opposing teams but at what cost? It's hard to have grace or understanding as a fan base when I have no idea what is going on behind closed doors. I don't even think its fair to the players either. When there is radio silence, other people are going to fill the void with rumors and innuendo. And there have been waayy too many rumors around the program for too long.

So that's my small, concrete suggestion for improving fan engagement and transparency. Release a real injury report and tell me when you expect players to recover. I feel the benefit to fan engagement is > opponents game planning.

Thanks for this B, super level headed approach. I need that approach when I'm trying to be rational minded. Hopefully we can put the people and tactics in place to succeed like Buzz did for the Basketball squad. I absolutely love what Tech basketball is doing, with a coach that's older than CJF. Just look at what a young, youthful, engaging face will do for a program:

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ #YNWA

As others have stated, Fuente's biggest weakness is his inability to form relationships. This has been manifested by a high number of players exiting the program, terrible recruiting classes the last two years (particularly in the state of Virginia), and an abysmal relationship with fans/donors. Whit stating that Fuente is "misunderstood" is a huge indictment. It is his job to make current players, prospective players, and fans understand him. This is why he has failed and will likely continue to fail as a head coach. He probably is above average from an X+O's standpoint yet can't get or keep good players to play for him. I can understand Whits reasoning to want to run it back one more season with all of the hurdles with covid and a new defensive staff, but I feel the writing is on the wall. The program is clearly on a downward trajectory. How easy it must be for opposing coaches to recruit against VT right now. From a game plan perspective, stop running the damn QB so much. I understand it is a numbers advantage and we have had short term success with it. However, over the course of a season it is not sustainable. How difficult it must be for these QBs to stand in the pocket, make accurate throws and good decisions when they are gassed and their bodies are beat down from running the ball 20 times per game.

Tyrod’s Tailor

Great write up. Thank you.

The more I think about the situation, the more I think we Hokie fans need to embrace or refuse to embrace the new norm.

We were...
- a perennial 9-10 win team
- bowl games were a given
- league championships were attainable
- there was no in state competition
- a desirable destination for recruits and the national media
- a program with a blue collar brand, an opponent that no other program took lightly

We have become
- a perennial 5-6 win team
- bowl games are an aspiration
- league championships are something Clemson wins
- recruiting aspires to break into the Top 40 nationally
- we are arguably the 3rd or 4th best program in VA
- the brand is Hard, Smart, Tough. The product on the field looks anything but, and the competition looks past us to their next game.

Being a little older, this reminds me of the Dooley era. Absent a monumental shift in how the administration and coaches run the program, I'd suggest we all get comfortable with 6-6 and crossing our fingers for a bowl bid.

With all that said, accepting the status quo is weak. Pulling your donations is equally weak. If you see this as unacceptable, speak up to the administration, direct your donations to improve the areas that need most improvement, and keep the heat turned up on the coaching staff to field a better product. I live in Buckeye country and can assure you that there is zero tolerance for mediocrity. Fans, media, former players, major and minor donors, corporate advertisers and former coaches all expect and insist on the best. The quicker we all align on expecting a whole lot more, the quicker we exit Dooley era number two.

C. Clothier (CbusHokie)

Justin Fuente is not a bad person, at all. But he's pretty damn bad at just about everything that a modern top-25 Power Five program needs from their head coach off the field. You need someone who can build and then maintain hundreds of relationships at a time. Someone who can make donors feel special on the golf course in the morning, can FaceTime with a 16-year-old in the afternoon and then fly to talk shop with a high school coach in the evening.

Does anyone else think whole "Fuente isn't a CEO" a bit of a red herring? I think the primary goal of any head coach is relatively simple - win. The rest of it is "small potatoes".

I personally don't care if Fuente is not the best with rubbing elbows with Bill Goodwin and the rest of the VT elites. I don't care if Fuente is not a Mike London-level snake oil salesman to 757 5-star recruits. I don't care if some asshat 7 v. 7 football coach doesn't like Fuente because Virginia Tech isn't looking at his kids,

I just want to win (and stay out of spotlight from a Baylor/Penn State standpoint). If Fuente is able to do that by bringing in recruiting classes in the 40s, that works just as well as bringing in top 10 classes. The problem is Fuente isn't winning, All of this other stuff doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things.

Sure, but Fuente can't win without fixing at least some of these things. Without the stuff you've taken off the board, what's left that's causing this program to fail? Mostly tactical screwups, some QB development. To my read, those have been worth about two wins a year or so.

So now we're at 7 or 8 wins. Better than this year or 2018, sure, but to hell with that. I want to be back looking at 10-2 (7-1) or 11-1 (8-0) going into the ACCCG, with those losses to other top-15 teams at worst. (And never to effing UVa or any other in-state school.) We're not going to get there without recruiting relationships in talent-rich regions and building up coaches who want to send players to Virginia Tech first. We're not going to get there without recruits coming in for a visit and seeing NFL alumni back in Blacksburg on their off week, hyping the program and making the message clear that if recruits come here, they can come back in 10 years king of the world. We're not going to get there without, yes, the head coach being able to kiss the rings that need to be kissed to get million-dollar checks written.

Winning solves some problems. But other problems have to be solved in order to win.

Wrote basically the same words in different form, but you covered it so stopped. I'd just add the problems are the reason we aren't winning, not the other way around, and all that stuff matters, a lot.

@hokie_rd

This is interesting. I feel like the phrase "CEO coach" might be a little overrated, because of the whole "well Dabo was a receivers coach!" thing.

But the larger point to me is that winning coaches are all CEO coaches. Nick Saban completely modernized Alabama football twice, once in the beginning by taking charge of the boosters and another five years later when he hired Lane Kiffin to change the offense.

Fuente's not winning, but the reasons why are plentiful, and almost none of them have anything to do with things that happen on the field (a few timeouts not withstanding.) Successful power five coaches are successful because they can not only navigate everything thrown at them, but do so in a way that positively affects their program.

Meh, I think he has a trend of taking his foot off the gas in the 2nd half, or sooner if we have a lead he is content with.

21st century QBs Undefeated vs UVA:
MV7, MV5, LT3, Braxton Burmeister, Ryan Willis, Josh Jackson, Jerod Evans, Michael Brewer, Tyrod Taylor, Sean Glennon, and Grant Noel. That's right, UVA. You couldn't beat Grant Noel.

How much worse was Buzz compared to Fuente in that regard? Buzz was a dickhead to certain members of the press, told fans not to come to games and in several instances, acted like a a self-serving asshat. I have a second hand story of Buzz acting like douche to a big time donor.

But nobody cared because Buzz won. Buzz was worse than Fuente at being a "CEO" (outside of recruiting) but he was revered when he was still here.

Saying "Worse at being a [coaching] CEO (outside of recruiting)" is like saying "worse at being a public-company CEO (outside of stock price and cashflow)." And that's even before we get into the fact that two good recruits turn a program around in hoops, and do so immediately.

Everything you said about Buzz's dickhead behaviors is true, but he also had a crystal-clear, well-communicated vision for the program, and he sold the living hell out of it. Nobody was confused about what he was doing (building a personality cult with smiley-face stickers) or what he was going to do if he got the chance to go home (pack the whole thing up, lock, stock and barrel, and ship it to College Station -- but leave behind the knowledge that you can win at Virginia Tech). In 2016, I thought I knew what the Fuente VT brand was: offense such that we were never out of games, paired with the usual LPD. After so many years of QB carousel and now a Hamilton defense that never got a chance to define itself, I couldn't tell you what an optimal Fuente VT program looks like.

Fuente isn't winning, All of this other stuff doesn't matter

The problem is that the things you cite (schmoozing donors, building relationships for recruiting, etc) are all likely required of any coach who wants to earn the right to go full Belichick.

"Those who jump into the void owe no explanation to those who stand and watch."
--unknown

Great write-up. No offense to French or ITRepeter... but I rate this as the best thing I have read on TKP.

Or maybe it is just my "in the throes of the portal fury" mood.

Brian, this was one of your best columns of the year. πŸ‘

This was published for everyone to read to provide a look at some of TKPC exclusive content. If you can afford it, you should treat yourself to a membership this holiday season. We have some great offseason and hoops content planned.

This is a great article Brian and the responses have been a breath of insightful air compared to the last couple of days.

I (along with almost everyone here) was hitting F5 as fast as my fingers could fly during the Whit presser and I was dropping f#*k bombs about as fast as new tweets hit the headlines. The part about the fans & donations especially sent me into a tailspin and I called my wife at work to say, "guess what the f*#k Whit said?!". Later that evening I had a chance to watch the entire presser and see that most of what was tweeted was taken completely or slightly out of context. That said, the whole thing is a bad look from an AD who we all thought was smarter than that.

I think BM hit the nail on the head here. Fuente is a good football coach, but he lacks the soft skills that make a P5 coach a P5 coach. It's evident to anyone who has to deal with people on a daily basis if you watched the ESD presser that the man just doesn't like talking to people. You put a presser of CJF next to one of CMY and it's a night and day difference. Win or lose, CMY can smoke and joke with the reporters and he's got an air of ease that surrounds him. CJF looks like he's in the octagon and looking for the door to get out. Meanwhile you look at any of the truly successful P5 head coaches out there and they've got that flair, they've got the swagger, they've got the "je ne sais quoi" which makes true leaders successful. CJF just doesn't have it.

Now that's not to say that he can't grow into it. I wasn't that outgoing in HS, at VT, or even when I first started working in construction. Over the last 5 years as I've had to adapt to new leadership roles/responsibilities I've been fortunate to work for a company that's willing to coach and willing to train me. Willing to show me how to adapt to different people, when to know it's time to be aggressive and demanding and when it's time to slow my roll and just shoot the shit with someone to get what I want. A lot of that also took a desire to "be better" and grow personally. CJF can do that but only if he desires to do so.

I think VT Football is in a gully. CJF may know football, but he doesn't know the management side of it and that's what will keep biting him in the ass. Maybe Whit can do what he promised and "be there" for Fu and teach him how to grow into the shoes he clearly can't fill now. If not, then we are where we are for another year or two. I truly hope that this is Fu's moment and that he recognizes that and strives to be "the guy". If not then it doesn't matter if recruiting/facilities/staffing gets better, there won't be someone to lead them, someone to put the pieces together and be the HEAD coach.

All that to say, regardless of the status of the VT Football program, my wife and I will continue to donate. We'll continue to go to games. We'll continue to buy WAYYYYY too much orange and maroon stuff. I would ask that the rest of you remember that you support VT Football and not Fuente/Whit and regardless of what anyone says, nothing can happen without us donating or buying tickets.

We are top 10 in wins since 1995... So yeah VT can "compete" in the P5.. the myriad of current excuses coming out of the program notwithstanding. ODU and Liberty beat VT after 10 minutes in division 1.. so don't tell me the "landscape" has changed that much.

1995 is twenty-five years ago. How much has changed since then? It's laughable to say that somehow college football is immune to the drastic, quick landscape changes that every other part of life has seen. Phones had cords in 1995 and I'm typing this one one now.

Get Angry, Bud!

Great article and take on things! The whole aspect about Buzz forcing the basketball program into modern times was especially relevant to me. The basketball program just feels more inclusive and wants the fan involvement whereas the football program seems like it could care less either way.

I like Fuente. I believe he has had a series of unfortunate things happen that has made it hard for him to dig out of considering the off field weaknesses mentioned. However, I hear he isn't willing to change and I don't think that is exactly true. He recognized the need to change his recruiting methods last year, shifted focus to other areas around the country and got a lot of early returns. What appeared to be a great shift in methods crumbled before his eyes. Once realizing it, it was too late to change course. I believe he intended to change a lot about how he focused in state with his defensive hires. Unfortunately, it was massively derailed by covid restrictions in 2020. So, he screwed up recruiting and that is 100% on him. But, I do think he is trying to course correct. Unfortunately, the perception is out there now and I have little faith he can accomplish enough in the short term to fill the voids on the roster. We will be once again forced to rely on the portal. The good news is we have had success there and every player in it right now has instant eligibility. I am hoping we can strike gold and get back on track, but I am not betting on it.

"A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it." - K

This is what I was saying in another thread. I'd like to see one year where there's not something else going on (drama, injuries, covid, etc), so we can fairly judge a season. Maybe it'll be great, maybe it'll suck. But at least we'll know without anyone being able to come in with a "what about" to explain it away.

The good news is we have had success there and every player in it right now has instant eligibility.

In a year where the NCAA has waived most of the restrictions around eligibility and transfers, I still fully expect VT to run into some issue with a transfer next season.

These tired excuses are why we lose to liberty and odu. Justin Fuente doesn't coach in a vacuum. He coaches against other programs who miraculously don't have as many "unfortunate" things magically happen. Fuente made a conscious choice to shun Virginia HS coaches, that's not luck. He made a conscious choice not to develop Quincy Patterson - that or he's inept at doing so. He made a concious choice to alienate Trayvon McMillian and Damon Hazelton. He couldn't hold onto Doug Nester. These are not luck. There is no secret why he can't beat Pitt and goes 5-6. No secrets. He's not a good coach and he's a worse recruiter. It's not bad luck. But we can keep making excuses 6 years into his tenure as the 11th ranked ACC recruiting class comes in. There's always an excuse.

I am not making any excuses. Tired is your constant over simplification of things as if we can push an easy button, sweep this staff out the door, and instantly have all the things you want in the program. Fuente has screwed up a lot. But, I firmly believe that success requires a bit of luck in having the stars align. I dont think it is fair to point to every broken relationship or transfer and say it is Fuente's fault. All I am saying is that the stars haven't aligned for Fuente, AND he has short comings on top of that.

"A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it." - K

Well put, I agree.

Twitter me

Marcolini, you are a treasure.

21st century QBs Undefeated vs UVA:
MV7, MV5, LT3, Braxton Burmeister, Ryan Willis, Josh Jackson, Jerod Evans, Michael Brewer, Tyrod Taylor, Sean Glennon, and Grant Noel. That's right, UVA. You couldn't beat Grant Noel.

Brilliant level-headed take, Brian. I'm new to The Key Play so this is really refreshing after seeing all the vitriol by a segment of the fanbase. I don't believe Fu has the ability to change his ability to connect with the Hokie fanbase including current/potential donors. My opinion on the recruiting situation is the same as most of the commenters on this thread. Even if Fu and the current staff manage to turn a corner on recruiting, the damage has been done and it's going to take several years to get to a level where we need to be. I don't see significant improvement in our W/L record over the next few years which will only add to the overall issues we're attempting to address. It's unrealistic to think we could upgrade our facilities/infrastructure to the level of an Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, etc. but I will continue my monthly contributions regardless and hope that we've already hit rock bottom. Go Hokies!

"Dock Ellis pitched a no-hitter on LSD. People who have taken LSD tell the others how hard that might be." - Robin Williams

Good note. However, we were in the Nat Champ game after '99 campaign without Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson facilities. Agree we need to recruit (a quarterback) to get us there.

I wonder where a Michael Vick (*****) or Tyrod (*****) would go today?

Is Braxton the one? Can Knox put on some muscle and be the one? He showed a lot of poise v Clemson. Can we land a transfer: Charlie Brewer?

I recall Steve Logan constantly saying "you can't coach QB accuracy". That appears to be correct. I think we need to pick up a QB that has shown guts and accuracy on the P5 stage if BB or KK are not the options.

Carolina Hokie

we were in the Nat Champ game after '99 campaign without Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson facilities.

'99 was at least 5 years before the start of the modern college football arms race. The landscape has changed so drastically since then.

I wonder where a Michael Vick (*****) or Tyrod (*****) would go today?

IMO, the more valuable question is where would Kam Chancelor go today? Bud Foster talked about this on a recent podcast - said that in the age of Hudl and 247, there's no way Kam would be a 2-star; he'd be a 5-star with offers from Bama, OSU, etc. When Beamer and Foster scouted Kam, they knew he was a 5-star player. The thing was, no other school in the country knew this. That doesn't happen today; there's no more diamonds in the rough, so we have to find creative ways to maximize the resources at our disposal.

Twitter me

Welcome and thanks for joining TKPC.

Brain this is a fantastic article and i'm glad i read it before I wrote the AD on his recent comments. Young Hokie club members donate what they can afford to donate but those small donations have the potential to become big time donations as careers become more succesful. I still think he took a shot at the little guy but on a smaller scale. Coach Fu if we really do an analysis won a lot of games at Memphis but still lost to the more better teams in that league. I just feel (and this is my own opinion) that he is in way over his head at a P5 program. And our recruiting really reflects that inability to get the big time recruits or even retain recruits.

If we have to deal with Coach Fu as our coach for the next year so be it, however (and this is a huge however) if this trend continues we will be looking for more than just a head coach. The AD job should be available also. A side note here is I think Whitcock may be looking himself.

My biggest problem with Whit here is that we are being asked to not believe our eyes. Tech football is in rough shape and I don't need to make a list of all the well-documented reasons as to why. But to force no coaching or structural changes, accept losing results on the field and in recruiting, and just let it ride while imploring fans not to stop their support? I can't get that.

Fuente is not a good coach. He is what his record says he is.

The tape doesn't lie.

The talent level of the roster doesn't lie.

I hope I'm wrong. WB seems to think that supporting CJF can right the ship next year. We'll see.

He is what his record says he is.

And we let him get away with it!!!

People keep complaining about the talent level, but that is different than recruiting.

We had 3 4* QB on roster
We had one of the best rated Olines (PFF)
We had one of the best RBs this season
We have a group of talent TEs
Farley is probably a first round pick, Waller was a top corner in the ACC in 2019.

Outside of the DLine and the LBs that don't fit the new scheme there was a lot of talent on the 2020 team.

I left out Deablo since he was originally a Beamer recruit.

Offensive starters were good but how many would start for other top 10 teams? And what's behind them on the bench? And defense? No need to even go there... You could make an argument that Fuente raised the talent floor but it seems to many that the ceiling has also been lowered in comparison to the Beamer era.

Top 10 team? Whoa there is no way for VT to be a top ten team on a regular basis, so that's a huge step to think that VT would have a ton of players any year that could play on a top 10 team.

Waller and Farley were the best two corners in the ACC last year, which means they were better than what Clemson had, so they could. Darrisaw would probably be on the list too. Herbert is a home run hitter than is neck and neck with DeVonta Smith from Bama for long plays, so that's good company. Hooker's QB rating is better than Ian Book's. Mitchell is 3rd in the ACC for TEs after BCs and Miami's. Mitchell also is better YPC than either of them, so in theory ND and Clemson would both take him.

In 2011, I'd argue we had David Wilson, Danny Coale, Jayron Hosley, and maybe Jarrett Boykins that top 10 teams would take (Fuller and Gayle maybe, but they were still young). And if they'd take Fuller in 2011, then they'd probably take Dorian Strong in 2020, cause teams stopped throwing his way and he's a true frosh with 4 more years. Not saying he will be as good as Kyle Fuller.

Gosh, after another predictable CFP selection, this title feels ever more appropriate. The landscape of college football has changed so much it doesn't ever seem real that VT will make it to another Natty, let alone a playoff spot. Bowls were already fringing on being a joke but there was a little something to them that kept you and it seems the players, etc. interested. Now since the CFP, post-season football is completely meaningless (e.g., opt outs of NY6 bowls) and in season results carry more weight. Basically, 99% of teams are up against their own W/L records each year versus any real post-season activities that will enhance program legitimacy. Just sad what it has become.

I guess in the same vain, does it really matter if Fu is average? I don't think he is a great fit but each year that passes, it seems the cards are stacked higher and higher against any team like VT making the playoff. So, basically, what is the point? 6, 7 or 9 wins? I enjoy more Ws but if we beat Duke and Wake and are 9-3 vs beating UNC and Fl St. as 9-3, will anyone notice? Maybe we should pile all our resources into MBB which has a greater chance and more meaningful feel of post-season success?

If nothing else, this year has more and more programs screaming that a 8 game is playoff is really required. A&M would most likely have been included. Cincy would have been in and the grumbling about anOSU would have been less as they could have squeaked in as the Big10 champion. Each of the Power 5 conference champions, the highest ranking G5 champion, and 2 at large spots should be the way forward. If you guarantee the G5 a spot at the playoff they will stop screaming and most of the time the 1 or 2 seed is going to get a chance to play (punish ) them.

College Football can't sustain this current top heavy model. We either need a larger playoff system where more teams/fanbases feel inclusive or go back to the old bowl system. We know the latter isn't happening. So, I say why waste any more time expanding the playoffs. Get it done.

There is no sport without hope. We all have been there. Maybe you're enjoying a nice cornhole game at a tailgate and then a pair of dudes call next that play in local tournaments and nobody stands a chance. What happens, everybody but those two guys lose interest and move over to saggy balls.

"A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it." - K

These are interesting questions to ponder. Nick Saban leveraged the tidal wave of college football's popularity in the early 2ks and the cultural proclivities of America's second most insecure and backward state to turn Alabama into a football brand that happens to also be connected to a "university." And everyone else had to follow along because the money was too big to ignore.

I don't know how Clemson is keeping pace with Alabama and OSU budget-wise but if I ran the IRS I'd be having a field day with these institutions and just the SEC in general. If it were up to the SEC, they would be the only league in the game. Maybe that will somehow make them feel better about all the treason, civil rights abuse and losing the war, I don't know. They honestly don't care what happens with the rest of the P5 so long as they can continue to circle-jerk themselves over being great at football and I don't see how that's good for anyone. But that's just me...

Another thing I don't understand is what will happen as people tire of seeing the same 5 teams compete for the CFP every year... it's groundhog day. Maybe nothing. Either way VT will have to make a decision if the financial disparities continue to accelerate. Maybe they already have decided to let football simmer and shift focus to basketball. I don't know how that makes financial sense but VT has truly become small potatoes wrt football and that's disappointing to me.

Upvote for acknowledging the Alabama state motto: "We're not last!"

The subtext of that motto is "Thank god for West Virginia."

I wish they'd do it like a golf cut each year... look at the field, and pick a good cut off. This year, we only need to see Bama and Clemson - they are the clear 1 and 2 (OSU didn't play enough, sorry). Last year, we had 3 good teams, so a 4 team playoff was necessary. 2007 would've had a 16 team playoff. 2014 would've had 6 teams. 2010 would've had 8 teams.

Unlike most, I'm very opposed to expanding the playoff to 8. It doesn't actually help any of the lower ranked teams; it gives outsiders a "shot", but that shot is so low percentage, it doesn't justify the devaluing of the regular season IMO. Clemson and Bama are so far ahead of the pack, no one is beating them unless clemson/bama is missing key contributors.

Twitter me

The regular season is already meaningless for all but 10 teams every year, including every G5 team. Expanding the playoff gives ~20-30 teams a shot at the start of the year instead of 10.

Get Angry, Bud!

~20-30 teams a shot at the start of the year instead of 10.

I just disagree... I don't think those extra 10-20 teams have a shot.

Twitter me

Are you saying you just don't believe they could win? Because expanding the playoffs to give those conference winners a slot will by definition be giving them more of a shot than they have now.

In my opinion, it will be like the basketball tournament. Cinderella teams will advance but never win the whole thing.

"A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it." - K

Are you saying you just don't believe they could win?

Yes. Moving to 8 teams will result in an extra 4 games each year, but I think at best that means 1-2 good games per year (which we already get in other bowl games). In 12 semi-final games over the past 6 years, there's only been 3 games that are one score games, 8 games that are blowouts. I just don't see any point in expanding. The only teams that will have a shot are stacked teams that get hot late in the season, like 2014 OSU or 2016 USC.

Twitter me

I agree with you on that. The deeper the playoff gets, the more talent you need to win it all. But, fans are growing tired right now. It is almost like the top 10% is playing in a different league than the bottom 90. If we want real parity, it wont come by playoff expansion alone. There has to be a more equal distribution of talent. I don't know how to do that except by scholarship reductions which also feels wrong. At least a larger playoff pool allows head to head definitive answers, especially for undefeated G5s.

"A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it." - K

I think a larger playoff pool could help the recruiting for other schools. Instead of all of the incoming talent funneling into Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, ND, Oklahoma, and maybe a couple of other schools, they'll start looking at other teams because there are more pathways to a national title. Especially if the playoff has automatic bids for conference champs.

That kind of setup could be a boon for ACC Coastal teams. "Hey kid, you can come here and we might lose a couple of games along the way, but we'll still have a shot at Clemson at the end of the year and maybe Alabama."

College football needs to get out of the mindset that anything other than an undefeated season is a bad year. Expanding playoffs doesn't water down the regular season, it gives more cushion to more teams, and thus provides more meaningful games down the stretch.