Why Culture Matters

Virginia Tech's 41-20 win over Tulane in the Military Bowl proves one thing: in the age of the transfer portal and player opt-outs, culture always wins.

[Virginia Tech Athletics]

Every so often I think about the 2021 Pinstripe Bowl.

Virginia Tech got pounded by Maryland 54-10 in what was the epilogue to the Justin Fuente era. With a lame-duck coaching staff, nearly half of Tech's starters opted out of playing. Talking over a 70-yard touchdown pass with words of playing "a great brand of defense", Brent Pry became a meme before his tenure at Tech had even started.

Say what you want about "kids these days" not caring about bowl games, but Maryland did not have a single opt-out on that dreary day in Yankee Stadium.

In today's age, bowl games are a reflection of a team's culture. Getting players to participate in the first place is just as much of a burden as formulating a game plan for the opposition.

Last week, Virginia Tech took down Tulane 41-20 in the Military Bowl to finish with a winning record for the first time in four years. In his postgame press conference, Pry was flanked by two players to his left in Kyron Drones and Bhayshul Tuten who were integral to the team's success. Both players chose not only to play in that game, but to return next season. As a team, the Hokies had only three opt-outs, none particularly consequential.

In that, we see a glowing endorsement of Pry and his staff. Players want to play for them. So when I think about that Maryland game, and other postseason blowouts like it, I'm reminded of one thing: culture matters.

The Art of Culture

"Culture" is one of those nebulous buzzwords that people throw around like candy. It's a phrase like "work ethic" or "toughness": every coach preaches it, but few can master it.

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