In college football these days, the SEC is the place to be.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a talented recruit or a school looking to join the conference that’s won the last six BCS national championships; the new trend is to head south.
This gravitational pull of the NCAA’s premier football conference is so strong that in these slow summer months, the rumors start to swirl about potential new members for the conference, and Virginia Tech has been one of the many possibilities bandied about.
While it may be wishful thinking on the part of many Hokie fans, given the administration’s devotion to the ACC and the fact that Florida State and Clemson don’t seem to be leaving just yet, the SEC would seem to be a good fit for Tech in a variety of ways.
There have been plenty of people saying that the ACC is holding Tech back from becoming a legitimate football power, and a move to the SEC would certainly put an end to that conversation. However, the recent Stadium Woods debate and subsequent recommendation by the committee formed to solve the problem indicates that Virginia Tech simply isn’t ready for a jump southward.
Tech often acts as if it’s simply another southern football school, and while the huge crowds and devoted national fan base are similar to many SEC schools, it’s simply not on the same level. Many like to act like the Hokies are on the same level as schools like Alabama and Florida, but the behavior of the university just doesn’t bear that out.
Forget the difference in the talent the team attracts- that’s merely a product of conference affiliation. Instead, examine the athletic department’s revenue.
A USA Today report recently revealed that the department raked in a hefty $66 million last season. It may seem like a lot, until you consider that Alabama brought in nearly double that at $124 million.
Perhaps a comparison with last year’s national champion is a bit unfair, but it illustrates a larger point. For all the talk of the dominance of the football team, it’s just not the revenue generator that one might expect.
Part of that is due to the size of Lane Stadium. At a capacity of roughly 66,000, it remains one of the more intimidating venues in the sport, but there’s certainly room for expansion. Some have been nervous that any expansion might change the acoustics of the stadium, and while that’s a prudent concern, expansion will be a necessity to compete with other SEC schools financially.
However, the Stadium Woods controversy demonstrates a potential future obstacle to expansion and exemplifies the kind of thinking that has held back the program from achieving its potential.
Assuming the woods remain standing after the committee’s recommendation to build the new indoor practice facility elsewhere, it’s hard to imagine that an expansion to the stadium wouldn’t threaten their existence once more.
While Tech will always have plenty of champions proclaiming the ecological value of the woods, the university simply can’t allow their attitude regarding the football team to be so indecisive.
It’s bad enough that they can’t get the new practice facility built to quickly protect players and coaches from unpredictable weather, but future opposition to the university’s biggest moneymaker just isn’t acceptable for a school that has SEC aspirations.
In short, Tech can’t settle for any more half measures when it comes to football. It seems as if the school will be forced to leave the ACC, whether it’s next season or five seasons from now, if it is to truly reach the heights of college football.
More than anything, university officials will have to change their attitude. People may object to a college being too focused on sports, but those complaints seem to get quieter when that focus leads to national titles.
Change is coming for Virginia Tech football. The only question is if the school will start acting like it belongs in the SEC at the top of the world or if it’s comfortable staying in the middle of the pack with the ACC.
It takes a lot for this Northerner to admit it, but let’s hope Tech gets more southern very soon.