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Down East 11/10/09

Congratulations, Ivan!


The A-Line Board of Football Experts

Virginia Tech- East Carolina Tailgate pix at the Clubhouse Tailgate

A win is a win is a win and Tech won. Considering how the second half of October had gone, it was nice to win again, finally. Style points don’t show up in the record.

graspingVirginia Tech ventured into the land of the scrub pine and Strawgrasper last Thursday night, traveling to Greenville and beating East Carolina. While there is always humor to be found in pointing out the strawgrasping done by the Strawgraspers [“we are too a real football program”], there was enough of the usual vandalism, in the form of  the rear window of a Hokie SUV parked at our hotel being smashed out [not ours- prior trips to that little bit of West Virginia in eastern North Carolina had convinced us of the necessity of removing all VT insignia] to remind one exactly where Tech was playing. This was my fifth trip to ECU in the last two decades; all have now involved the observation of broken glass. It seems to be an ECU tradition.

I am not the biggest fan of Tech continuing to play the Strawgraspers. I am aware of the argument that there but for the grace of the deity and John Casteen goes Virginia Tech, but don’t much care. Tech was indeed chosen for the Big East over ECU back in 1990 and has since moved on to bigger and better things and conference neighborhoods while the Strawgraspers continue to grasp at the ever-elusive Li’l E straw for going on twenty years now. There were very good reasons for the choice, just as there are very good reasons why, whenever the Li’l E finds itself looking to expand, ECU is always the first wannabe marked off the list. Too bad.  The Strawgraspers seem to have great difficulty in understanding the words ‘no interest.’

Left out of anything remotely resembling a regional conference and forced into that amalgamation of directions and hyphens known as CUSA, the Strawgraspers find themselves in a very tough situation. Quite frankly, that is their problem, not Virginia Tech’s. Playing them does little but provide yet another straw, this one at program legitimacy, for the Strawgraspers to grasp. But, jimmy did not seem to request my opinion on the matter before scheduling a long-term series.

With nobody approaching a rival in CUSA, ECU grasps at the rivalry straws wherever they can find them. That includes Virginia Tech. Last Thursday morning, the Clubhouse Tailgate 091105-ecu-tailgate-09 (2)had barely mixed my first Bloody Mary when a crew from a local television station pulled up to provide the Clubhouse Tailgate with more of the media coverage to which we have become quite accustomed. The very first words out of the mouth of the WITN info-babe were regarding the great rivalry between Tech and the Strawgraspers. She did not seem overly impressed with my response of ‘what rivalry?’ Tech has 11 conference rivals plus enough games against schools named Nebraska and Alabama and LSU and Texas A&M and Southern Cal to place any against ECU at the bottom of the interest meter. The Strawgraspers don’t see it that way. When you are in a conference with Southern Miss and UAB, games against Tech and the NC legislature-coerced ones against Carolina and State must seem like pretty big deals.

When entering dowdy Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, one is immediately reminded that these are the people left behind in any conference formation or expansion. The stadium is not only small, but they have managed the Kenan-ish trick of using a very low stadium rake to place fans as far away from the playing field as humanly possible. Travel around to the stadiums in North Carolina enough and you really come to appreciate the steepness of the grandstands at Lane that place most everybody on top of the field. Throw in the Erector Set look of the place and what appears to be a double-wide trailer posing as a press box and it is not hard to imagine officials of even the Li’l E doubling over in laughter every time the subject of ECU joining is broached.

pirate63Then there is the game atmosphere, or lack thereof. Compared to Wallace Wade [when the place isn’t full of Tech fans], I guess it could be considered ‘raucous,’ but when even Carolina has a better game environment, perhaps the Strawgraspers should give the weauxfing about their ‘game experience’ a rest. Humor was provided by the PA announcer constantly punctuating his First Down calls with a goofy ‘aargh,’ but that ended by the Fourth Quarter, perhaps because of all of the laughter it was eliciting from the Tech sections. A soon-to-be-former Russian described dowdy Dowdy-Ficklen as a ‘high school’ atmosphere, which pretty much nailed it.

As for the game, well, Tech won. The Hokies won because they are the better team with the better athletes. They also won despite their continuing to look a lot like a team that is still thinking about the Georgia Tech game and playing against an opponent involved in what ECU AD Terry Holland described as their ‘Super Bowl.’ That this was essentially for Tech a meaningless OOC game stuck by ESPN into the middle of the ACC schedule certainly showed up in the generally-lackluster play by the Hokies, but, nevertheless, they still won by 13. A win is a win is a win, especially in the small-time environment in which Tech found itself last Thursday.

Tech now moves into the ‘playing out the string’ last quarter of its schedule. The games will be against what are, this year, anyway, the three worst teams in the ACC, although NC StateVT_TechSheet_R1-7 does manage to keep things interesting, even when they lose. At least they will be ACC games. This Saturday, the game against Maryland will find Tech garbed in Nike’s latest creation, the whiz-bang ‘uniform of the future.’ Perhaps one day Tech fans will have an offense that displays the creative thought obviously given by Nike into coming up with a new uniform for Tech to wear each and every week.

Through most of this column, I might have given the impression that I do not have the highest regard for the East Carolina Strawgraspers. That is because I don’t. It might have made sense a few decades ago to schedule them, but not anymore, especially if games against them are to be played in the middle of the ACC season in dowdy Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Tech received opportunities that were not available to ECU and still aren’t. The Hokies took advantage of them and moved on. Having moved on should not involve playing at ECU, period and most definitely not playing them in November.


  1. bill lipscomb — November 10, 2009 #

    do not understand why some folks think tearing down and making fun of other people and their school and football program is considered by many to be funny and good reading.


    Jim Reply:

    They deserve it. It could have been worse- I could have made fun of their cannon, too.


  2. Brad — November 10, 2009 #


    I can appreciate your comments on ECU wanting to get into a BCS conference and raise their program to the next level. I would also assume this is based on the facts that VT plays in a poor conference for football and is struggling to raise its level of winning. This sounds as if the VT Strawgraspers and the ECU Strawgraspers shares a unique kindred relationship which would merit continued scheduling..


    Jim Reply:

    Not to me, it doesn’t.


  3. JDanWuff — November 10, 2009 #

    Be careful what you say or the NC legislature will mandate a game with ECU or “there will be penalties” when budgets are passed. AND remember this is the NC legislature, so never mind you’re in Virginia. They will cut your budget anyway.
    Did I mention that the NC legislature is full, to the brim, with idiots?


    Jim Reply:

    Maybe the reason the VA governor is cutting our budget is BECAUSE we scheduled games with ECU.


  4. Rob D — November 10, 2009 #

    Good article, and it is telling that as distracted as Virginia Tech seemed, they still coasted to victory in a seemingly pointless ESPN Thursday night game. And by pointless, I mean that after two ACC intraconference games that went down to the wire, an ACC team stepping out of conference to play a CUSA team seemed like a Thursday game meant for mid-September, and not November. I’ve no love for the Pirates’ program, and the condescending demeanor from many of their fans about being the only “football school from North Carolina” while proceeding to lose to the four ACC schools from the state more often than not. As long as you’re stuck playing them, continue to mop the floor with them and their delusions of grandeur.


  5. Greg — November 10, 2009 #

    Well said, Jim. I was left with jaw hanging open when I first read of the 9 season (I believe that’s correct) package that Mr. You-Can’t-Bring-Sugar-Cookies-Into-My-Stadium inked with the strawgraspers. As though we didn’t play enough directional and other wannabe big boy teams already each year. Of course, they do own that “upset” win from last year.

    I have always been and remain a proponent of NCAA-mandated requirements that D1 teams such as VT MUST play 1 and 1s with other, like-positioned D1 teams. How much more appealing to play Big 11 teams or Big 12 teams as opposed to the directional Michigans, Kentuckys, Arkansas, etc. Shoot, maybe if we played SEC teams long enough, we’d learn how to again beat them. What has it been, 2002 since we last actually beat a SEC team?


  6. Dave — November 12, 2009 #

    While playing the Nebraskas of the world and other BCS teams is preferable to playing ECU, I would say playing ECU is preferable to playing some I-AA team and paying them lots of money to do it.

    Also, if we didn’t play ECU this year, we wouldn’t be able to make fun of their tiny cannons.


  7. Greg — November 13, 2009 #

    I have no problem playing ECU – not just for 9 consecutive years. That is over the top in my opinion.
    However, you do have a point. It is always amusing to see a smaller team with cannon envy.


  8. David — November 16, 2009 #

    I rather like the ECU series. It’s a nearby game for Hokies from the 757 and it certainly isn’t a bad game in years like this where it is accompanied by two BCS opponents. The problem is years like 2010 when it is accompanied by three other non-BCS teams.


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