Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech athletics
When Virginia Tech Director of Athletics Whit Babcock took the podium on Tuesday morning to officially launch the athletic department’s new “Reach for Excellence” campaign, there was a sense of clear direction made by the Hokies’ AD.
Virginia Tech athletics is wanting to jump into the top third of the ACC financially, and it has the plan to do so.
Tuesday, April 20 may arguably go down as one of the most important days in Hokie sports history. The foursome of Virginia Tech’s 16th President Tim Sands, Babcock, head football coach Justin Fuente, and head women’s golf coach Carol Robertson all stood in front of the Hokie faithful to announce a $400 million commitment towards this well-thought out project.
$150 million is already raised and highlighted by the renovation of Cassell Coliseum. It’s a building that’s been in use since 1962.
A New Beginning
What the “Reach for Excellence” campaign does is provide Virginia Tech with a chance. That chance is to build on what, in reality, is a pretty strong athletic department performance-wise in competition.
It’s hard to make this claim with the football team missing its first bowl game since 1992. But one could argue this has been Virginia Tech’s strongest year in athletics as a whole in recent history.
Men’s and women’s basketball both made the NCAA Tournament in the same year for the first time in school history. Baseball and softball are both poised to be the top seeds for an NCAA Regional. Men’s soccer recently secured its fifth straight NCAA Tournament bid. While wrestling and track and field have continued to assert themselves among the nation’s best, both of those programs took home some sort of ACC championship this calendar year.
Now it’s time for the athletic department to advance with them. With this new campaign, Babcock and company have five pillars that’s planned to help do so.
A Needed Step for Virginia Tech Football
We mentioned football before, because guess what? It’s stating the obvious. No matter how well all of those other sports do in Blacksburg, football is and will always be the most important sport to the Virginia Tech administration, fan base, and community.
Babcock put that idea in the forefront of Tuesday’s press conference when he talked about the new football enhancement fund that’ll allot Virginia Tech $30 million over an unspecified period of time towards recruiting, assistant coaches’ salaries, quality-control coaches, player development, and capital needs.
This is a much-needed step for Fuente’s program. If Virginia Tech truly wants to be competing for ACC titles and the College Football Playoff year in and year out as Babcock stated, this had to happen for the Hokies.
You want to compete with the Clemson’s that have a whole wing of a facility dedicated to recruiting and boasts multiple offensive and defensive analysts? You want to compete with North Carolina in the ACC Coastal each season when the Tar Heels are trending in that direction as well? Put that necessary money into football, and that’s exactly what they’re doing.
Modernizing An Historic Venue
The second pillar? The aforementioned Cassell Coliseum renovation will upgrade an arena that houses men’s and women’s basketball in addition to Virginia Tech volleyball and wrestling.
The sparkling new venue will require $75 million to put to life these exciting images. Raising $50 million of that is still on the checklist, but funds will be garnered privately in terms of bringing in the other two-thirds.
This is arguably the headliner of this major campaign. These images truly are sparkling and provide a clear glimpse into the future for this beloved venue in Blacksburg. It’s an advancement well needed and one that’ll finally take place.
The new Cassell Coliseum will include a gorgeous glass entryway to the likes of Louisville’s KFC Yum! Center, just to a smaller degree. Brand new club seating, enhanced and wider concourse areas, and a second deck to be added above that premium club level are also in the plans.
It is everything a Hokie fan could want and more. Currently seating 9,275 fans, Babcock says he intends keeping capacity over 9,000.
We don’t know how with a large chunk of the current maroon chairback seats needing to be taken out to implement some of the new ideas, but we shall see.
The seventh-year AD hopes the renovation doesn’t displace the Hokies. But that’s hard to imagine with the 59-year-old arena soon to become a major construction site. The Berglund Center in nearby Roanoke may be on call. The move would be similar to Clemson’s to Greeneville, S.C. with LittleJohn Coliseum being renovated during the 2015-16 season.
There is no timetable for this specific project to begin. Babcock hopes it can be completed in the next five years.
The Drive for 25 And More
The remaining three pillars are all equally, if not more, important than the previous two.
First things first; the Drive for 25 is still well in affect. Hokie Club memberships have skyrocketed in the past five years from 10,000 to now over 20,000. A light now shines at the end of the tunnel toward the overall goal of 25,000 members.
The No. 1 thing for fans to remember if they want to help out with this new campaign is simple. Give to the Hokie Club. It’s the best thing you can possibly do.
Babcock and company also pledged to continue to strive for comprehensive excellence in all sports by providing operating expenses, facility improvements, and nutritional and strength and conditioning programs.
We’ve already seen that well put together. The brand new student-athlete performance center is among the best in the country. Virginia Tech’s football weight room is another nice add to Fuente’s repertoire.
The final pillar is to continue to expand scholarship endowments. This will better recruiting and expand the overall financial capacity to support student-athletes. That goes a little bit back to the Hokie Club, which strives to reach $20 million annually for these student-athlete scholarships.
As mentioned before, this is a much-needed and enormous step forward for Virginia Tech athletics.
The plan is solid, the vision is clear, and the excitement is there. Now, we go.
This process could take a while, but it’s the right one. Trust it. Tuesday was a great day for the Hokie nation.