Keith Cephus

Get the Max with Minium: Fox's Tim Brando is Dead Wrong; Virginia Tech Deserves Praise for Playing ODU in Norfolk

September 25, 2018
By ODU Athletics

By Harry Minium

NORFOLK, Va. – I spoke briefly with Fox sports commentator Tim Brando a couple of decades ago at a long-forgotten NCAA tournament game, and he seemed like a very decent guy. Based on his pleasant TV personae, he’s the kind of dude you’d like to have a beer with.

But sometimes, even the nicest people go on Twitter and say the silliest things.

That’s what Brando did minutes after Old Dominion shocked No. 13 Virginia Tech, 49-35, in one of the biggest upsets ever in college football.

He trashed the Hokies for traveling to ODU.

“Somebody please tell me why would @HokiesFB play a road game at Old Dominion? One of the dumbest scheduling mistakes in the modern history of CFB. It’s this kinda scheduling by P5 schools that so plays into @SEC hands. How dumb and Dumber is THAT?”

I’ve got some news for you, Tim, it was legendary former Tech coach Frank Beamer who thought scheduling this game would be a good idea. The late Jim Weaver, one of the most standup guys I’ve ever met, was Tech’s athletic director in 2012 when the schools signed on to play this long-term series.

Other Tech officials thought it was such a smart thing, the Hokies and Monarchs are scheduled to play 11 more times through 2031.

Five of those games are in Norfolk, and there’s a good reason why. Blacksburg is on other side of the state from Tidewater, as our region is often called. It’s a 5 ½-hour drive on a good day. That’s a long haul for Tech fans to make to watch a game.

Greater Tidewater has 1.7 million residents, more than cities such as Jacksonville and Memphis. There are thousands of Tech fans here. And the high school football in the 757, as we are known because of our area code, is legendary.

Remember Michael Vick? He grew up in Newport News before signing with Tech and leading the Hokies to the national championship game.

And Bruce Smith? He played at Norfolk’s Booker T. Washington High School before moving on to Blacksburg and becoming the NFL’s all-time sacks leader.

The Hokies aren’t playing at ODU out of the goodness of their hearts. They are coming to Tidewater for their fans and to help boost their recruiting.

Tech had 14 players from the 757 on their roster, and even though seating was limited because ODU could only squeeze 20,532 fans into Foreman Field at S.B. Ballard Stadium, there were at least 4,000 dressed in Hokie maroon and orange in attendance.

By the way, there will be a larger and much more luxurious stadium at ODU in 2019.

The schools enjoy good relations. Their alumni associations held a joint pep rally in downtown Norfolk Friday night and on Saturday, joined in a tailgating party on ODU’s Kaufman Mall.

Tailgaters in ODU white and blue mingled collegially with those in maroon and orange in the traditional tailgate lots. Not only do the fans get along, but school officials have a high degree of respect for each other.

Even if all that weren’t true, what is wrong with Power 5 teams going on the road to play mid-major schools? N.C. State and North Carolina both played at ODU. Virginia and Wake Forest are headed here in the near future.

Tim, you sounded a bit like your sportscaster friend Jay Bilas, who chaffed when the NCAA basketball tournament committee invited VCU to the Big Dance in 2011. He said inviting the Rams “doesn’t pass the laugh test.”

All VCU did was make it to the Final Four.

Why does it seem that so many big-time broadcasters have it in for mid-major schools? Frankly, you should be rooting for the underdogs. It’s good for your ratings when David slays a Goliath.

Count ODU now among Appalachian State and UMBC as giant killers.

Power 5 schools already have immense advantages in both football and basketball. Thanks to networks like yours, they get rich with TV money, while the Group of 5 schools like ODU make very little.

They have larger stadiums, along with a much higher TV profile, and better facilities.

That’s why I think Virginia Tech should be praised for having the guts to come to Norfolk.

And by the way, S.B. Nation, which covers college football pretty thoroughly, agrees that while the Hokies lost this game, the series with ODU makes sense.

Both Virginia Tech and Virginia have agreed to play at Liberty University, as they should now that the Flames have moved up to FBS. And if James Madison ever moves up (and the Dukes would be an awesome addition to Conference USA), Tech and U.Va. would no doubt go to Harrisonburg.

N.C. State is playing Louisiana Tech home and home. Given that you’re from Shreveport, La., you should appreciate the Wolfpack venturing to nearby Ruston.

Texas Tech is playing at UTEP and UTSA. North Carolina and Duke will play at Charlotte.

And Mississippi State, from the SEC, has a home and home series with Southern Miss.

I could go on, but you get the point.

I’ll let ODU coach Bobby Wilder have the final words:

“Anybody that questions this series doesn’t have any knowledge of our state,” he said.

“We all know that Virginia Tech’s program really took hold and catapulted into a national program in 1999 when Michael Vick was the quarterback.

“We know that they have thousands and thousands of graduates in this region, as well as thousands of fans.

“National people don’t know and understand that. I also think it’s disrespectful to the late, great Jim Weaver and to Frank Beamer who saw the importance of this series.

“When ODU became an FBS program, they understood how important this would be for the state. They knew it was important for all the FBS programs in the state to be playing each other.”

Contact Minium:

MORE IN Football


C-USA Football Media Day: Behind-The-Scenes
C-USA Football Media Day: Lawrence Garner
C-USA Football Media Day: Isaac Weaver