Virginia Tech football has faced a wave of criticism since it became one of the more unlikely at-large Bowl Championship Series selections of all-time Sunday night, but Coach Frank Beamer was in no mood Monday to back down on his assertion that the Hokies deserve to be in the 2012 Sugar Bowl against Michigan.
When Beamer spoke with reporters in the afternoon, he brought with him two sheets of paper listing the various accomplishments the Hokies have attained in recent years, and he went to them often as he once again defended his team’s merits.
“I don’t think we have to apologize to anyone,” Beamer said. “When you’re the winningest football team since 1995, I don’t think there’s any apologies necessary. When you’re the only team to have won 10 games [eight] straight [years], the only team in the country to do that, yeah, I don’t think there’s an apology necessary. When you’ve been to 19 straight bowl games, I don’t think there’s an apology necessary.”
Beamer didn’t argue that there were other teams who have done enough this season to warrant an at large BCS berth. In fact on Beamer’s final coaches’ poll ballot, which was made public Monday, he had both Boise State and Kansas State ranked ahead of the Hokies. Instead, Beamer said, this is just another example of how the perception of Virginia Tech football has changed of late.
Back in 2000, Michael Vick’s final season as starting quarterback, the Hokies lost just one game and finished ranked No. 5 in the final BCS standings. But Virginia Tech was relegated to the Gator Bowl when the Fiesta Bowl chose No. 6 Oregon State and a two-loss Notre Dame team that was ranked No. 11 in the BCS as its at large selections.
This year, the Hokies finished No. 11 in the BCS and the Sugar Bowl selected them over No. 7 Boise State and No. 8 Kansas State.
“What I really think it says is that our name has changed,” Beamer said. “Several wins later, our name has changed. . . . And I think there are always other things involved in bowls. It’s not just necessarily where you’re ranked and so forth. For particular bowls, there’s other issues. But I do think it also says Virginia Tech, how people feel about Virginia Tech.”
Beamer was alluding to the great fan support the Hokies enjoy, and Sugar Bowl chief executive Paul Hoolahan said Sunday night Virginia Tech’s reputation as a fan base that travels well was “extremely important,” during the selection process.
But that hasn’t stopped pundits around the country from focusing their attention on Virginia Tech as a prime example of what’s wrong with the BCS. Beamer said he hasn’t paid much attention to all that.
“Those people criticizing, that’s why they stay on TV,” he said. “They’re making statements, and if they’re not getting your attention, they’re not going to be on TV.”
His players, though, still seem a bit surprised they’re headed to New Orleans after losing to Clemson in Saturday’s ACC championship game. Safety Eddie Whitley said when he first started receiving texts about the possibility of Virginia Tech going to the Sugar Bowl Sunday afternoon, he thought it was a joke.
“I was betting on the Chick fil A bowl like a lot of my teammates were,” Whitley admitted.
Now, though, the Hokies see the Sugar Bowl and Michigan as a mulligan of sorts after playing so poorly on a big stage against the Tigers. The Wolverines are the winningest program ever in college football, and as Beamer put it Monday, “if you said college football and named a prominent program, most people would have Michigan within the first five answers.”
“We feel this is our second chance. We need a marquee win,” Whitley said. “This might be that step where we put our name within the other prestigious programs in the country.”