BLACKSBURG, VA., AUG. 24 -- The investigations still are under way, the negative publicity still lingers. One day a player is accused of trying to extort money from his basketball coach, another day there are accusations of "foster parents" loaning cars and money to players.
Such is the athletic atmosphere at Virginia Tech, where the ongoing athletic scandal primarily has directly involved the school's basketball team. Indirectly it has cast a shadow on the school's football program.
Not that the football team has been without controversy. The team played almost an entire season knowing its head coach, who also was the school's athletic director, Bill Dooley would leave on unfriendly terms. (Dooley eventually sued the school for $3.5 million, claiming he had been fired from both of his jobs. He later settled out of court for a reported $1 million.) At some point during Dooley's tenure, the team unintentionally broke the NCAA's roster limit of 95 players in 1985. No penalties have been imposed, according to assistant coach Billy Hite.
Dooley's replacement as athletic director, Dale T. (Dutch) Baughman, was hired in January and quit in June because of the way the investigations were being handled.
Still, the Hokies went 9-2-1 last season, winning the Peach Bowl over North Carolina State. And they would like everybody to remember that and forget the negative publicity.
While the team's players and coaches were at Lane Stadium today, posing for pictures and meeting the media, they talked about the Peach Bowl, their season opener against Clemson Sept. 12 and the challenging schedule they say they can't wait to play.
To players like safety Carter Wiley, the new season offers a chance to offset the bad publicity. "We're always fighting adversity," Wiley said. "Look at the basketball thing. It had to happen right after we won the Peach Bowl. It's the truth. Something bad has to be said after we do something good."
But as far as players like starting quarterback Erik Chapman are concerned, the accusations are all in the past.
"There's going to be something in the paper every day, but it's nothing but accusations, that's all," said Chapman, a graduate of DeMatha. "I think the whole situation has been overblown, that's for sure. You try not to think about it -- and we don't know much about it ourselves."
Hite, the only assistant under Dooley to return, says lack of knowledge about the scandal is what bothers him.
"I'm like everybody else -- I'm tired of hearing of it. We've had enough distractions," Hite said. "What's causing it is the main thing I'd like to know. I can't see how a place with such a great atmosphere can have so many problems in such a short period of time."
But Hite wanted to stay. He says he turned down several offers in order to stay at Virginia Tech. He said he had an offer to coach at Wake Forest under Dooley, and that he had been offered an assistant coaching job at Minnesota that would have paid $10,000 more than he currently makes. He also talks about the character of his players last season, dealing with the distractions on the way to one of the best seasons in Tech football history.
"We can deal with any shortcomings, we can deal with adversity," said tight end Steve Johnson. "I don't think this really bothers us, but it is a shame to have success and then have something take the shine out of it."
Johnson then spoke in a determined tone about the topic of the day: ninth-ranked Clemson. "The bottom line is this -- we're going to work our butts off to beat Clemson and that's all that's on our minds. It's not gonna make a dime of difference what happened 10 years ago or yesterday."
Added center John FitzHugh, "I think once you do well, people will forget about it. I think they'll start thinking about football."
New head coach Frank Beamer, a Virginia Tech graduate and Murray State's former head coach, realizes how important winning is this season. Beamer, 44, was 42-23-2 at Murray State, where the team was Ohio Valley Conference co-champion in 1986.
"I think it's human nature that wins take care of some things," he said. "It certainly gets your mind going in another direction."
And he talks about controlling his own destiny, keeping his shoulders free of further burden.
"I think what you have to do is say, 'What can I affect?'," he said. "That's all I can do. If you start worrying, then you're really wasting time."