It's going to be a long road back for the Virginia Tech athletic department. A few basketball victories won't soften all of the sting of the scandals that have rocked the university.
But Wednesday's 87-82 victory over 14th-ranked Georgetown gave the school some badly needed salve for its athletic ego.
The Hokies' 4-1 start is surprising enough, but it's even more so when one considers the coach has been on the job little more than two months, the team is on probation through 1989, the university is still without a permanent president and the new athletic director won't arrive until Jan. 1.
"There was not a high level of expectation of the team's success," interim athletic director Raymond Smoot said. "Certainly, we did not think we would be 4-1 at this point in the season."
"That's all behind us right now," interim coach Frankie Allen said Wednesday night. "Obviously, we can't undo what's already been done. We've accepted the probation. We're working hard to just go out and have a good season. What these guys are playing for is a lot more important than going to the NCAAs. It's respect and pride."
"Everyone there is very anxious and ready to go to work," said new athletic director David Braine. "All the damage has been done."
Allen was an assistant at Tech for 11 seasons under former coach Charlie Moir and played for Moir at Roanoke College. Moir, Tech's most successful coach, resigned Oct. 2 in the wake of an NCAA investigation that resulted in the basketball team's probation and the football team having 10 scholarships revoked.
The basketball team was found guilty of 13 violations by the NCAA, including charges a booster helped a player's wife obtain financing for a car. The football team gave out scholarships above prescribed NCAA limits. William E. Lavery, Tech's president, resigned. The athletic department is in massive debt, running to millions of dollars.
"If you think about it," Allen said, "they've been through quite a bit. I'm an adult. I know what went on up there, and I know how difficult it was, and I know every day you picked up a newspaper with some other story about the Virginia Tech basketball investigation. But these kids are only 18 or 19."
"It looks like he's going to make my job a lot easier," said Braine, currently the athletic director at Marshall University. Braine will take over at Tech Jan. 1.
The Hokies beat Georgetown behind the play of their back-court pair, junior guard Wally Lancaster and sophomore guard Vernell (Bimbo) Coles, who combined for 55 points, seven assists, seven rebounds and four steals. As a team, Tech hit 25 of 31 foul shots, including its last 12 in a row.
Lancaster, who scored a career-high 30 points, said the Hokies have other goals now that they can't play in the NCAA tournament.
"We have an opportunity to play in the Metro Conference tournament, and win that," he said. "We have a chance to get ranked. So the season's not a total loss."
Tech's victory resulted in "brisk" ticket sales yesterday, Smoot said. And 1,000 students met the team's bus early yesterday morning when the team returned to Blacksburg.