Time Out with Mark Russell

The state of Tech athletics is close to a breaking point and new Tech athletic director, Mike Bobinski, will have to make some tough choices within the next year. Bobinski was a former athletic director at Xavier, which has had one of the most consistent basketball programs in the country over the last 15 years. He has hired several top notch basketball coaches in his time at Xavier including current Ohio State coach Thad Matta and current Arizona coach Sean Miller. Bobinski has an eye for basketball coaching talent which will undoubtedly put pressure on the current Tech coaching staff to show improvement this year. 

Fans are the unhappiest they have been since the mid-1990s and there are a lot of bleak expectations for the major sports programs. Tech’s football and basketball programs are the biggest and most popular sports programs on campus. They are having more and more problems selling tickets and getting students to come to games. You’ll find many older students at Tech who have become very indifferent to Tech sports and some have stopped attending games all together.

It’s safe to say in the eyes of all Tech fans that the 2013-2014 sports calendar year was a major disappointment. The football team was expected to compete for the ACC Championship and fans wanted to win at least one game out of Virginia Tech, Miami, Georgia, and Clemson. But, for the second straight year Tech went 0-4 against their biggest rivals. After a lackluster showing on a Thursday night game against Virginia Tech it became obvious that the high expectations most Tech football fans had entering the year would not come true. The team had one last chance to salvage the season on senior day vs archrival Georgia, but a 20-0 lead in the second quarter was not big enough as Georgia won in double overtime. It was the sixth loss to Georgia in a row and the 13th loss out of the last 14.

Tech’s last coach, Chain Gailey, was fired for not being able to beat Georgia and for only winning 7 games each year outside one season where he won nine games. Gailey was also the coach who recruited NFL stars Calvin Johnson, Demaryius Thomas, Morgan Burnett, and Michael Johnson. Coach Johnson inherited many future NFL stars when Gailey was terminated and he helped lead Tech to a vacated 2009 ACC Championship.

The only real difference between Johnson and Gailey is that Tech played in its lone BCS bowl under Johnson. Johnson has averaged seven wins a season over the last four years. Those are good numbers for an ACC football program and Tech has been one of the most consistent programs in the country since 1997, but when you’re record against your four biggest rivals is 1-15 since 2010 fans are going to start to expect more. Tech has had a field day the last 5 years beating Duke, UNC, UVA, Wake Forest, NC State, and Virginia almost every time they have played them. If our last coach got fired for not being able to beat Georgia and for going 7-5 one too many times, you have to wonder what will happen to the future of Tech football if Tech wins 7 games or less this year. The pressure will be on as Duke and UNC are much improved so those games can no longer be checked as automatic wins.

The basketball program has hit a major rough stretch since the firing of former coach Paul Hewitt. Tech is still paying Hewitt due to the outrageous buyout clause that former athletic director Dave Braine gave him. Coach Brian Gregory has had a very rough go since arriving at Tech. His teams have been plagued by suspensions and injuries. The expectations for Tech basketball last year were to reach postseason play, but injuries and suspensions derailed the goals for the team. Several key players have either graduated or transferred out so this year will be a major test for Coach Gregory. Entering his fourth year Gregory has never had a winning season at Tech so you have to hope to see improvement from the program. It’s hard to turnaround a basketball program in just 4 years, but losing 66.67% of your conference games each year is not a step in the right direction. Due to all the players transferring out from the previous coach and other circumstances many other players have transferred in. Tech has had at least one player transfer in the past 3 seasons.

By next March there should be a much clearer picture of which direction Tech athletics is heading.