Inconsistent fan support adds to Virginia Tech's senior night disappointment
Replicating the atmosphere of Saturday's upset of then-No. 1 Duke was going to be a near-impossible task no matter what opponent Virginia Tech faced Tuesday. Fans crammed Cassell Coliseum to the rafters to watch the Hokies beat the Blue Devils, and were on their feet making noise from the moment the ball went in the air for the opening tip.
But after such a resounding victory -- one in which thousands of Virginia Tech fans rushed the court in celebration -- Coach Seth Greenberg hoped the Hokies would come close to re-creating such excitement when their three seniors played the final home game of the season Tuesday night.
Instead, Greenberg was greeted by an arena that was only about 80 percent full, with an energy level nowhere near what it was three days earlier. Not surprisingly, the Hokies who took the court weren't the same either, getting throttled by Boston College, 76-61.
"There was just no energy in the building, quite honestly," Greenberg said. "But we shouldn’t need that."
Greenberg emphasized that blaming Tuesday's setback on any lack of energy or a hangover from the Duke win was "a coward's excuse." But he couldn't hide his disappointment that the Hokies drew an announced crowd of 9,684 fans, about 150 short of a sellout. And judging by the empty seats, that figure represents the number of tickets sold Tuesday night, not the actual amount of people who showed up.
It's even more of a shame considering Greenberg spent much of his day hawking free tickets on campus. During his weekly lunchtime "Chalk Talk" on campus, Greenberg announced there were still 400 free student tickets remaining. At around 5 p.m., he tweeted that about 200 of those free tickets still remained.
In terms of paid attendance, Virginia Tech is actually doing quite well this year when compared with many of its ACC brethren. The Hokies have sold out all but four of their 14 home games this season.
But as Tom Gabbard, Virginia Tech's associate athletic director for internal affairs, told me last week, "We've sold all the tickets, but we can't force people to show up in their seats." By this reporter's count, the only game this year where every seat looked to have a customer in it was the Duke game.
"I appreciate the people that are here," Greenberg said, choosing his words carefully during his postgame news conference Tuesday. "The people that are here are the people that are our fans and I appreciate the people that are here. I can’t worry about the people that aren’t here.”
It's important to note that schools like Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, North Carolina State and Miami haven't had a sellout yet this season, and have also seen large swaths of empty seats at many games. But considering all four of those teams are near the bottom of the ACC standings, it makes more sense.
Teams like Virginia, Boston College and Florida State, meanwhile, have also struggled to draw large crowds at times. Even Maryland saw its student section noticeably empty for a home game against Florida State last week.
Part of the problem Tuesday was the 9 p.m. weekday tip-off for television purposes, but it was clear after how excitable the crowd was just three days earlier, Greenberg and company were expecting more, especially with Malcolm Delaney, Jeff Allen and Terrell Bell playing their final game in Blacksburg
But perhaps the most disheartening part of the evening was what took place on the court. The Hokies showed little resolve and did not resemble a team coming off one of the biggest upsets in program history. Now Virginia Tech finds itself back on the bubble, with a tough road game against Clemson to close out the regular season.
"It was senior night; we wanted go out with a bang for these guys," sophomore Erick Green said. "I thought we were gonna come out way better than we did. Unfortunately it didn’t turn out that way.”
| March 2, 2011; 10:06 AM ET
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