Ten years ago today, ACC presidents voted to invite Virginia Tech and Miami into the conference. Nothing has transpired since to counter what Hokies athletic director Jim Weaver told me in May 2008 about the move.
“The best thing that has ever happened to the university both academically and athletically is the invitation from the Atlantic Coast Conference,” he said then. “There is absolutely no downside. None.”
Indeed, ACC membership has enhanced Tech athletics financially, competitively and academically. And while the Hokies’ non-revenue sports don’t approach the elite level enjoyed by league rivals such as Virginia, Duke, North Carolina and Florida State, they have improved exponentially.
That progress is most evident in the Directors’ Cup all-sports standings. From 1994-2004, Tech’s average finish was 91st, its best 63rd. Since starting ACC competition in the 2004-05 academic year, the Hokies’ average finish is 43rd, with bests of 35th in 2011 and ’12.
Labeled as a “football school,” Tech has won four ACC championships in its marquee sport. During the same nine-season span, Florida State has won two football titles, Clemson, Wake Forest and Georgia Tech one each, the latter vacated due to NCAA sanctions.
But the Hokies’ non-revenue programs have been far more successful than anyone envisioned, earning ACC titles in men’s and women’s track, men’s cross country, softball, wrestling and men’s golf.
Tech’s 16 conference championships since 2004-05 rank seventh among the ACC’s 12 member schools. Miami, which like Tech officially joined the league July 1, 2004, has won seven. Boston College, which joined a year later, has but a single ACC championship, 2007 in men’s soccer.
If only the conference sponsored men’s ice hockey. Boston College won the national title in 2008, '10 and ’12.
Like all schools in the five major football conferences, Tech has benefited financially from the escalation of television rights fees. The Hokies reported $38.9 million in athletics revenue for 2003-04, their last year in the Big East, $64.8 million in 2011-12, a 66.6-percent bump.
Tech’s annual share of Big East revenue averaged about $2.5 million, with a high of $5.1 million, according to Weaver. The Hokies’ share of ACC money in 2011-12 was $18.5 million, according to the conference’s federal tax return.
Weaver has wisely invested much of that windfall back into football, but he has not neglected other sports, witness facilities upgrades for men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s swimming, baseball, softball and all the track programs.
Academically, Virginia Tech athletes fare well by all three metrics available in NCAA data bases: graduation success rate, federal graduation rate and academic progress rate.
Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Clemson and Duke are the only ACC schools with four-year APRs of 970 or higher (a perfect score is 1,000) in football, men’s and women’s basketball and baseball. The Hokies’ GSR of 88 percent for all athletes ranks fifth in the conference behind Duke, Boston College, Wake Forest and Miami.
Finally, Virginia Tech’s most recent federal graduation rate for athletes, those enrolling from 2002-05, was 71 percent, seventh in the ACC and far above the low-50s rates the school reported during the late 1990s.
So yes, Weaver was right in 2008, and his statement then withstands five more years of analysis. There is no downside to Virginia Tech joining the ACC.
The Hokies and their fans pined for inclusion from the time the league was formed in 1953 as a spinoff of the Southern Conference. Fifty years later, thanks to a beyond-dysfunctional expansion process that Virginia politicians such as then-Gov. Mark Warner sagely manipulated, Virginia Tech found its proper athletics home.
The fit for both parties has been better than either could have realized.
As ACC commissioner John Swofford told me last year about the 2003 expansion: "The Godsend of it all, in my opinion, was Virginia Tech. In a lot of ways, Virginia Tech should have been in the ACC a long time ago. ...
"And Virginia Tech has been a great addition to the ACC. I think it's been good for Virginia Tech ... and I think it's been good for the state of Virginia. It was the right thing to have happened when you take a step back and look at things."
Some charts for your dancing and dining pleasure:
ACC CHAMPIONSHIPS SINCE 2004-05
Florida State: 36
North Carolina: 28
Georgia Tech: 17
Virginia Tech: 16
Wake Forest: 5
Boston College: 1
AVERAGE DIRECTORS’ CUP FINISH SINCE 2004-05*
North Carolina: 7
Florida State: 14
Virginia Tech: 43
North Carolina State: 54
Wake Forest: 55
Georgia Tech: 55
Boston College: 63
* The 2012-13 standings won’t be official until the College World Series concludes this week.
GRADUATION SUCCESS RATES FOR ATHLETES ENROLLING FROM 2002-05
Duke: 98 percent
Boston College: 97
Wake Forest: 95
Virginia Tech: 88
North Carolina: 88
Florida State: 78
North Carolina State: 77
Georgia Tech: 76
I can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP
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