One of my favorite songs is “Believe” by The Bravery. The chorus goes like this…
So give me something to believe
‘Cause I am living just to breathe
And I need something more
To keep on breathing for
So give me something to believe
It’s a great song. I never knew it would relate to Virginia Tech athletics.
I think most Virginia Tech fans would’ve been fine with Whit Babcock‘s decision to retain head coach Justin Fuente for a sixth season if they knew it came with some needed changes. If Babcock and Fuente had accepted that their football program was failing, promised to rectify it and then mentioned specific steps that were to be taken, most fans would have bought in for another season.
Instead, Hokies were left needing something to believe.
Babcock spoke to the media at length on Tuesday with Fuente speaking on Wednesday. Both took questions from media members, many of whom asked about Virginia Tech’s football struggles.
Instead of providing those specific changes, or even previewing said changes, all Hokies fans were left with were platitudes and corporate speak.
Babcock went on for an hour and not once mentioned a new plan or change that the department or football program is going to enact to change the Hokies’ course towards football hell.
Instead, we heard stuff like this.
“For Justin, this was Year One in some respects,” Babcock said on Tuesday. “We are not going to look at it like Year One. We know it’s Year Five. What I mean is this, that this is Year One of being totally Justin’s program, all of his players.”
“We have not given this staff a fair shake, in my opinion. We are not going to throw the baby out with the bathwater.”
Babcock failed to offer a target or goal that fans and observers could hold the program accountable to, more specifically he didn’t offer a number of wins that the Hokies need to reach in 2021.
“Everybody knows we need to perform, so I think that’s a bad strategy,” Babcock said. “What if you give a number and the recruiting or the ethics or other things aren’t good? So it has to be more than that, but wins and losses are extremely important at this level. We know that.”
So after two losing seasons in three years — 2020 is officially a losing season since Virginia Tech is declining a bowl invitation — the director of athletics has nothing new to report that is being done.
Let’s check in with the head coach, shall we?
“We all know that we have work to do to get the program to where we want it to be,” Fuente said on Wednesday. “That’s the part we’re straining for.”
“What we’re going to do when we get back in January, we’re going to be fired up to go coach… I understand the expectations and I relish in the opportunity to go and exceed those.”
Same stuff, different guy.
Virginia Tech fans have several reasonable critiques of the program. The coaches are not recruiting at a high level, or even an average level. The offense and defense seem wholly unprepared far too often. Quarterbacks are not reaching their ceilings. Fans and alumni of the program feel shut out and disconnected.
In fact, that last critique was the only one that seemed to be addressed this week — Babcock noted that the program is going to make offensive coordinator Brad Cornelsen available more often. How exciting.
Virginia Tech football is not in a good place right now. Sure, Tech just knocked off Virginia, but that’s not the goal anymore. It’s the standard. It’s the expectation.
The goal is getting Virginia Tech in a position to regularly compete for conference championships. What, if anything, was revealed to the public this week that instilled confidence that the Hokies were on course to achieve those goals?
Babcock and Fuente have essentially tied themselves together at the hip. Their fates are now intertwined. As an athletic director and a head coach, when your team is 14-12 in the ACC over the last three seasons, you have to come to the table with concrete, specific solutions. Mediocrity isn’t acceptable in Blacksburg. Babcock and Fuente should know this.
Some fans will be impressed by what they saw on Tuesday and Wednesday. Some will feel more comfortable about the future of the program.
But many won’t be impressed. Their fears about Virginia Tech slipping further and further into irrelevance won’t subside. Those fears are becoming more solid than the credibility of those leading the program.
Virginia Tech needs to make changes. Not changes just for the sake of making changes, but changes that are specifically directed at fixing specific problems.
Babcock and Fuente didn’t provide any of those changes. Instead, they dangled a shiny Christmas ornament in front of the fan base, hoping to make them happy.
All Virginia Tech fans wanted for Christmas was something to believe in.
I guess Babcock and Fuente weren’t in the spirit this year.