Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Hokies' athletic director requested 'night off'

Jim Weaver cited travel difficulties for fans attending Thursday night games, saying he wanted to give them a "normal" home slate.

Virginia Tech athletic director Jim Weaver said Thursday night games were tough for some fans.

The Roanoke Times | File 2011

Virginia Tech athletic director Jim Weaver said Thursday night games were tough for some fans. "I just thought that we needed to have a night off for our fans, because it's very difficult travel from the other parts of the state and from the different areas that they come from," Weaver said.

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BLACKSBURG - When the ACC released its 2013 football schedule and Virginia Tech didn't have a Thursday night home contest for the first time since 2001, the reaction was largely negative from a Hokies fan base accustomed to the mid-week game.

It wasn't because the Hokies' sub-par 7-6 record in 2012 made them a less attractive option for ESPN. It turns out it was at the request of Virginia Tech athletic director Jim Weaver.

"I just thought that we needed to have a night off for our fans, because it's very difficult travel from the other parts of the state and from the different areas that they come from," Weaver said.

The Hokies were one of college football's early adopters of the ESPN Thursday night game, helping gain exposure by being the only game on TV that night.

But non-Saturday games have increased over time. The Hokies have played a home Thursday night game in each of the past 11 years.

Additionally, they've played in the Labor Day night game in two of the past three years, first against Boise State in Landover, Md., in 2010 and last year against Georgia Tech at Lane Stadium.

Last season, with the Labor Day night game and a Thursday night contest against Florida State in November, the Hokies had only four Saturday home games, creating a strain on traveling fans.

"It's tough when you have children on a Thursday night," said Weaver, who didn't solicit input from athletic department officials or survey fans in making his decision. "If they're driving any distance, they're probably going to miss Friday classes in school. ... Our fans have been so great and so supportive of the Thursday night game and the Thursday night exposure has been very, very good for Virginia Tech. I just felt we needed to give them a chance to have a season where it's normal in terms of the fan participation."

The swift reaction on Twitter, admittedly a medium that caters to a younger crowd, was largely negative. Many argued that the Thursday night game, at least in Blacksburg, has become part of a normal fan experience each year.

"That's another way of looking at it, no question," said Weaver, who noted that he hadn't received any negative feedback about the decision.

Virginia Tech does play a road Thursday night game in 2013, traveling to Georgia Tech on Sept. 26.

The break at home isn't expected to be permanent. Weaver said he thinks Virginia Tech will have a Thursday night game at Lane Stadium on the schedule in 2014.

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