Stepping up to FBS requires more than ambition, luxury suites

Scandalous accusations, radical rules reform and conference realignment have big-footed the college sports news cycles of late, burying notable developments on many fronts.

Case in point: Virginia Tech's opening football opponent, Appalachian State, has taken another step toward elevating its program. A university panel on Monday recommended a move to the Bowl Subdivision, the Winston-Salem Journal reported.

Now perhaps the three-time winners of the Championship Subdivision national title can mirror Boise State and morph into an FBS power. But I doubt it and hope Old Dominion and James Madison don't follow Appalachian State's lead.

Given their loyal fans and considerable resources, ODU and JMU, my alma mater, often are mentioned as FBS candidates. The Dukes' stadium expansion is seen by many as an FBS precursor.

But absent major conference affiliation and millions in guaranteed annual television revenue, elevating to FBS is riskier than buying Bank of America stock.

Check the FBS landscape. Where would ODU and/or JMU play? Conference USA? The Sun Belt? The Mid-American? Other than East Carolina and perhaps Marshall, good luck finding attractive matchups for Virginia schools in those leagues.

Moreover, upgrading would require the Dukes and Monarchs to fund not only 22 additional football scholarships — the FBS limit is 85, FCS 63 — but also a similar number for women's programs. Such are the demands of federal equity law, Title IX.

JMU's student body is 60 percent female, further complicating Title IX compliance, witness the school cutting seven men's sports and three women's earlier this decade.

Bowl Subdivision football? It requires much more than ambition and luxury suites.

• Virginia has sold 28,116 football season tickets, a 2.7-percent increase over this time a year ago.

A modest gain, to be sure, and far shy of the 39,811 from 2005. But after years of decline, on the field and at the ticket window, the uptick indicates fans are at least enthused by the Cavaliers' apparent progress, especially in recruiting, under second-year coach Mike London.

Now let's see if Virginia can improve upon last season's 4-8 record and average home attendance of 45,459, lowest since Scott Stadium's 2000 expansion to 61,500 capacity. The Cavaliers play seven home games, with the finale against Virginia Tech sure to draw, but non-conference dates against Idaho and Southern Mississippi may prove tough sells.

• Like London, Virginia basketball coach Tony Bennett appears poised for a top-shelf recruiting haul next year. But the Cavaliers primary 2012 point guard target, James Robinson of DeMatha High in Hyattsville, Md., committed Sunday to Pittsburgh.

Virginia's roster certainly offered immediate playing time, but don't discount old-fashioned winning in Robinson's decision. With 10 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, the last eight under coach Jamie Dixon, Pitt is a better program than any in the ACC except Duke and North Carolina.

The Cavaliers were also evaluating point guards Mike Gesell of Sioux City, Iowa and Javan Felix of New Orleans, but they have pledged to Iowa and Texas, respectively.

Still, with Justin Anderson, Evan Nolte and Mike Tobey committed for 2012, don't bet against Bennett and his staff finding a quality lead guard.

• Absent a Georgetown-China style international incident, Virginia Tech basketball's two exhibitions at the University of Windsor in Canada last week were not going to make headlines. Sure, the Lancers bested the Ontario Gee Gees and McMaster Marauders en route to an 18-9 record last season, but on the eve of college football season, hoops rarely resonates.

That said, the trip north confirmed one suspicion: Dorian Finney-Smith of Portsmouth's Norcom High could well become the most influential and important freshman of Seth Greenberg's tenure with the Hokies.

A 6-foot-7 wing, Finney-Smith led Tech in minutes (30.5 per game), rebounds (8.0 per game) and 3-pointers (three). He was second only to guard Erick Green in scoring (13.0 points per game) and assists (five).

As Greenberg said of Finney-Smith prior to the trip: "He's got a great feel for the game. He's a guy with a lot of toys in his bag. Unselfish, likable, coachable, great teammate. He is a skilled player, and more importantly, he is a better teammate than he is a player. … He doesn't care if he gets one shot or 10 shots … and that's a nice trait for a kid with his talent."

Indeed, Finney-Smith defined efficiency on the trip, shooting 9-of-15 from the floor, 3-of-7 from beyond the arc, and 5-of-6 from the foul line. Duke's Austin Rivers and North Carolina's James McAdoo will get more attention, especially during preseason, but I'm not sure any ACC rookie will mean more to his team than Finney-Smith will to Tech.



David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at dteel@dailypress.com. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/sports/teeltime and follow him at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP

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