Ren Harman: Good afternoon. This is Ren Harman, the Project Director for VTStories. Today is January 26, 2018 at about 12 PM. We are in the Holtzman Alumni Center on the campus of Virginia Tech with a very special guest with us today. This is the only time that I will prompt you, but if you can just state in a complete sentence my name is, when you were born, and where you were born.
Bill Roth: Wow. My name is Bill Roth. I was born in McGee Women's Hospital inPittsburgh, Pennsylvania on November 3, 1965.
Ren: Thank you very much for that. Can you tell us a little bit about Mt.Lebanon, Pennsylvania?
Bill: Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania is a suburb of Pittsburgh. It's about 15 minutessouth with traffic. It's probably seven miles as the crow flies south of Pittsburgh, and it is known, or at least was known for having excellent schools 1:00and excellent athletics. By excellent athletics I mean not only did the teams win, but there was a commitment to athletics in high school. The facilities were great. Mt. Lebanon for example had the first high school stadium with a turf field. It had the first nice press box. Now all high school stadiums have this. It had the best lights at that time of our evolution of cable television. That was one of the few stadiums where you could do a game at night because the lights were good. It had the best swimming pool. So there was a commitment to athletics not only in terms of fan interest was there, but they spent a lot of money to promote physical activity amongst students, and the teams there were really good.
Ren: Can you talk about your mom and dad?
Bill: My father was an engineer, went to Carnegie Mellon, or for that era it wascalled Carnegie Tech in Pittsburgh. He was an engineer, built homes and apartments and retired early. And my mother raised four children. Her name was 2:00Esther and she raised four children, and then when I went away to college she went away to college. I went to Syracuse for school, she went to Chatham College and she got her degree. She raised kids and then when her youngest, which was me, went away to college she said, "I'm going to," not to the same school, but she got her college degree in her 60s.
Bill: As an undergrad. It was great when she would have group projects at thehouse. I would come home from break at Syracuse and there would be seven 19-year-old college girls in my living room with my mom. Very interesting.
Ren: [Chuckles] Pretty nice. There was four of you. Where were you in that?
Bill: I was by far the baby; I was 12 years younger.
Ren: Brothers, sisters? What's the breakdown there?
Bill: Two sisters and a brother.
Ren: You said your dad was an engineer. What role did education play in your3:00early life? Were they strict about school?
Bill: Yeah. Everyone in my family was much much smarter than I. My father wentto Carnegie Mellon. My brother went to MIT. Linda went to Brandeis. They were all really intelligent. I went to Syracuse to study multi-media journalism, what we call it today, broadcast journalism back in the day, which is what I always wanted to do but a good high school, great commitment to education. My dad bought me my first tape-recorder. That was before flash drives and you had to have a cassette in there with four D batteries. It was a heavy recorder to lug around bag in the 70s when I was 9 years old doing this.
Ren: I read somewhere when I was doing some research, did you want to be afireman at one point?
Bill: I did. My favorite TV show as a kid was a show called Emergency, which was4:00I think a spinoff of Adam 12 or Adam 12 was a spinoff of that. It was about these paramedics in Los Angeles that would go around and crack jokes and save lives. I thought what could be more fun than cracking jokes and saving lives, so that was my first thing. I knew I was 8 or 9 that I was going to be a broadcaster. That's all I ever wanted to do.
Ren: Who were you listening to and watching on television at the time?
Bill: Well as a child, not that I've ever grown up, (comma space), but as achild people like Bob Prince in Pittsburgh and Mike Lang who does to this day the Pittsburgh Penguins, and Jack Fleming who was the broadcaster for the Steelers, and Jack Buck of the St. Louis Cardinals and Harry Callas of the Phillies, and of course Vin Scully. While we couldn't get all the Dodger games on the radio, it was the pre-internet era, there was no tune-in app or MLB app or Dodgers.com to listen to an LA Dodgers game, he did enough national games 5:00that I heard him, so they were my inspiration.
Ren: I guess you attended Mt. Lebanon High School?
Ren: What kind of things did you get into when you were in high school?
Bill: I was the voice of the Blue Devils. I was the public dress announcer forall those home football games, so that opened the door for me, because when I was in the 9th grade I started interning Duquesne University's radio station. And by the time I was in 11th grade in high school I was on the air with Duquesne.
Ren: Was that KDKA?
Bill: No, that was later. KDKA is the big station. They didn't put high schoolkids on the air, but Duquesne University's radio station I was 17. I was a high school junior. They sent me to the all-star game in Montreal, major league baseball all-star game. It was really [00:05:50 parte des toiles], party of the stars. The transcriber is now trying to figure out is that French. But yes, there were great opportunities. My parents were really supportive.
They would drop me off or I would take a bus into Duquesne and get on the air.6:00KDKA was the country's first radio station.
Ren: Do you play a little hockey? I've seen some pictures.
Bill: Oh boy. You know far too much. Yeah, I played some hockey. That was myonly athletic endeavor. A little bit of baseball, but ice hockey and loved it. But there was a pond near our house, a lake, pond, one or the other. This was a lake and it would freeze over and we could skate down there. Mt. Lebanon, going back to that, to this day they are the only school with their own ice hockey arena.
Ren: When I was doing the research and I saw that I was like that was kind ofearly I would think to have an ice hockey arena.
Bill: Every high school in the league played games at Mt. Lebanon. Like everygame was a home game for everybody. There was only one rink, so the games would be at like 3, 6, 9, and midnight, every day. There was just game after game after game. You would practice at 4 in the morning. Ooh.
Ren: Doing a little research here I came across, and I think he's a few yearsolder than you, Mark Cuban. He grew up in the same town as you. 7:00
Bill: Yeah, Mark Cuban is a Mt. Lebanon High School graduate. His youngerbrother Jeff was a classmate of mine, so I knew Mark. Mark was I guess three years older than me, so by the time I was in 9th grade he was a senior, so was a line one didn't cross and probably still exists today, right?
Ren: Right. I believe so.
Bill: But curiously, Mark Cuban, Jeff and I we have combined to make $30-millionagain this year. The three of us continue to crush it financially. Mark of course makes 29.9% of that but that's fine.
Ren: It works out. That's a good one. When you first started thinking aboutcollege did Syracuse University just draw you because of the SI Newhouse School of Public Communications, and can you talk a little bit about that school?
Bill: Yeah. I was really familiar, my experience at Duquesne, so as a high8:00school sophomore, junior, and senior for those three years I knew all the students at Duquesne, and so I kind of got around that campus and I saw what they did. And Duquesne had an NPR, National Public Radio station on its campus, unlike here at Virginia Tech where WVTF in Roanoke, the NPR station there was right in Pittsburgh, which is where the school is located, and so I got to know all these people. So I started thinking about college and what I'm going to do when I get out of high school when I was in 10th or 11th grade, and everyone talked about Syracuse. I only applied to two schools. I didn't even apply to Duquesne. I applied to Syracuse and Michigan State. Those were the two top broadcast journalism colleges at the time. I mean there's way more now, but at that point it was the place to go. I went up, I visited Michigan State in December and it was cold and windy. And I visited Syracuse in the spring, so I may have become the first and to this point only student to pick Syracuse solely because of the weather.
Ren: Because of the weather. [Laughs]9:00
Bill: Upstate New York in the spring time is really nice.
Ren: When you got to Syracuse immediately declared broadcast journalism as yourmajor, right. You worked at the campus station, right? WAER?
Bill: AER. So the culture there really goes back to a gentleman named MartyGlickman, who was a Syracuse athlete and broadcaster and student, a very famous story, a Jewish athlete and the Berlin Olympics and there's a movie made about it. Marty ended up being a great broadcaster and went and worked in New York, and did Giants games and Jets games and went on to NBC, and he mentored a young Jewish kid from New York who became Marv Albert. The tradition kind of started the way we do things at Syracuse, and it kind of passed on generation after 10:00generation and Marv Albert and Bob Costas and Bob Costas...and it goes and on through today. They recruit kids to come there to do broadcasting, extra-curricular, certainly focus on the classroom, but it's what you do, extra-curricular and you push each other. That is the model and the culture that we're trying to build now for Virginia Tech. I know you're going to get to that later.
The academics are a part of it. The faculty there would claim it's a large partof it. The alums who have gone through it would claim it's a smaller part of it. It's the culture of having other like-minded sports people, sports journalism people engaged on a daily basis with debate. And whether you're talking about a team or you're talking about a television show or you're talking about how a game was produced, we were quite the nerds. You learn.
Ren: Was it competitive?
Bill: Very much so, because not everybody there gets on. A lot of people go toSyracuse thinking they're going to be the next great broadcaster, and there's 25 11:00other people who want to do the same thing and there's only four or five slots. So a lot of people leave or transfer out or get frustrated or go right for the Daily Orange newspaper.
Ren: At Syracuse, at that time, I guess it was the mid-1980s, what was reallyseparating yourself, Mike Tirico, the other guys?
Bill: Sean McDonough, Sean O'Brian, Dave Ryan, Greg Papa, all of these peoplehave become incredibly successful.
Ren: What does it take to separate yourself from those other people that yousaid may never make it to the voice of a college?
Bill: I think it's almost like an athlete in that when you're a high school kidand you're really into sports and you're doing crazy things like sitting in front of your television broadcasting a game into a tape-recorder. Or you get into the shower and you do your opening standup because your voice sounds deeper 12:00than it really is.
A lot of people sing in the shower, but us crazy kids in high school we wouldget in the shower and it's, "Hello again everybody and welcome to Three Rivers Stadium, where tonight the Pirates and Phillies begin a three-game series in the National League East," okay. You think you are the only one who is like that, and then you get to Syracuse and you find out you weren't the only one doing it. I think that's what attract. It's the people who go there, when you visit you go, "Oh my goodness, there's someone else just like me," and that's hard to find. It's a real fraternity.
Ren: I'm sure hard work, research, practicing, working on your voice in some way.
Bill: A lot of kids know as soon as they get there. So now we're two years intothe SMA program at Virginia Tech. I don't think this is stuff you can teach. We've got to get them here first. If you're not good by the time you're here, it's like trying to teach someone to draw as a high school senior who has never 13:00picked up a pen before or a pencil. It's almost impossible.
Ren: And I think people have an impression that it's easier than it really is,because when I talk to our interns about interviewing I'm like it seems that it's easy, but unless you do it hundreds and hundreds of times it's not as easy as it looks I guess you could say. I'm sure broadcasting shares a little bit of similairity with that. When you went to Syracuse you won the Robert Costas Scholarship in 1986. What was the criteria for that? How did that work out?
Bill: You know, I don't recall. I do know that I joked with Bob's kids that weshare something in common, that your dad helped pay for all three of our college educations. Bob gets a chuckle at that too. I'm sure it's the same at every school, it's a scholarship and then you have a deduction from your tuition and 14:00you get a nice plaque. That was the first time they gave that award that year I think. As I recall I had no idea I was getting it. It was in the springtime of my junior year and I was told, "Can you please go to the senior awards ceremony?" and I didn't really want to go. They said, "Please go," and I said, "Why?" They wouldn't tell me, and I was surprised. Most of those awards go to seniors, so I would claim it was just a weak field Ren, that's why I won. There were no seniors. They gave it to the junior.
Ren: I'm sure that a majority of your time when you were there was wrapped up inbroadcasting games and course work. Did you do anything outside of this field that you were slowly starting to be at...?
Bill: We did a lot of broadcasting. We did football, basketball, lacrosse games.We did television shows. We did radio shows.
Ren: It was all just broadcasting?
Bill: If we weren't asleep or in a class we were at the radio station until 1015:00or 11 o'clock at night producing the pre-game show, or figuring out the best music bed for this feature and learning how to do it, our call. Now this is pre-internet, right. This is ten years before...
Ren: Email or anything.
Bill: Well there might have been email, but it was ten years before everythingwas done online, and so you had to edit tape with a razor blade and a grease pencil. We didn't record onto a hard drive. You edited videotape with these big three-quarter inch decks with an in-point and out-point. Sometimes it would stick or it wouldn't stick or the machine would eat your tape, and if you messed up there was no option Z. There was no undo. It was go shoot the story again, so 16:00there was a lot of pressure.
Ren: A little bit different than it is today, right?
Bill: It's easier now. It's more efficient now.
Ren: I was listening to an interview with Paul Thomas Anderson, the director,and he was talking about video editing with the double VCR tape to tape.
Bill: Tape to tape.
Ren: He said he had bought the equipment to do his first feature and he said hecould never figure it out, so he just ended up editing tape to tape. I thought that was pretty interesting. I hadn't heard that phrase in a while.
Bill: There was no drag and drop.
Ren: So you graduated from Syracuse in 1987 with a degree in broadcastjournalism. How did Virginia Tech come into the picture? How did this all happen?
Bill: Well it happened really fast. So I graduated from Syracuse in 1987 and Ihad an opportunity to stay there and do television on the ABC affiliate Channel 9. I had to at that point decide do I want to stay in Syracuse where I know a lot of people within the athletics department and do TV, or do I want to do play 17:00by play. I thought you know, I really want to try the broadcasting games because that was my passion. Four minutes a night on the local news didn't do much for me, broadcasting games did. And there was an opening in Huntington, West Virginia at Marshall University and David Brane was the athletics director there and he was from Grove City, PA. When I graduated I sent a tape down to West Virginia and they liked it, and I got a little bit lucky. The first job out of Syracuse, actually right in May, a week after graduation I was doing the NCA Lacrosse Championships on ESPN. One of the most spectacular players ever to play the sport of men's lacrosse was a gentleman by the name of Gary Gate. He was from British Colombia Vancouver West Coast of Canada, and he in the NCA tournament in the championship game did something unprecedented. 18:00
He raced up. He ran as fast as he could to the goal but from behind the goal. Hejumped over the goal and stuffed the ball in. No one has ever done it since. He's the only one that's ever done it and in fact it has now been outlawed, or it's an illegal play.
Ren: You can't do that anymore.
Bill: For a player's safety. It would be like dunking a basketball from behindthe goal. You could do it in hoops, but that's a similar play. And I had that call on ESPN and everybody saw it and it was on Sports Center and that really helped me.
Ren: This had to be Sportscenter early days I guess.
Bill: Yeah, and it was really big.
Ren: With Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann.
Bill: Olbermann and Bob Lee and Chris Burman, and lacrosse was big on ESPN backin the late 80s now, right. They didn't have the major league baseball or the NBA or the NFL. That was May. I was 21 years old, and Marshall had an opening and Dave knew I was from Pittsburgh and some mutual friends put us together and 19:00they hired me, Huntington, West Virginia. And then in that fall Dave left to come to Virginia Tech to be the new athletics director here. And so there was AD at Marshall. I was just out of college. I had just turned 22 and there was an opening at Virginia Tech, so that's how it happened. I was only at Marshall for seven months and Dave said, "Do you want to work at Virginia Tech?"
Ren: When you first got to Virginia Tech, the first time you saw the campus,what do you remember about that day?
Bill: Actually, when I was a junior at Syracuse in 1985 Mike Tirico and I camedown for the student station and broadcast the SU Virginia Tech game, so my first experience was with Mike. In fact, I bought a VT cap, there's a picture somewhere with me and Mike.
Ren: Yeah, I saw that.
Bill: Yeah, I'm 19 years old, a Syracuse student. I just fell in love with Tech.20:00It reminded me of Penn State. It reminded me, the people, the topography, the feeling, the vibe, the passion. The stadium is way smaller than Penn State, still is, but it felt to me like Penn State. I think you hear that a lot. You know Jim Weaver who is our athletics director here for a long time went to college there and played football there, he always told me the same thing, he said, "This is just like Penn State." It's a warm version of Penn State.
Ren: When you came to call that game as a sophomore what do you kind of rememberabout the campus and what it looked like? You were talking about how it felt like, what do you remember visually?
Bill: We stayed in Salem the Friday night before. We ate at one those GoldenCorral-style restaurants, and I had never been to one before, so I do recall that. 21:00
I remember that Virginia Tech it was so cool because it had two bands. Like whatschool has two marching bands? Because the Syracuse band always struggled. First of all they were small in numbers. There weren't a whole lot of them, and to this day carried on a tradition of being somewhat inebriated or hungover in kick-off, and so the music just never worked at Syracuse. That may be common for all bands, but at Tech they took the band seriously, so I do remember that. And the fans, they were really into the game.
Ren: You were 22 when you were named the Voice of the Hokies, is that correct?
Ren: That was in 1988. I don't even know where to start, but do you remembercalling your first game?
Bill: It was at Clemson. I remember it vividly. Mike Burnop and I went to, I'mtrying to remember if we flew into Greenville, Spartanburg, or flew into Atlanta. I don't recall. It might have been Atlanta and we drove up, but we 22:00flew. I do recall that because I remember we had a rental car, and driving into all those tiger paws. Clemson was really really good at that point. Danny Ford was their coach, over 80,000 people. I had never been at a football game with 85,000 people. The Steeler stadium doesn't seat that much. Pitt didn't seat that much. The biggest crowd I had ever seen was my very first game at Virginia Tech and Clemson won. They had a tailback named Terry Allen who ended up playing for the Redskins, had a good NFL career. And it was Coach Beamer's second year. We were down on scholarships. We didn't have as many players. We were on probation, and that was my first game, the fall of '88.
Ren: Do you remember being pretty nervous?
Bill: No, because Burnop was so supportive and nice and I knew everybody who I23:00was working with. I had worked with Dave the year before. I think it's kind of, a lesson I learned later in life, but when you're working somewhere and you move with your boss to the new place, it's a lot easier to make the adjustment. It's a new job but it's really the same job, it's just you're wearing a different uniform.
Ren: Yeah, right. Throughout the years you've had some pretty historical andnotable cause. What are some of the ones that really stick out in your mind that you remember the most? You have the national championships, you have the bowl streak.
Bill: It's funny, it depends on who you ask. There's some basketball fans thatenjoy basketball calls. There are a lot of people that like those little five-second one-liners that came out of nowhere that have seemingly lived on forever. You know when Virginia Tech finally beat UVA in football it was a really substantial and significant event, because Coach Welsh, George Welsh, the 24:00coach at Virginia had been so successful, not only on the field but they were graduating everything. They were putting kids into the NFL and they were beating the Hokies like there was nothing to do, and it really bothered Tech fans because of the sense of pride.
When Coach Beamer finally beat UVA that was really great, and they beat themwhen they had one of their better teams for the first time. And then our first win in Charlottesville was huge. Now I think as we record this, Virginia Tech has won is it 14 or 15 in a row?
Ren: Yeah, something like that. I think it's possibly 15 I believe.
Bill: But at that point I went over and Virginia was massive. At that point Ithink there was somewhat of an institutional inferiority complex between the two schools. They were in the ACC. They were higher ranked in every imaginable academic category than Virginia Tech. We were not making any monies in independent in football and they are making all this money and all these TV appearances in the ACC, so to finally beat them was huge. 25:00
Ren: Throughout this long history you have of being the voice of the Hokies, alot of people know you for your opening line. What's the origins behind from the blue waters?
Bill: From the blue waters of the Chesapeake Bay to the hills of Tennessee,here's how this was born. At West Virginia Jack Fleming used to open every broadcast with a scene setter. It would be well-written, almost poetic in the way he would write it. As the sun rises above Morgantown the glistening dew welcomes the mountaineers onto the field. And it would be very picturesque, and Jack was 70 at that point. I was 22, but I had grown up listening to him because 26:00he did Steelers games too, so Jack would always do this scene setter. And he would talk about the heart and the passion of the mountaineer. "And today the mountaineer nation the heart beats as one," and the whole thing was very dramatic, and he would end with the hills of West Virginia resound with the sounds of mountaineer football. That was always his last line.
So my first year at Tech I didn't do anything like that. When I went to RichmondI tried to meet as many people as I could when I first got here, learned as much as I could about Tech and its history. And there was a gentleman by the name of Chuck Noe. And Chuck Noe hosted a radio show in Richmond on Sunday nights, plus he hosted the coaches' shows for UVA. Terry Hall the basketball coach, George Welsh was the football coach. Now as background Chuck had been the basketball coach here at Virginia Tech and then he went on to South Carolina and he went on to VCU and he ended up retiring in Richmond in the Fan down there.
I drove down to his house. He was retired. He had stopped doing the radio show27:00at that point and I said, "Let's go grab lunch." So we went in the Fan and he bought me lunch and we talked about Tech and I learned a lot of things. We went through all of his scrapbooks. It was fabulous. He helped design Cassell Coliseum. He told me why it was so steep and why it's hard to get out. We don't want people going to the concession stands. We want them right on top of the court. We want it loud. Why did you put the visiting team down there in front of the student section? Because we don't want them to hear. The whole thing was designed with the home court advantage in mind.
But anyway, he said, "You need a hook. You need some schtick." I said, "CoachI'm a broadcaster, not a comedienne." He says, "No, you need something that starts your broadcast that's different and creative and unique to Virginia Tech." I said, "Okay, I'll think about it." And so I wrote down a bunch of things and I called a couple of friends, including a good friend of mine, Tony Caridi who is at West Virginia. The original line was from the blue waters of 28:00the Chesapeake Bay up and down the Shenandoah Valley to the hills of Tennessee. We talked about it and I said, "I think it's too long." You know it's like you always hear about the unknown third verse, the rocket man, that's the unknown second verse to that open. It was just too long. I said, "Oh yeah, what's cool about Tech is we've got fans throughout this State and our radio network is really big." That's what it was. It reflects the University and what we're trying to do. Virginia Tech just isn't Blacksburg, it's from...
Ren: Chesapeake to the hills of Tennessee.
Bill: Yeah. And we played around with it a little bit. Someone suggestedCumberland Gap. Someone suggested Mt. Rogers. It just didn't flow. So we went with that and right off the bat people thought that's awesome. Richmond Times 29:00Dispatch did a story on it. It was a call to arms for the Hokies. Then I called Tony back and I said, "I think we've got something. I think we've got something," and just did it every game. Every football and basketball game, so we're talking about thousands of games over 30 years.
Ren: You were able to really see a growth of athletics at this University fromthe late 80s to the 90s and Michael Vick and then to where we were with Coach Beamer. I know in doing some research and talking to some people I know that you really were proud of being able to expand the broadcast that you were doing with Mike into other kind of areas of the State I guess. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Bill: Well it wasn't just me. I was just the guy going into the stations. CoachBeamer and Dave Braine were really supportive of it. Coach Beamer really 30:00believed in the TV show. He thought that television was really important for this program and if we weren't going to be on ESPN and CBS every week, which we weren't and still aren't, we were on a lot but not every week, that we needed a TV on in those markets and it was really important to me on the best station. What's the best TV station in Norfolk? WAVY. What's the best radio station? TAR. Let's get on them. What's the best TV and radio operations in Richmond? What are the best in DC? He felt that that would really help recruiting.
Ren: So it was almost a collaborative effort between athletic director,yourself, people on the call.
Bill: Right, and so if I needed Coach Beamer to make a call or a visit and everytime we would do a Hokie club event in one of those cities we would make sure the TV and radio partners were with us. And I always said WAVY TV in Norfolk they are just as important as our biggest donor in Norfolk. Millions of people live there. They may not be familiar with Virginia Tech. And I think what happened was we became Norfolk's team. Old Dominion didn't have a football team 31:00yet, and if you were a great player in the 757 of course you were coming to Virginia Tech. Why? Because everybody is watching Coach Beamer's TV show on Sunday mornings. Coach Beamer's radio show on Monday nights. And again, pre-internet. There was no Twitter. There was no Facebook, so if you wanted to talk to Coach Beamer you know what you do? You call the 1-800 number on Monday night on the Hokie hotline and Coach Beamer is going to take your call, and he's going to talk with you about things.
We had kind of a folksy friendly way of doing that show. How are you doingcoach? "I'm good. I'm down here in Suffolk." "It's hot today." The coach would be, "Great. Oh I bet it is hot down there. I've been down there." "Coach, when is the last time you were in Suffolk?" "You know what I like? I love going to Smithfield. You know why I like going to Smithfield? Because they've got all the farms down there. We get bacon and ham and ribs from Smithfield or peanuts from 32:00Smithfield." And between the two of us we made everybody feel like we were their home team. And so someone would call from Richmond and it would be the same thing. "I go to Highland Springs." "Oh [00:32:19 Cheryl] went to Highland Springs. Did you know that?"
And so he became this beloved folksy hero, and the reason was he was veryaccessible to our fan base and then we started winning, but he never changed. So even 15 years into this and he's winning and we're about to get into the Big East how big is that? He's still taking calls and schmoozing with fans in Bluefield and Bristol and Richmond and DC, big cities, tiny small towns and he saw a value in it and I did too. Because if the janitor can call and talk to Frank Beamer, the janitor at the high school or the cafeteria worker, he or she 33:00is going to say good things to the kids and those teachers at those schools and now all of a sudden all the good players are coming here.
And I think Coach Beamer's vision of how we're going to get to State, how we'regoing to be the home team in Norfolk and how we're going to be the home team in Fairfax, a lot of it was pre-internet, let's get on TV and radio in those towns, in those cities.
Ren: I'm sure there were years that were kind of up and down, but throughoutthis history was it just kind of a slow exponential growth? We got into the Big East. We started winning more. We were going to Bowl games, then the move to the ACC. Was it kind of a slow growth or was there a point in time, a year that you can kind of really put your finger on and say this is when things really took off and got to where it is today? In terms of donations, scholarships, notoriety of athletics and the University as a whole?
Bill: There were big events that happened, David Braine being hired fromMarshall was a big thing, and obviously Coach Beamer being hired from Murray 34:00State. That was the genesis of it. At the time it happened, the day that Virginia Tech got into the Big East in football was the biggest thing that had ever happened at Virginia Tech, as big as Bruce Smith winning the Outland and being the number one pick might have been, or Carroll Dale or Hunter Carpenter getting into the college football Hall of Fame. At the time getting into the Big East was the biggest thing that ever happened at Virginia Tech, and that happened at the Providence Biltmore Hotel in Providence Rhode Island in a room off the lobby, up the stairs off the lobby. I joke the biggest moment in Tech history was held in the Providence room where Ritchie Schwartz was having his bar mitzvah 24 hours later.
Bill: But it's true, because what that did Ren is getting into the Big East, nowall of a sudden now the games were on TV, okay, and everybody in the country saw what I saw when I first came here a few earlier as a Syracuse student. The 35:00passion, the fan base, the beauty, what is this school? It's Virginia's version of Penn State.
Ren: What year was this? What year did they get into the Big East?
Bill: 93? 92, right. And so now all of a sudden Virginia Tech is playing gameson ESPN and Thursday night games. And if you win the conference you're going to the Sugar Bowl. Well, if we didn't get in the Big East we would have been an independent. Remember now we were just like Southern Miss and East Carolina, those independents. Even if Coach Beamer had won a little bit as an independent Virginia Tech would have never been able to afford to keep him and his staff here. So now you're on television. You're going to Bowls. You're making money and then you're winning, and Michael Vick is a high school 7th or 8th grader and he sees this. Remember now we're Norfolk's team, and so everybody in that high school loves the Hokies. 36:00
Ren: Was it Warwick?
Bill: Warwick High School, and boom, so that was the third, that's the next bigthing -- Vick. Now because of all of that now we're attracted to the ACC.
Ren: I want to ask you about calling the Sugar Bowl, the National Championshipin '99 against Florida State. What was that experience like? That's as big a stage I guess for college football as you could be on.
Bill: It was the showcase for Mike as a quarterback, for Coach Beamer as acoach, for our program. It's still the most people that's ever watched a Virginia Tech football game. One of the highest watched football games of the last 30 years. It was on ABC and primetime games, the national title, the Hokies 37:00are ahead in the fourth quarter. It was an incredible football game. I wish we would have won it. Everyone jokes about all my play by play calls. There was a lot of good ones from that game that no one will ever hear because we lost the game.
Ren: Chris Weinke and Peter Warwick.
Bill: Yeah, they were number one wire to wire.
Ren: You talked about moving into the ACC, winning a couple of ACC championshipswhich was huge and playing in some big games there, from 1993 to 1996 you served as the play by play announcer for the Richmond Braves. What was that experience like?
Bill: It was great. Chipper Jones just got into the Hall of Fame this week. Ithink you learn more at a baseball stadium than you do in a classroom. It's the ultimate classroom. Everything you need to learn about life you can learn if you 38:00have to go to a baseball stadium every single day, day after day after day all summer long. Relationships, overcoming things, good weather, bad weather, dramatic wins, heartbreaking losses, injuries, getting along with people, engaging with fans. I loved it. It was really hard, because what was happening is the Braves were good going to the playoffs. The Hokies were good going to Bowl games and then the basketball team got good -- whatever it was, 200 weeks. I think they worked like 200-something weeks in a row over like 31/2 years. It was just crushing me, and I had to make a decision do I want to stay with baseball, Braves, but Tech looks really good.
Bill: And I think we're going to be really good. This was in '96. The Braves,'96 was my last year. Went to the Orange Bowl here that fall and that was the 39:00end of that. I said I can't keep driving back and forth from Richmond.
There was a point, I probably could still do it, I could name off the top of myhead every exit between Richmond and Blacksburg.
Ren: That's probably true.
Bill: But I do have a story about that.
Ren: Yeah, yeah.
Bill: The fans in Richmond will like. The Richmond Braves had a promotion calledthe Sherwin-Williams homerun inning. The Sherwin-William Sure Win homerun inning, and if someone hit a homerun during that inning 100-bucks. If it was a two-run-homer 200-bucks, a three-run-homer 300 grand slam $1,000. And every game we would pull out a contestant. You would go to a Sherwin-Williams store and fill out a little coupon and they would bring it to us and we would read it. Joe Smith from Midlothian is our Sherwin-Williams homerun, and of course the Braves would have three strikeouts. Oh, congratulations anyway. Good luck tomorrow. 40:00We'll pick another name. Well at the end of the season with the Braves we ran out of names. There was no coupon left in the box, so we had to make up a name. Well, west of Richmond we started doing exits. Shannon Hill was a contestant one night. Shannon Hill. Amazingly from Louisa County. And the next night it's the next exit, Louisa Ferncliff.
Ren: Oh my God.
Bill: The Braves load the basis. Now there's no such person. It's an exit onI-64, and I've got a blank sheet of paper and I'm claiming it's the coupon. Oh Louisa we're pulling for you sweetie. This could be your big moment. Steve, Stu 41:00and I were doing the game, a grand slam. "It's a grand slam for the Braves," and it's our first and only winner of the year, "And congratulations to Louisa Ferncliff our $1,000 winner!" So we go to the break at the end of the inning and the people from the station come by the booth. I can't believe we're going to have to pay this person $1,000 for a meaningless minor league game. Where's the coupon? We need to get her phone number and her name. We said, "We made it up," and they were so happy. So every time I drive by the Louisa Ferncliff exit I tip my cap to our Richmond Braves grand-slam winner.
Ren: They didn't have to pay the $1,000 though.
Bill: Who never existed.
Ren: That's hilarious. That's a great one. Something I wanted to ask you, I meangosh, between the traveling for games and Bowl games and media days, you probably have met and talked to more alumni than as many as Coach Beamer. 42:00Through all these travels is there a singular story about Virginia Tech that you hear from these alumni?
Bill: Oh boy, there's so many. We've had several Make A Wish kids, friends ofalums or alums that work in a hospital. All this kid wants to do is sit in the north end zone and jump up and down to Enter Sandman but doesn't want anyone to know. Can you get him in or her in? We do it. Not only that, you can come up Friday, you can play catch with Mike Vick or walk through and Coach Beamer would... We never even publicized those things, so things like that happen. Alumni things, you know in '07 after the shooting we had 1,500 people show up at 43:00a Hokie club event in Richmond and it felt so therapeutic and so... As big as that football game was against East Carolina the kickoff dinner in '07 in Richmond was amazing. You know the University Alumni Association has the little sticker Virginia Tech for life and the pins, and we see that and whatever, it's clever marketing. It's great marketing, but it's life and death in that instance because we lost students and we lost professors and we lost our innocence. We lost so much in '07. I just remember the feeling in that room that night. I've never been in a room since like that, and I understand why, but that was a really defining night to see people sharing their stories. You just realize what 44:00an amazingly special place this is.
Ren: I wanted to ask you about that game against East Carolina because that wasmy freshman year of college.
Bill: First game.
Ren: First game as a college student, I mean I had been to hundreds before then.How were you able to, after the tragedy that happened here, how were you able to kind of collect yourself and do your job knowing what a return to normalcy meant for this campus and this University?
Bill: It was a really hard game to do. I recall the voice cracked a few timesduring the game. I recall I did not want to, I had previewed/screened the video 45:00that they were going to play to the crowd the day before and I said I can't watch it.
I watched it Friday in the HokieVision office and it was really good. I don'tknow if you recall what it was.
Bill: I said if I see that there's no way and I didn't watch. I turned thevolume on my headset down and just tried to focus on the game, because I wanted to be able to broadcast the game. I talked with some of the players that day from Virginia Tech. I don't think they wanted to play. They didn't want to go out there and hit East Carolina's kids. East Carolina probably felt the same way. I think once the game got going it was okay, but it was a therapeutic return to normalcy, or the new normal for our campus, but it was a hard game to do. I would rather have not done the game. It would have been better just to... But it was time to play. It was September. It was a hard game to do. 46:00
Ren: Would you say that was probably the hardest game you've had to call?
Bill: Emotionally yeah. I mean there have been some really cold games that wherewhat makes it hard is it's 7 degrees and you're standing outside for four hours. Oh, I just want to move, but you can't move because you've got to stand still because you're working.
Ren: Right. We will move on to a lighter conversation here. I want to ask youabout being inducted into the WAER Hall of Fame in 2014 by your classmate Mike Tirico. What was that experience like?
Bill: I felt and still feel very undeserving because this year I inducted MarvAlbert, and how I got into a Hall of Fame before Marv Albert is ridiculous and astonishing. Regardless of what order you go and go alphabetical, go chronological, he's done hundreds of thousands of major events and more than 47:00anybody and Marv needed to go in. It was great. I mean it was a very special place. I have two schools. I've got custom captain's chairs in my house. I'm sure you've seen those captain's chairs that people own. I've got a Virginia Tech chair and a Syracuse chair, proud of both, two amazing schools. Two very different schools. It's amazing both are in the ACC now, but institutionally two totally different schools and I'm proud to have my picture on the wall there and a picture on the wall here, so it's great.
Ren: In 2013 you were inducted into the Virginia Hall of Fame.
Bill: Another one that makes no sense.
Ren: As well as being named Sportscaster of the Year 11 times by the NationalSportswriters and Sportswriter's Association.
Bill: In a weak field.
Ren: You have these accomplishments, as you're kind of jokingly, but how do48:00these things really make you feel?
Bill: We had winning teams and we were on everywhere. To the people in Norfolkwe are the home team and I keep going back to how big that was and how that is for student recruitment then and today, and how big that is for sponsorship then and today, and recruiting really good players that people... We were on the best stations. We were winning and we were on the best TV stations on Sunday mornings so everybody saw me, and I think that's why. Now we worked to get them. We had to go in and I visited sponsor after sponsor in Hampton Rhodes and in Richmond and in Lynchburg, all over the State. So, I feel like, people say where's your home? I always say it's Virginia. My address was Blacksburg and Blacksburg is home, but I feel at home in Williamsburg. I feel at home in Richmond and Norfolk 49:00and Fairfax, everywhere. I mean when you go someplace and you see the same people year after year for 25 years you know your way around. You know the backroads and the best barbeque, and you know how to get to the front of the line at a certain place, so that's all. I think we created something really special here, but having great teams was the number one thing.
Ren: This is kind of a side bar question, but do you get recognized a lot out inpublic? Not just in Blacksburg, Christiansburg, River Valley, but is that strange?
Bill: Yeah. Not strange, I enjoy it. I'm representing and still represent Techand that's an important place. It's an important thing in the State.
Ren: I want to switch to this. I hope it's okay that we talk about this. In 2015you kind of made the decision to leave Virginia Tech. Was that a difficult 50:00decision? Did you wrestle with it for a while?
Bill: Yeah, it was really hard. I wondered basically if I was everprofessionally, personally, but if I was ever going to leave where would I go. And I had done some games on TV and there had been openings and nothing ever really got me excited. I mean I didn't even have a resume. And I knew the gentleman at UCLA was going to retire and I had a lot of family out there and it's the top job in the country in my field and it pays a ton. It was the same group that owned IMG and we played them. I knew the guy was going to retire and when we played them in the Sun Bowl in El Paso, we had a group that got together for both schools and I had a chance to meet their athletics director. He reminded me a lot of Jim Weaver. His name is Dan Guerrero, and I met some of their people. 51:00
The following year the guy announced that 14-15 would be his last year, so itwas just a year later, I thought okay. So I kept my eye on it and I watched them and I watched how they did things. I watched their program, Coach Mora on the football side and Coach Alford and who they were recruiting, the station they were on. It was the Dodgers and the Bruins and that's it. It's like there's Vin Scully and the voice of the Bruins. Those are the announcers on that station. I thought long and hard about it. I had a long meeting with Coach Beamer and Whit and Buzz and the President and John Dooley and others. And I said, "This job is going to open up and I think I want to talk with them about it." Coach Beamer talked with some other people and it wasn't being unloyal to Tech. I didn't do 52:00it behind anyone's back. This is the best job in the country. This is the winningest team in the history of college or pro sports in our country. They've won more than the Yankees and the Canadians and the Celtics combined.
Ren: Yeah, right.
Bill: All these Olympians and men and women and football and basketball andwrestling and swimming and tennis. So it opened up and they looked at my work and they said, "We would like to meet you." And they flew me out to LA and I vividly remember we were playing Duke at 9 o'clock and I got a phone call before the game, at about 6 o'clock, three hours. I walked into Whit's office and I said, "UCLA wants me to go out." I went out. We talked and looked around and then they flew me back out for an interview and they said, "We want you to do at UCLA what you did at Virginia Tech." I really wrestled with it and then they 53:00offered a lot of money. I came over and I talked with Whit and Frank and they were great. It basically came down to do I want to be doing at 72 what I was doing when I was 22. If I'm ever going to leave it's going to have to be for something like that, Pauley Pavilion, the Rose Bowl, the Bruins. It was really hard and I didn't like it, and I can't tell you why to quote the Eagles, the California band. I didn't like, it's the best job, it's just not the best fit for me. I don't know looking back if it was the wrong, I don't think it was the wrong decision to give it a try. I'm glad I tried it, but it wasn't the right fit. 54:00
Ren: Because you may have had that doubt in your mind for the rest of yourcareer, your life. What if I had took that job? I don't think many people would fault you for at least trying it and seeing what it was like and live in, and I think you've said this before, the kind of media capital of the world. You think Los Angeles and New York, it's been those two.
Bill: I think the way we do things here, and by 'we' I mean those of us on theEast Coast. I like the way we do things here. As we record this it's been a couple of years and I still try to figure out why. But there are very good people there. I still stay in touch with the UCLA people. I text with Coach Alford. Coach Moore has been dismissed, but I will stay in touch with those 55:00people out there. They are good people. I think LA is a really nice place to visit. I like being able to get to where I'm going in less than a half hour and not have to budge 90 minutes just to go 10 miles. But not to sound like a poster, this is home.
Ren: Well glad to have you back. My brother lived in San Diego for ten years andhe moved back to Virginia.
Bill: San Diego is different.
Ren: It definitely is.
Ren: But he had the same Virginia is home, Southwest Virginia is home. This areais home.
Bill: We like to think there's a big difference between Virginia and Georgia andthere's really not that much difference. It's really the same. It's just to me LA was just not what I hoped it would be. 56:00
Ren: When you came back to Virginia Tech and to Blacksburg how did the role ofthis professor of practice with the Communications Department, VT Department of Communications come into play?
Bill: Well that was all part of the plan to come back. I've got to get the years right.
Ren: 16 I guess?
Bill: No, it was before that. I was having breakfast with Jim Weaver in Miami atthe Orange Bowl. We were talking about starting a student broadcaster program, because we wanted to get our students more involved and we started doing that. I talked with Dr. Denton, the head of the Comm Department at Virginia Tech. I said we want to do some things and start a class that [00:56:54 Andrea Allegretti] teaches a sports journalism class. It became really popular.
And I talked to Bob when I was in LA. "How's it going?" We stayed in touch and57:00said we're going to start a sports media program here at Virginia Tech. Who would be someone to coordinate this? So that's in my mind. You can kind of put the pieces together. It's like hmm, you know, "I'm going to come back. I'm coming back to see some people. Why don't we get together?" And sure enough I did and we came back. It happened really quickly. Dr. Sands was in on this and the Dean was in on it. Can we do this? What would it take? You've got a great program here. We have an opportunity for a great program here. We already have a school where athletics is really important. The big-dollar items have already been purchased. The studio here is already built. We've got a great television studio. We've got a TV studio that CNN could come in and do shows from here or Fox or ESPN or MSNBC, any of them, a totally digital studio. It's the same 58:00switchyards, the same lights. We're ready to go and we've got to take advantage of it. Well, if you're going to invest millions and millions and millions of dollars in a studio in the brand new Moss Arts Center let's get some kids in here that want to do this.
So that's where the genesis of it was and I'm glad they asked me to come back.We're going to focus on sports and there's going to be a lot of great opportunities here at Tech for kids. We've got the ACC Network launching next year. There's going to be a real need for students in front and behind the camera. We're going to add some more faculty just like me to this list of instructors. Now we've got to get kids to come in. We've got to get kids that want to come to Tech to be broadcasters like we have them coming now who want to be engineers or that want to study in Pamplin. We need to have them come in and really really be eager about journalism and broadcasting.
Ren: We talked about this a little bit earlier and in doing some research, you59:00talked about how Syracuse the model was you kind of mentor the person who comes after you and the same thing, and obviously that was beneficial for your career. Are you kind of thinking about the same model here?
Bill: Yeah, that's exactly what we're doing. Yeah. So I'm meeting - I call itrecruiting, it's not recruiting like the coaches recruit because there's not the summer camps, but I'm driving to Richmond and DC and I'm meeting with kids and their parents, and their final two schools are Syracuse and Michigan State. And I say, "Before you sign up for that let me show you what we're doing here." And so we've got three kids, one this year, we've got two coming next year. I met with a young man and his parents, an 11th grader in Miami two weeks ago. I think they have got to be really really good and really passionate about it by the time they get here, as opposed to someone who is already a junior here at Tech and they've never stood in front of a camera before. 60:00
It's like trying to learn to play the piano when you're 30. It's hard. But ifyou've already got it and you've been doing it since you were 9 or 10, which a lot of these kids have been doing, they just never considered coming here to learn. As expensive as higher education is around the country it's double or triple at a private school, and so many of these schools, Miami and Syracuse and Fordham have done really well with this over the years are private. For some families it's not a big deal. I've talked with some families that paying 300-grand to send their kid to school is nothing. There's not a loan involved, it's a check and it's no big deal. They don't even feel it, but that's not the norm. That's not the way it is for most families. So we can build the same thing in sports media analytics at Virginia Tech the same way Coach Beamer built that football program, so that's the blueprint. Coach Beamer showed us how to do it, whether it's Norfolk or Richmond or DC or anywhere, Southwest Virginia, wherever 61:00it happens to be, let's make Virginia Tech journalism, Virginia Tech communications on the tip of your tongue of where I should go to college. Not, "Oh, I need to go to Fordham. I need to go to Northwestern," another private school that costs 65-grand a year. Great programs, and I've worked with some of these people and I know some of them, and we share ideas. Some kids who want to go to school in an urban city at an urban campus, Northwestern and Fordham are perfect. We can't offer that.
We had 30 kids work college game day last year, right. Pulling cables, helping[01:01:38 Herbstreit] working with Corso, getting the lights set-up. You're never going to get that chance at Fordham and that's what I tell them. If you want an opportunity right now in the fall of 2018 come. And so I got one last year and two this year that we're actually recruiting.
Ren: Yeah, that's awesome. Just looking at your Twitter I had seen you have62:00guest speakers often, and these are people that are on ESPN or whatever, Fox Sports 1, whatever it may be speaking to your class and kind of showing them, teaching them in a way someone who has been in the business and done what these kids want to do, I mean I think that's huge. That's pretty awesome. I think maybe broadcast journalism, sports media analytics, whatever the correct terminology is there, I think it's going to pay huge dividends to them because other majors don't have that opportunity and that experience, and maybe that's kind of like the selling point of having you head this concentration.
Bill: As of this moment it is a concentration.
Ren: Are you looking towards maybe have a minor?
Bill: The University would like it to be a minor, yes.
Ren: A minor? Okay, cool.
Bill: It's great. So I get people to come in and speak and they critique mybroadcast. The way it has worked so far the first two years of this is I'm in the classroom until Thursday and then I'm out doing the game somewhere in the 63:00country on TV on Saturday.
And I say, "All right, your homework for this week, make sure after the Hokiegame you turn on ESPN and I'm doing the Cincinnati game or I'm doing the game in Seattle," whatever it is. So by Monday I get a full critique of my own broadcast. "You told us that you are supposed to look at the camera and never look down. You looked down at the game on Saturday."
Ren: Has it made you a better broadcaster?
Bill: Yeah, it has.
Ren: That's pretty cool. So you're teaching the students something and in turnthey are teaching you something. That's pretty cool.
Bill: I'm definitely a better broadcaster right now than I was two years ago,and the television has been fun, because I had done mostly radio, some TV. I am really enjoying the television.
Ren: Is it entirely different would you say?
Ren: I want to ask you, these are some kind of broad questions here. If someonesimply says the words Virginia Tech what's kind of the first thing you think of? 64:00
Bill: When someone says Virginia Tech the first thing I think of, it's more of afeeling than a think. An image would probably be that a sunset over the duck pond or Burruss or Lane stadium, or an aerial shot of the fireworks going off. It would be Lane, Burruss or the gazebo. Burruss from the Drillfield looking west, southwest. You know what I'm talking about.
Ren: Throughout how many years, 30-plus, what changes have you seen at the65:00University, whether it be the University at large, athletics, the growth of different majors, what changes have you seen over time, major changes, and what do you think about some of the changes?
Bill: Wow. Well the great leaders we've had from the presidents we've had atthis University have just been incredible. Dr. Torgersen, Dr. Steger, Dr. Sands and Coach Beamer and now Coach Fuente in football and the athletic directors, Jim and Dave and Whit, Jim Weaver, David Braine, and Whit Babcock, the leaders have accelerated and grown this University. The national capital region growth is incredible. I still think the best days of Tech are ahead of us. I would be curious to see as the population of the State continues to grow what the enrollment of our school looks like in 25 years. I think that will be really 66:00interesting to see.
And globally, I think anywhere you go in this country people know what VirginiaTech is now and that wasn't the case in 1985. And I think now you want to make sure anywhere in the world people know what it is, and obviously whether it's adjusting the logo or having a more global presence in Europe and Asia. I will be curious to see where it goes in that realm. I know the schools on the West Coast, being there for one year, I can tell you that at the Cal schools, UC Berkeley and UCLA, the number one focus is Asia. All their focus is set on marketing in Asia, getting students from Asia, doing programs there, getting investors from there, doing business there with UCLA, University of California alums. And I will be curious to see, we're an East Coast school, if we go global 67:00maybe we do Pacific [01:07:06] business projects and academic collaborations, but I would think it's more European for us only because it's a lot easier to get over there.
Bill: We're an amazing national University. You asked what's the growth,probably more of an international growth at this point.
Ren: When you look across the campus what concerns you?
Bill: I think Cassell needs to be replaced and actually I'm wondering how we'regoing to pay for it. I think we need a new convocation basketball multi-purpose building there. In 20 years it's going to cost ten times as much as it would today. I think that would be something that would really help our campus, not just athletics. That concerns me a little bit, and the cost of it. I mean I 68:00think everyone knows higher education is really expensive. The cheapest it's going to cost to run anything on this campus is right now. It's going to cost more next year and more in five years, and how are we going to fund that while keeping it affordable for Virginia families? We're a land grant school. We have a mission to serve the people of the Commonwealth of Virginia. It's core is why we are here. It's great to have a great football team and it's great to have a top 30 research school and it's great to have academic programs ranked in the top of the country regardless of what it is, it's awesome. But at the end of the day it's a land grant University that is here for Virginians to serve people in the State and we can never forget that.
Ren: Two things that I don't want to leave out here is the Bill Ross StudentAthlete-Endowed Scholarship. Can you talk a little bit about that? 69:00
Bill: I'm very honored that they named a scholarship after me for a student atTech who is going to study communications. We've got a bunch of student athletes that are in our program, and I hope that someday someone is very very successful in his or her post athletics career on the air. It's very humbling.
Ren: The Bill Roth's United Way Kids Day.
Bill: Every year we get a bunch of, the United Way is one of the great groupshere for kids that need it. There are a lot of disadvantaged kids in Virginia and the United Way through several of its partner agencies 15 years ago we met, and I was a speaker. I was a speaker at one of their events and I got to meet some of these kids. He was 11 or 12 years old and he had never been at a Tech 70:00game. He had never been on campus. He was a Hokie fan. He had a VT shirt on because I was the guest speaker. I don't want to make it up, he was somehow a disadvantaged kid, a single parent and mom was in rehab, couldn't raise him and he ended up in foster care, in four schools in three years, something along those lines. I said, "You've never been to a game?" "No." I said, "We're going to change that. You're coming to the game. You're going to sit with in my court side." And then they said, "Well it's not that easy. He doesn't have a way to get there. He's got foster parents." "Everybody in the family gets a ticket," and we did that. And so we got like 12 tickets. Everybody came. I said, "You know what, next year let's find all these kids in Virginia that had never been to a game, could never afford it and let's treat them like VIPs and we get them 71:00t-shirts and hats and wristbands and free milkshakes from the dairy club and they meet the team after the game, and get pictures with the Hokie Bird and they all sit together and cheer for the Hokies." These are kids that have never had a chance to be on a college campus before, let alone go to an ACC basketball game. The tickets are $70, or $50, whatever they cost. They have no chance to ever do that.
And it's been great, so we've done it for 15 years. We had 100 kids last year atCassell and we're going to have 100 again this year for the Duke game. So again, it's not me, it's the United Way. It's Tech Athletics. I've got 100 tickets to the Virginia Tech Duke men's basketball game, Louisville. Virginia Tech Louisville men's basketball game, and that's hard to pull off if you don't have everybody, but everyone sees it. You see the tears just streaming down their face when the Hokie Bird runs out, things that we take for granted and I love 72:00doing that. Thank you for asking.
Ren: Yeah, that's awesome. I want to ask you, Mike Burnop just another voice whohas echoed through Virginia Tech's history, describe your relationship with Mike.
Bill: A brother, older brother, much older. [Chuckles] Way older. Older brother.We talk four or five times a week now. We talked four or five times a week the year I was in Los Angeles. His knowledge of Tech is incredible. His magnetism when he walks into a room is off the charts. He's always had that. He's popular with alums. He's popular with our players. He's popular with the opposing players and coaches. What an ambassador for Virginia Tech in everything that he does.
Ren: Last couple of questions and thank you for being so generous with your73:00time. We are a little over an hour. If a student whether they are in high school or maybe a freshman at this University wants to have a career in broadcast journalism, they see you and other, Chris Collinsworth, Al Michaels, Mike Tirico, all these broadcasters, what advice would you give to them?
Bill: The most important thing is that when they are still in high school isthat they are involved with their high school paper or a high school radio station, or they do their own blog, or they have their own podcast, or they intern, and they write a bunch. Kids need to write more, and writing isn't texting 140 or 280 characters with your thumb on your phone, really write and understand grammar, because after five semesters of this I can tell that grammar 74:00is not valued as it was when I was in high school. A lot of kids don't have the ability to write. We are doing a current event quiz every day in the one class just to make sure they read, and that would be the second thing, because you better be reading every day what's going on, because it's a five-question current event sports quiz, current event quiz every day, and there's a three-minute time limit. You either know it or you don't, so I want them to know what's going on. And it's not just knowing about sports, it's understanding journalism and how it works and they get it now. A lot of these kids they know what the First Amendment is, but they don't understand why it is so important until you show the Penn State story and how a young 22-year-old writer from the Harrisburg paper challenged Penn State's president and said, "Sir, you are lying." She was a Penn State grad and she stood up to Coach Paterno and that 75:00athletic department and that University as a journalist.
And then we saw some people do it at Baylor. They covered up student rape, up tothe AD football coach president. And now we see the same thing happened at Michigan State here in the last ten days, where that guy, our U.S. Olympic team, that guy, that gymnastics coach and the Michigan State team doctor would still be doing this if it wasn't for the Indianapolis Star. The president of the University knew. The coaches knew. The athletic director knew. Email after email of student athletes saying what had happened and they covered it up. And God bless the First Amendment and the writers for the Indianapolis Star who said this is going to be a really hard story to write. It's an incredibly awkward topic to discuss. And so that's what we're doing in these classes, that you need to know journalism. Yeah, you need to love sports and the Hokies are great and 76:00understanding that is fantastic, but understand what the First Amendment is and what our job is, what your job will be as the [01:16:11 farthest] state in this country. That's why we are different than China and we are different than North Korea and we are different than Venezuela. It's really really important and it can be tough, and it can be awkward but it's important to know how to do it, so those are the things that I would so. Know what the First Amendment is, intern, read, and learn how to write.
Ren: Yeah, there you go. [Chuckles] What does Virginia Tech mean to you?
Bill: Well, I should have answered this before, to me Virginia Tech is thepeople. So if I'm in Northern Virginia at a game watch party or in Florida at an alumni event I feel like I'm at Virginia Tech. And I think a lot of people here understand that feeling. When you're around other Hokies you feel like I'm at 77:00Virginia Tech. It may be at a bar in Charlotte with 125 other alums or parents of kids, whatever it happens to be, it's my closest friends, it's my home. But you don't have to be in Blacksburg to be at Virginia Tech.
Ren: That's true.
Bill: Right, you can be in Leesburg or one of our other satellite campuses.
Ren: Is there anything you would like people to know about you that they don't?I know you are quite the piano player from what I hear.
Bill: We're not going now to the piano here at the library. We're not puttingthat on. I'm really interested to see what Virginia Tech will be like if someone is reading this in 30 years or 50 years or listening to it. From its founding 78:00through today, 2018, the values of the school haven't changed and that's what so amazing about it Ren.
O. M. Stull wrote the Hokie cheer and the Old Hokie yell, okay. If you put himin a Hokie club event now or put him at Lane Stadium and he heard Old Hokie he wouldn't know that it's been 100 years. Will we still chant Old Hokie in 2118? I think we will.
Bill: And I hope we are, and I hope in 2118 they are still yelling 'touchdownTech' every time the Hokies score.
Ren: In wrapping up I just want to say, and I'm sure I'm not the first, someoneof my age to tell you this, I grew up in Southwest Virginia and traveling to 79:00Virginia Tech football games, listening to you on the radio, driving back listening to you on the radio, so to be able to meet you through Andrew and for you to sit down with VT Stories and to just share this unbelievable history that you have with this University, I really really appreciate it. It's really surreal, so Bill Roth thank you so much.
Bill: Thank you Ren. Go Hokies.