Virginia Tech’s blind obsession with becoming a national football powerhouse and its look-the-other-way mentality at coach Frank Beamer’s recruitment of thugs and gang bangers for his football team is giving the school another public relations nightmare when it can least afford it.

A federal grand jury’s indictment of former Tech quarterback Michael Vick on charges of sponsoring a dog fighting operation may well destroy the national mood of sympathy generated after the mass murder on the Blacksburg campus earlier this year.  With the national spotlight already on Tech, those same journalists who rode roughshod over the town during the aftermath of the shootings will now  turn their attention to Beamer’s questionable recruiting practices and the school’s long history of covering up the misdeeds of its star athletes.

Area police knew Vick as a troublemaker with a long history of involvement in dog fighting and other illegal activities during his time at Tech but the university pressured local law enforcement to bury reports of his arrests and records of his crimes simply disappeared from the files of the Blacksburg Police and Montgomery County Sheriff’s departments.

Tech successfully quashed an investigation into Vick’s dog fighting activities during his student days. All of this will likely come back to haunt the school as the investigation continues, Virginia issues its own indictments, and Vick goes to trial.

And what does emerge could erase Tech’s reputation as a top-notch engineering school and first-rate agriculture research facility. It could reveal how the school administration’s obsession with becoming a big time football school with big time TV exposure and major league bucks became a driving force, eclipsing more academic pursuits.

It will most likely define forever the tattered legacy of Beamer, the Fancy Gap boy who rose to fame and fortune on the shoulders of a team built from street thugs and gang members. The Vick brothers – Michael and Marcus – stand out as his star pupils but they are only part of the questionable history of Beamer’s teams.  Area police files are filled with records of arrests of, and complaints filed against, members of Tech’s football program.

A Blacksburg cop tells me a cheer went up in the squad room when word of Vick’s indictment arrived. Too many times, they were forced to look the other way when Vick got into trouble. Too many times, the two thousand pound gorilla called Virginia Tech exercised its muscle to cover up the truth. Coverups are so much a part of Tech’s operation that Beamer even covered up Marcus’s run-in with the law, and concealed the fact from university officials, so the kid could play in a bowl game.  And he got away with it, only to see Vick embarass the school on national TV.

No more. If justice is served, Frank Beamer and Virginia Tech will get what they deserve.

It should not have happened. It need not have happened. But it did and, in the end, we all will pay for Tech’s stupidity.