The Michael Vick story hit the news before I left the Atlanta area Tuesday morning. When Vick’s picture appeared on the TV screen in the lobby of the Hyatt Place Hotel in Johns Creek one man looked up and scowled.
"I can’t believe they’re going to let him out of prison next year," he said. "They should leave him locked up and throw away the key."
Others nodded in agreement.
"I take it you’re not a Vick fan," I said.
"I was," he said. "We’ve had season tickets to Falcons games for years. My engineering degree is from Virginia Tech. I was proud. No more. Vick is an example of what is wrong with professional sports. He’s an example of what has gone wrong with Virginia Tech."
"Why do you say that?"
"When I was at Tech in the 60s, the emphasis was on education, not football. That was before they hired Frank Beamer and let him build a football program around street thugs."
I’ve heard Tech’s football teams called thugs before but usually from alumni from other schools — not from graduates from the Blacksburg university.
During the six-hour drive back to Floyd, I had a lot of time to think about the concern from an alumni of Tech. Yes, Virginia Tech’s image has not only been been damaged by Michael Vick’s dog-fighting habit but also by the antics of his brother and other football players whose troubles have been front-page news.
Beamer is a winning coach of a football program that brings a lot of money into the university and such schools too often look the other way when money is involved. Indiana put up with the antics of Bobby Knight for too many years because he won national championships.
Beamer thought Michael Vick would bring a national football championship to Tech. More than one cop in the area has told me that arrests of Vick were quashed while he attended Tech. Tech officials intervened to stop an investigation into Vick’s dog fighting activities while he played in Blacksburg. Papers filed by federal prosecutors during the investigation of Vick’s dog fighting activities show he was actively involved in the despicable activity while attending Tech and that Tech officials knew about it.
Beamer admitted he knew that brother Marcus Vick had been arrested on a traffic charge — a violation of his probation with the school — but withheld that information from University officials so the younger Vick could play in a bowl game where he embarrassed the school on national television by stomping on an opposing player. Marcus Vick was finally kicked out of the program and spent a short-lived career with the Miami Dolphins. He copped a plea to a DUI charge in Norfolk this week.
Beamer’s behavior in concealing Vick’s arrest resulted in more scrutiny of his program by school administrators and, this season, he suspended starting receiver Zach Luckett after the player was arrested in Montgomery County for driving drunk and on a suspended license. In September, Luckett got five days in jail for the DUI conviction — his second in five years. In the Michael Vick era, Luckett would probably still be playing for Beamer.