Sitting at his desk last week, Dick Voris defended his record. "How are we supposed to compete against the other schools in the ACC? We gave out only 16 scholarships this year. Only 32 last year. The average in this conference is 38. Clemson was able to give out 50 this year.
"Another thing. We have 30 sophomores on our team, 12 of them on the first two units. That's one reason we've been so bad on defense."
But, as is always the case with losing coaches, there are those who will contradict Voris. Later on I talked to a variety of his critics. An alumnus said, "I'm sick of hearing about sophomoritis. Everybody's got sophomores. Army has and they do O.K."
In his office Voris continued: "I thought we might win two games this year. Next year I'm sure we'll field a representative team. We'll win four, five, maybe six games."
"He said that," bellowed a university official, rising from his chair. "That's the problem right there. I can show you a piece of paper where he said he'd win five this year. He once said Virginia had a young passer who could throw a football better than Johnny Unitas."
"Dick is a fine coach," said Ralph Harrison, one of his assistants. "Pro coaches are always calling him up asking him about things. [Voris was line coach for the Los Angeles Rams one year.] I've learned a lot from him. I wouldn't stick around if I hadn't."
Virginia is an Atlantic Conference school and would very much like to remain one, first for reasons of prestige, second for money. The school gets a kickback from television coverage of conference football and basketball games. And when a conference team goes to a bowl, as Duke does soon, every school gets a dividend.
Those who seem the least concerned with the small crowds, the losing streaks and ACC headaches are the players themselves. The day the team departed for South Carolina, a rally at the airport was planned. Later the Roanoke World-News headlined, STUDENT BODY GIVES TEAM BIG SENDOFF. Below, it pictured three players with captions such as "got to win it" and "our last chance."
But when the team arrived at the airport, there were no students present, just President Shannon and his wife, a few friends and some alumni. A keg of beer sat neglected on the grass. The players walked out to the two chartered planes and waited. Then the band arrived on a bus and with it a few students. The keg of beer was opened. After a while the band broke out with the alma mater. Then they played a rousing version of Dixie.
"They must be getting high," said one player. "One more loss and then we can get drunk."