Byline: Stephen V. Bird, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
BLACKSBURG, Va. - Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer knew he had lost more than a few football games when his Hokies dropped five of seven to end the 2003 season.
He looked around the locker room and saw stars who were playing for an NFL future instead of the Hokies. After 17 seasons, Beamer knew something was missing.
As summer practice opened last year, the Tech coach wanted to recapture the blue-collar spirit that put his program in the national spotlight.
In an effort to foster a more egalitarian mentality among his players, Beamer made changes. Borrowing from the film, "Remember the Titans," no longer would players choose their roommates on the road. They would be assigned a new one each trip. A uniform wardrobe meant players all wore the same duds to practice and had the same attire for team functions.
Taking a page from Lance Armstrong's book, orange "Team United" bracelets were worn everywhere.
"It really gives the feeling that nobody is better than anybody else, that we're all subject to the same rules and the same consequences," said senior linebacker James Anderson, noting the change in team chemistry. "I really feel like it boosted team morale, because you don't have any superstars."
Associate athletic director of football operations John Ballein came up with the idea in a staff brainstorming session. Figuring the defense had its lunch pail and the offense its chain link, Ballein thought the team needed a uniting symbol.
Duke men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski's fist concept came to mind: fingers acting alone are more powerful acting in unison.
"That symbol demonstrated our team chemistry," said Ballein, linking the theme to the team's local charity and to the $33,000 the Hokies raised by selling the orange wristbands for the United Way. …