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January 31, 2014

Jones, VT Hope To Reconnect

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As a former athlete himself, Whit Babcock, Virginia Tech's new director of athletics, mentioned a few times in his introductory press conference Wednesday that he understands that perspective. The son of a baseball coach, he played for his father at James Madison.

And that background certainly resonated with one member of the search committee specifically, former Hokies running back Kevin Jones. Babcock received Jones' vote for the position, but as Jones and Babcock spoke about even before Wednesday, Virginia Tech has to better connect with its alumni and former players.

Associate athletic director John Ballein touched on a few of the disconnect currently between the university and its former players in a recent interview with The Daily Press. Ballein said former Hokies now in the NFL made $48 million last season, with none of it given back to Virginia Tech.

"When I got asked to be on the committee, I was like, 'Of course,'" Jones said. "I think we probably do need to do a better job of reaching back at some of the former Tech guys, to be involved and be around the program. A lot of guys have time on their hands when they're done playing to be around. They're Hokies, we all know 'em. I'm not the only one that could be around, so let's reach out. I think Whit addressed that, because he asked me about that in the interview process. I told him that would be a great idea."

Perhaps more will take Jones' lead in being pro-active. Of course, it helps that Jones has been enrolled in classes at Virginia Tech for the past three years. He'll graduate in May with a master's degree in industrial design.

As a part of the search committee, Jones said he put plenty of thought into his research and the final choice in Babcock. And Jones is happy with his decision, in part due to Babcock's past life as an athlete. But Jones said he hopes Babcock will go through with his thoughts on reaching out to former players like himself.

"For me, it was a person who I could tell cared about the athletes, as students first and then, athletes," Jones said of what qualities he looked for. "Without the guys on the field or their performance, everything else kinda falls apart. I just wanted, for me, somebody who could respect both sides of it. Him being a former student-athlete instead of being from a coach, I could tell that he has those qualities. He has a humble demeanor, but at the same time, you can tell he has leadership qualities."

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