A Moment of Silence for Virginia Tech

Saturday is the last day of spring football. Most schools are done with their lone weekend of April tailgating. The University of Florida welcomed more than 47,000 fans to Florida Field last Saturday. South Carolina hosted 35,000 during its Garnet and Black game.

In Lincoln, nearly 55,000 made their way to Memorial Stadium for Nebraska’s annual Red-White showdown.

At Virginia Tech, there will be no spring football game. The school cancelled the affair in the wake of a shooting spree that left 33 dead after a student, Cho Seung-Hui, pumped dozens of bullets into classmates and professors before a self-inflicted gunshot to the head ended the ordeal as police closed in.

The deadliest shooting rampage in modern U.S. history took just a few hours, but the pain will last forever.

There’s a time to play. A time to pray. A time to heal.

This weekend the school will honor its fallen, not its football stars.

Coach Frank Beamer approached administrators on Tuesday. Playing the game was never an option.

“(It’s) out of respect for the people involved,” Beamer told the Roanoke Times. “There’s things more important than football right now.”

Usually, the Hokies unite in victory; now they can unite in mourning. A nation weeps with them.

It’s been 15 years since the Weavers worked at the University of Florida. Jim Weaver served in UF athletic administration from 1983-92; his then wife Ernestine was the gymnastics coach from 1980-92.

During his 10 years in Blacksburg, Weaver has made Tech one of the best athletic programs in the country. He was smart enough to keep Beamer happy, bright enough to flee the Big East and he brought in Seth Greenberg, a masterful hire that has rejuvenated a dormant men’s basketball program.

Bottom line: College athletics are about wins and losses, but not life and death, a startling dose of perspective that Weaver and his colleagues have endured the last few days.

Support has trickled in from afar. Among the first to call was UF athletic director Jeremy Foley, who started work in Gainesville a few years before Weaver arrived on campus.

“Jeremy called, Bill Arnsparger called,” Weaver said. “I’ve had emails from all over. It’s been overwhelming, heart-warming to see the concern, care and compassion from all these people.”

Too often in tragedy the first instinct is to blame. Someone must be accountable.

Could school officials have acted faster, when the gunman made his way from a dormitory to an academic building where he opened fire on helpless students and teachers? Could the campus have been secured?

Questions stem from concern. Answers give us comfort.

Truth is, there’s no right or wrong answer. Why try to make sense of a senseless act?

An angry young man buys a handgun, plots a reign of terror and starts shooting innocent people. It could have happened anywhere. Any school. Any town.

Unfortunately freedom does not come without risk.

Let the spinnin’ wheel spin. Tragedy and fate play no favorites.

Virginia Tech and the tiny town of Blacksburg will survive and eventually thrive. The community, tucked away near the hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, sits in Southwest Virginia, about an hour away from neighboring West Virginia.

The landscape is rugged, as are its people. The rest of Virginia _ Richmond, Tidewater, Charlottesville _ is largely comprised of stuffy aristocrats, blue-bloods who wear blue blazers.

Virginia Tech is a breath of fresh air, blue collar, down to earth, hard working, salt of the earth folk. You see this in football.  Beamer wins with defense and special teams. Sexy? No. Effective? Yes.

For now, though, football is on hold. Many of the players, like the rest of the students, have gone home since classes have been cancelled until Monday.

Four months from now football will begin again for Virginia Tech, when the Hokies host East Carolina.  By then, today’s tears will be replaced by September’s cheers.

“This is a very special place,” Weaver said. “The Hokie nation loves its university.”

No more so than now.