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Atlanta: Home away from home for Hokies

Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer and Chick-fil-A Bowl president Gary Stokan both have lake houses on Georgia’s Lake Oconee. They golf together in the summer. And they’ve also become quite the business partners.

The city of Atlanta has become a home away from home for the Hokies, and this year is no exception, as Virginia Tech will be making its third appearance in the city this season. While some fans were quick to question the return visit (especially considering the Hokies are 0-2 there this season), they should know it’s a partnership that has paid dividends. Since 2006, Peach Bowl Inc. has donated and paid an astounding $9.5 million to Virginia Tech in game payouts, donations and winnings from the summer golf event.

The Hokies have paid them back in tickets sold and brand name, top-ranked football.

“We’re happy to do it,” Stokan said. “Just think about this year: How many schools in the country first off have the opportunity to win 10 games for six consecutive years? Only Virginia Tech and Texas. That’s admirable in itself. Second, when you think about how many schools would bring 31,200 tickets to the kickoff game, and in the same year play a game in the same city against Georgia Tech and sell their 4,000 for a visiting team, and then sell another 17,500 tickets in the same city – third trip – for a bowl game. That’s close to 56,000 tickets that they have sold in Atlanta for these three events. I don’t know how many programs in the country have that kind of fan support.”

It’s almost like Virginia Tech brought a filled Lane Stadium to the city of Atlanta this year.

This year’s Chick-fil-A Bowl is the third CFA Bowl event since 2006 that the Hokies have played in: The 2006 bowl game against Georgia, this year’s kickoff game against Alabama, and Thursday night’s game against Tennessee. Since 2006, Beamer and Dell Curry have both played in the CFA Bowl Challenge golf event three times, and they won it in 2006 and placed second the past two years.

For defensive end Nekos Brown, it’s the third time he’s stayed in the Marriott Marquis downtown because he played in the 2006 Chick-fil-A Bowl his freshman year. He’s grown quite fond of the local Hard Rock CafĂ© (which is no surprise considering he is the son of Chuck Brown, who is known as the godfather of Go-Go music, and is a famous songwriter and performer). Brown said he’s got no problem coming back to Atlanta for a third time this year.

“Nah, we’re not sick of it,” Brown said. “If we had to go to any other bowl than a BCS bowl I’d pick the Chick-fil-A Bowl, most definitely.”

The money from the kickoff game goes directly to Virginia Tech, as did the winnings from the summer golf and another half a million donated to the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund. The bowl revenue, though, is divided among the conference schools. Roughly $2.8 million has gone directly to the school since 2006.

“I think it’s all business, but I think we’ve been good for their business and I know they’ve been good for our business,” said Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer. “ … Our fans have always showed up well here and I know we think Gary Stokan and his staff, just extremely professional, extremely organized, and they’re easy to deal with. It’s just a fact. It’s just a very professionally done operation. That’s what makes it fun for us. We enjoy dealing with them and we’ve been an attractive team for them, and I hope we’re going to be playing down here a few more times.”