Each Friday we will count down the 10 greatest basketball players in the history of Virginia Tech. This week we look at the most unappreciated star in Hokie history...
Dale Solomon | 6’8″ Center | 1978-82
- Points: 2136 (4th)
- Scoring Average: 18.4 (9th)
- Field Goals Made: 825 (3rd)
- Field Goal %: .567 (2nd)
- Free Throws Made: 486 (3rd)
- Rebounds: 856 (7th)
- Inducted into the VT Sports Hall of Fame: 1994
- Named to the All-Decade Metro Conference Team: 1980s
- First Team All-Metro Conference: 1982
- First Team All-Metro Conference: 1981
- First Team All-Metro Conference: 1980
- First Team All-Metro Conference: 1979
- Metro Conference Freshman of the Year: 1979
- Metro Conference Tournament MVP: 1979
Why He’s in the Top 10:
Uh, did you read the ‘Career Numbers’ and ‘Of Note’ bullets up above? Yeah, Dale Solomon was pretty good. And he was pretty darn good from the moment he first stepped on the Cassell court.
After failing to qualify out of high school, Dale spent a year at Fork Union Military Academy before heading to Virginia Tech. In Dale’s freshman year, he burst on to the scene like no other Hokie, in Tech’s first year in the Metro Conference. He led a really good Virginia Tech team in scoring with 17.8 ppg, and still owns the VT record for most points as a freshman with 534. At the end of the regular season, he was named the Metro Freshman of the Year and to the All-Metro First Team (that’s for all players, not just freshmen). Pretty good year, right? Well, he wasn’t done there. In the Metro Conference Tournament he led the Hokies to victories over cincinnati, #13 louisville, and florida state to capture the Metro crown. Dale was rewarded by being named the Tournament MVP. Solomon and VT captured their 22nd win of the season over jacksonville in the ncaa tournament first round, before their season was ended by Larry Bird and the #1 indiana state sycamores.
Dale did not have a sophomore slump the next year. In 1979-80 he averaged 16.7 ppg and once again was First Team All-Metro (OK, he was All-Metro all four years so I’m going to save my fingers after this). Tech once again made the ncaa tournament, this time with an at-large bid (more on that in the ‘Team Record’ section below). Dale spearheaded a miraculous comeback, helping the Hokies overcome an 18-point halftime deficit and win in overtime against western kentucky. But Tech fell to Isiah Thomas’s #7 indiana hoosiers in the Second Round and Tech’s season ended at 21-8.
Solomon probably enjoyed his best year his junior season, but that was also the worst year of his Virginia Tech tenure. Dale averaged 21.0 ppg, his high while at VT. Solomon’s jump in scoring had a lot to do with his progression from the line. Dale shot “just” 54.9% from the field (the lowest percentage of his career), but he was all but automatic from the line. Solomon hit 167 of 196 free throws, good for 85.2% which is still a record for a Virginia Tech junior.
Dale’s final year the team was much better thanks to Al and Perry Young (unrelated) and Solomon was as good as ever. Solomon averaged 18.2 ppg, hit 59% of his field goals, led the team in blocks, albeit that was with just 16 rejections, and led the Hokies back to the postseason. VT won at home over fordham in their NIT opener, then at ole miss, before falling to Dominique Wilkins in the NIT Quarterfinals*. Solomon became the first player in Metro history to be named First Team All-Metro all four years. Dale was so good, he was even featured in a Sports Illustrated article his senior year: A Hokie Who Isnt Hokey
Solomon was selected in the 3rd Round of the NBA Draft by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1982 NBA Draft, though he did not make the Sixers squad. He went on to play professionally in Italy.
*How’s that for a gruesome threesome to lose to in the postseason — Larry Bird, Isiah Thomas, and Dominique Wilkins — all three made the NBA’s Top 50 All-Time Players List.
For Dale it was three games – victories over cincinnati 80-74, #13 louisville 72-68, and florida state 68-60 – in the 1979 Metro Conference Tournament. Solomon’s efforts, as a freshman, no less, garnered him the Tournament MVP honors and gave Virginia Tech their only ever conference championship to date.
- Overall: 78-41
- Metro Conference: 22-16 (won the 1979 Metro Tournament Championship)
- ncaa tournament: 2-2 (lost to Larry Bird’s indiana state team in the 2nd Round of the 1979 ncaa’s and Isiah Thomas’s indiana team in the 1980 2nd Round of the ncaa tournament)
- NIT: 2-1 (lost to Dominique Wilkins and georgia in the 1982 NIT Quarterfinals)
Before you say “big deal” to the fact Dale was All-Metro all four years, keep in mind the college conference landscape was a lot different back in the late ’70s and early ’80s. With Tech joining the Metro in 1978-79 (Dale’s freshman year), the young conference had seven teams: florida state, cincinnati, memphis state (now memphis), louisville, st. louis, tulane, and VT. If you notice, four of those seven teams (fsu, cincy, louisville, and VT) are now in BCS conferences.
Plus, there were no ‘super’ conferences at that time. There was no ‘Big 12′, those teams were in the Southwest Conference and the Big 8. The ACC had just eight teams. The Big(12)Ten had… get this… 10 schools (imagine that). The Pac 8 had just expanded to the Pac 10 in 1978. And the Big East had just been founded in 1979 with seven schools (rutgers and holy cross actually turned down their invitations). Trust me when I say the Metro was a legitimate basketball conference, with louisville making the Final Four three times between 1980 and 1983 (winning the title in 1980), and memphis constantly hitting the rankings (and making the Final Four in 1985).
Getting to my point, don’t write off Tech’s 22-9, 21-8, 15-13, and 20-11 records as being because of soft schedules. Dale was facing top notch competition on a regular basis between their Metro slate and Ralph Sampson’s uva squads.
The proof was in the pudding in 1980. Despite losing in the first round of the Metro Conference Tournament, Tech received an at-large bid to the big dance. Keep in mind, the ncaa tournament only took 48 teams back then (they expanded from 40 to 48 after Dale’s freshman year). So the committee, at least back then, thought the Hokies were legit. The Hokies earned that respect by overcoming a 48-30 halftime deficit and defeating the host hilltoppers of western kentucky 89-85 in overtime before falling to indiana in the round of 32.
And, when you only have one conference tournament championship in your school’s history, you certainly don’t want to dog your conference. So let’s enjoy that 1979, hard earned in a hard conference.
Without a doubt, Dale Solomon is the most unappreciated player in Virginia Tech basketball history. In fact, I’m probably selling him short by not having him in the top five (I originally had him at #4 but have since dropped him down two spots). Dale was First Team All-Metro all four years, even as a freshman. He was the Metro Tourney MVP in ’79, his freshman year, leading Tech to their (still) only ever conference title of any kind. Dale led the Hokies to the postseason in three of his four years, including two ncaa tournament trips, winning their opener both times. Solomon still ranks 4th in scoring all time.
Now you may ask, “Why isn’t he in the top five?” For me, it came down to the fact that while Solomon was a fantastic scorer and led the Hokies all four years, he never once led Tech in rebounds any of his four seasons, despite being a forward/center. Dale led the Hokies in blocks his senior year, but that was with just 16, less than one per game. He wasn’t diverse enough, not a big enough stat stuffer, to merit being in the top five. And perhaps most of all, he was a quiet superstar. Too quiet. And perhaps that has caused the buzz around his playing days to long since fade and his legacy drift from our memories. Regardless, he was a heck of a player and someone the Hokies could use today in the low post.
Article from 2005 on Dale Solomon: Bay Weekly article