Jake Lyman, a sports media and analytics senior in the School of Communication, picked up his phone in the afternoon and noticed a missed call from Bill Roth, his mentor and the former Voice of the Hokies. That’s not a rare occurrence, except this time Lyman was surprised to see that the professor of practice had left a voicemail.

On the other end of that voicemail was a collaborative message from Roth and Will Stewart, the founder and general manager of Tech Sideline, hinting at some significant news.

Upon returning the call, Lyman learned that the School of Communication’s Honorifics Committee had selected him as the inaugural winner of the Tech Sideline Endowed Scholarship for Sports Journalism.

“I had heard about Tech Sideline doing this award and this scholarship, but didn’t know exactly how it was going to be doled out and who was going to be eligible for it,” Lyman said. “It was pretty cool when I gave Bill a call back and he let me know I was the first one ever to receive it. He also talked about how, 40 years from now, I’ll be able to walk into Shanks Hall and still see that plaque with my name on it. It’s a pretty cool experience.”

Stewart announced in the summer of 2018 that TechSideline.com, a website dedicated to covering Virginia Tech athletics, was endowing a scholarship in the School of Communication to support the sports media and analytics major, which was officially launched in 2020 under the tutelage of Roth. 

The long-standing relationship between Stewart and Roth created natural cohesion.

“I’ve known Bill Roth for many years, dating back to 1997,” Stewart said. “I was very interested in what he was doing with the sports media and analytics program. I wanted to support what he was doing and help grow what he was doing.

“It made sense for a media organization like ours to support and align ourselves with the student talent Bill was going to bring in and develop. We thought about the synergy between what we were trying to do as a media organization and what he was trying to do to develop student talent. If we invested in it, then we could work together in exciting ways.”

The awarding of this scholarship is the first direct result of that synergy. It’s a remarkable moment for Lyman, who has been working for Tech Sideline since he was a freshman. Over that time, Stewart noted, Lyman’s name has already been on 234 different pieces of Tech Sideline content, ranging from transcripts of Tech Talk Live notes to original articles to podcast shows he has hosted.

“It’s cool, especially having worked for Tech Sideline my entire time at Virginia Tech,” Lyman said. “It feels like all that work has come together in this recognition. That’s awesome because a lot of that is time consuming and it can be tedious, but it makes it all worth it.”

That’s just the beginning of Lyman’s professional accomplishments as a student. He’s the sports director of 3304 Sports, the multimedia platform for student sports journalism at Virginia Tech. This past summer, Lyman was the Voice of the St. Cloud Rox, a collegiate summer baseball team in Minnesota. In addition, he’s done freelance play-by-play broadcasting for the ACC Network as well as for Learfield/IMG College, all while being a model student in the School of Communication.

“Jake is one of the most intelligent, talented, and passionate people in our program,” Roth said. “His commitment to our craft and ability to work so well with others has made him popular among his peers. I’m delighted he’s the inaugural recipient of this scholarship.”

Stewart, a 1987 Virginia Tech graduate in electrical engineering, has always been ardent about giving back to the university. 

“I would encourage people with the financial means to consider supporting not just Bill and the sports media and analytics program, but really anything at Virginia Tech,” Stewart said. “For us, it’s taking five years to donate the full $100,000. At first, it can sound like a huge amount, but if you really spread it out and dedicate yourself to doing it, many Virginia Tech graduates who consider themselves to be average people could fully endow a scholarship like this.”

Will Stewart
Stewart, a 1987 alumnus, continues to give back to Virginia Tech. His company, Tech Sideline, has pledged $100,000 over five years toward the Tech Sideline Endowed Scholarship for Sports Journalism. Photo by Ray Meese for Virginia Tech.

When the scholarship was first announced, there was an initial wave of publicity, but since then, Stewart has kept it under the radar. 

There’s a tracker on TechSideline.com to see how much has been contributed to the $100,000 pledge, but beyond that, he’s let the enthusiasm build in the Tech Sideline community through the subscribers, who appreciate the opportunities Stewart and his colleagues give to student workers. Now, part of their subscription price directly supplies the endowment.

“Tech Sideline has done so much for so many students,” Lyman said. “It’s cool to see them giving back. To earn the award feels like a culmination of the effort that a lot of us have given to keep building this program to where it is today.”

Lyman is just the first recipient of what will be an annual scholarship. It’s part of the legacy that the Tech Sideline Endowed Scholarship for Sports Journalism is creating, and one that won’t be going away anytime soon.

“The neat thing about the scholarship is that it lives in perpetuity,” Stewart said. “Jake is the first winner. I’ve seen a picture of the plaque on the wall. After all the spots are filled, they’ll make another plaque and this will go on forever and ever.”

Written by Cory Van Dyke