The Trouble With UVa
by Will Stewart,, 4/30/96

Notice: my regular readers know that I always put the word "ugh" in parentheses after the words UVa, Cavaliers, Charlottesville, Virginia (without the Tech), etc. As much as it pains me, I'm going to have to cease that practice for the remainder of this article, because those words are going to appear a lot.

The trouble with UVa is this: as much as we hate them, as much as we would like to pretend that they don't even exist, we can't ignore them.

First, before I talk about why we can't ignore them, let me give you a little personal history that will help explain why I despise UVa so much.

It may surprise you to find out that I am Charlottesville born-and-bred. That's right. As a matter of fact, about 20 of my 31 years have been spent living there. The exceptions are five years when I lived in Radford as a kid, the four years I spent at Tech, and the last two years I've spent back in Radford.

Even more amazing, up until I graduated high school, I was a UVa fan. Incredible, isn't it? When I was in high school, Ralph Samson was at UVa, and I rooted for UVa so hard it makes my stomach roll to remember it. Back in about 1980 or so, when Samson was a sophomore, UVa started the season out 23-0, and when they finally lost their first game that year, to Notre Dame, I was crushed. And there for a while, I thought UNC was the devil incarnate, I was such a big UVa fan.

Sure, I was a big Tech fan, too, because my dad graduated from there, and one of my older brothers went there. When Tech and UVa played each other, I always rooted for the Hokies. But when they went their separate ways, I supported both teams.

So where does all this venom come from? Why do I hate UVa so much?

That's simple. It's personal. They earned it.

It started early in my senior year in high school. I was a pretty good student. I would eventually graduate 8th in a class of 430, from Albemarle High School in Charlottesville, which was an excellent high school. So I was pretty proud of my accomplishments.

Well, like most high school seniors, I got all kinds of mail from colleges. I got brochures from some of the better schools around, schools like William and Mary, Duke, MIT, etc. But Tech recruited me the hardest. Since my dad is a Tech grad, and I was a National Merit Semi-Finalist, that crack squad down at the Tech admissions office was all over me. I mailed in my Tech application one Friday in November, and I got their acceptance the next Friday. They invited me to scholarship competitions, kept close tabs on me, and would eventually award me one of their Marshall Hahn Engineering Merit Scholarships (no big deal. It was just half of tuition for my freshman year).

Meanwhile, you know what UVa was doing? Uh, nothing. They were sitting back on their butts, expecting me to call them and request some information, and maybe an application. I mean, why wouldn't I go there? I was a good student, and gee, I was right there in town! As far as they were concerned, my interest in them was guaranteed and forthcoming.

Naturally, that struck me the wrong way, so I never even applied to Virginia. I decided they could kiss the part of my anatomy that connects my hamstring muscles to my lower back. See, that's a funny little quirk I have. Unless you act like you want me around, I won't show up. Is it just me?

All of which was just the ground work for what was to come. Needless to say, I fell in love with Virginia Tech the minute I set foot on campus as a student. Then came four years of listening to the question, "You're from Charlottesville? Why didn't you go to UVa?" And four years of watching those UVa fools wear ties and blazers to football games, for God's sake, and then they would actually sing when they scored a touchdown (what the hell is that)? And, well, I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

And then I graduated from Tech and landed a job in Charlottesville. Man, let me tell you, you haven't been sick of UVa until you've had them crammed down your throat nonstop day after day, year after year. I mean, the cubicle walls in my company were blue and orange, for crying out loud. And I met Charlottesville residents, non-UVa grads who had never set foot on UVa's campus, and they would ask me, "Who do we play this week?"

We? We? Who the hell is we? Are you carrying a rat in your pocket?

So, I finally made my great escape. I'm living in Radford now, in the middle of Hokie country, and I love it.

But as much as I would love to never hear about UVa again, it just can't be done. Even here, for example, The Roanoke Times must dedicate column space to them, to placate the Hoos who live in Roanoke. There are two TV stations in Roanoke, Channel 7 and Channel 10, and I won't watch Channel 7, because they have this unpleasant habit of covering UVa sports before they cover Tech sports.

But more importantly than that, like it or not, the destinies and success of our sports programs, most notably football, are intertwined with UVa. As long as they are successful, UVa will always drain resources and power from us, primarily in the area of recruiting. Some student-athletes won't even take a look at Tech, because they'd rather go to Mr. Jefferson's University. And as long as that's going on, they'll always hurt us, at least indirectly.

Let me give you an example to point out how serious that is. In the late 80's, Tech football was on probation, and North Carolina just plain stunk. For a couple of years, UVa had their way with recruiting in the state, landing nearly all of the top players, and the result was the fantastic team they fielded in 1990, which ended up ranked number 1 for a few weeks. Whether they deserved it or not is another topic of discussion, but you have to admit that they had some phenomenal talent on that team: Shawn Moore, Terry Kirby, Chris Slade, and Herman Moore (the only UVa athlete I will ever bow down to. That guy was -- and is -- flat out amazing).

My point is this: for a couple of years, UVa recruited as if Va Tech and UNC didn't exist, and look at the team they were able to put on the field. These days, if UVa didn't exist, and Tech could have the run of recruiting in this state, Tech would be a perennial top-ten power. I firmly believe that. So like it or not, even though we aren't in their conference, and we would love for them to just go away, our fate is forever linked with them. They suck away players and drain our resources.

More importantly, the press in most of Virginia and especially Northern Virginia (The Washington Post), sucks up to UVa and generally ignores Tech. That trend is thankfully changing, but we had to win the darn Sugar Bowl to make it happen.

And what makes things worse from a recruiting standpoint is the completely different character of the two schools. There are kids who will never even consider going to Tech, because they're entranced by the hoopla and the "history" surrounding UVa. Fortunately, there are kids, like the Pugh kid from Amherst, who are immediately attracted to Tech and want nothing to do with those snobs in Charlottesville.

So that's the trouble with UVa. Most things in our life that irritate us, we get rid of them so we don't have to deal with them. But for those die-hard Hokies who truly can't stand UVa, like me, we just have to suck it up and root hard, and support our team (give money and buy season tickets!) because UVa's not going to go away.

Now, as I sign off, let me ask you a question, one that I believe perfectly summarizes the difference between Tech and UVa.

How many Hokies have you met who truly love Virginia Tech, and how many Wahoos have you met who don't necessarily love UVa, but love the fact that they went there?

See the difference?


TSL Columnists Archives

TSL Home