TSL Round Table #8
by TechSideline.com, 8/8/02
For our "TSL Round Table" feature, we have selected a small panel of site fans and message board posters completely at random and without rhyme or reason (so don't be offended if you're not one of them), and each week, we'll pose them a question and run their answers here on TSL.
This week's TSL Round Table question: Many people say that a strong VT football program is good for UVa, and vice versa. Do you agree or disagree with this, and why?
Dan Ramsey:I have two distinctly different reactions to this question. On the one hand, I guess it's possible that the presence of two strong perennial "Top 25" programs in Virginia promotes the impression of Virginia as a good "football" state, meaning that the better in-state kids will be inclined to stay at home while some high-quality out-of-state recruits who might not otherwise have looked at either state school would do so. Tying into that would be the increased national attention placed on the annual tilt between VT and UVa if both are nationally-ranked.
But on the other hand, if one of the two schools' football programs is noticeably weaker than the other, then the stronger school will likely find it much easier to dominate in-state recruiting at the expense of the weaker school. And the state of Virginia is one of the more prolific states in the USA at producing D-1 talent. So, I guess that, political correctness aside, on balance I would have to disagree with the statement that "A strong VT football program is good for UVa, and vice versa." If they stink it up in the years to come, we'll clean up in state year after year, which can only be good for us. Conversely, if we remain one of the nation's strongest programs and can skim off the cream of the state's recruiting talent year after year, it can't be good for them. Conveniently, this viewpoint dovetails very nicely into my purely emotional desire to see them lose every game they play - badly.
Kent LaRoque: More important than just the two schools, I think having two strong programs in the state is good for the state, and thereby it gives both programs the national recognition they wouldn't otherwise get.
Regarding the individual programs, there was a time I wanted UVa to lose every game. Other than a beautiful and historic campus, I really don't like the place, particularly their alumni and fans. They had only one really good team in 100 years and you'd think, to hear it from them, that their program was steeped in tradition. They're so proud of those seven-win seasons and second-tier bowls. And this "superior education" angle is both overused and overrated.
Now my position is that I want UVa to win every game each year except the one against VT. I want them really high on themselves and thinking they're good when we send them packing every year in late November. The affiliation with the ACC is what saves that program; were it not for that, they'd really be nothing more than a decent Ivy League school, athletically speaking. You could make that argument about a lot of schools and associated conferences, but it's particularly true with UVa.
VT has come a long way, and we still have a long way to go, but we will knock on the door and enter the room with other National Champions sooner and more often than UVa for many years to come.
Chris Hoover: There are a couple ways to look at this. First, where does having a good UVa football program help Virginia Tech? Look no further than 2003, when we're supposed to have an MNC caliber team, but we don't really have an MNC caliber schedule. With the BCS changing to emphasize strength of schedule and eliminate margin of victory, we'll need all the help we can get from our opponents if we're going to have a shot. Simply destroying UVa on the field won't help like it used to; now they need to be good when we do it. Beating a top 25 UVa at the end of the season next year could mean a few tenths or hundredths in the BCS and that could mean moving from the top 3 or 4 into the top 2 (assuming we win all our other games, of course).
Having a good UVa program would be helpful in taking the rivalry to a bigger stage on a national level too. Think of FSU/Florida or FSU/Miami. Those are big games that every college football fan wants to see and it helps nationalize the recruiting for those schools. Having a non-conference game of that stature "built in" to your schedule every year is huge.
On the flip side, the state of Virginia isn't Florida in terms of producing high school football talent. Having a strong UVa program does affect us negatively in recruiting in Virginia. Even if VT and UVa were to split the top 30 Virginia high school recruits evenly every year, we would each still need some great talent from out of state to be serious contenders on a national level. But realistically speaking, there will always be kids who go out of state to play football, so maintaining the advantage of being the better program in the state is helpful with the kids that do stay.
Of course, those are the logical arguments. From a personal standpoint, and after throwing all arguments for either side out the window, I'd much rather have UVa lose every game every year and drop to Div I-AA. But that's just me.
Jim Alderson: I agree and disagree. I heard Frank Beamer speak after the 1989 season and he talked of the benefits of both programs being strong. Frank said that two strong programs would constantly push each other, and we have seen that to be the case, from stadium expansions to the nudging of George Welsh into retirement after losing ground to Beamer. The series, always competitive for the most part, has moved into one that draws national television interest.
On the other hand, it remains to be seen if there is sufficient talent in the state to populate two top programs. Virginia enjoyed a brief period of national prominence in 1990 when they dominated in-state recruiting; at the time Tech was a six-win program. Gradually, the Tech staff took control of recruiting and moved into the nation's elite, and the Hoo program sagged. It would be great if the state's high schools could provide Florida-like numbers of top Division I-A recruits, but that is not yet the case, and unless Tech's recruiting completely falls apart, about the best algroh can hope for in Hooville is a marginal Top 20 program. That would probably be enough, however, given current state high school talent levels, to pull Tech out of the Top 10.
All things considered, it would be fine with me if algroh trashed the Hoo program beyond salvage.
Sandy Cormack (Baltimore Hokie): I do not, nor will I ever, subscribe to that opinion.
We are benefitted by UVA being a Top 25 program due to SOS. But there is a finite amount of talent in Virginia, not enough to sustain two Top 10 programs. We need to secure the best VA talent every year, and hope that UVa secures less.
That's all that need be said on the matter.
Will Stewart, TechSideline.com: Here's the way I see it, and you'll note that most of what I have to say has already been said.
It's good for Tech when UVa is strong because: It improves the Hokies' strength of schedule, which needs all the help it can get (not this year, but in 2003, 2005, and possibly some other years). It also pushes the Hokies to work harder. The tenacity of Al Groh and his coaching staff on the recruiting trail, for example, has kept the Hokies on their toes and forced them to keep working hard, or to work even harder (Plus, Groh gave the Hokies the neat idea of doing a Tom Lemming photo shoot on campus, for whatever that's worth, and who knows, maybe the VT coaches will begin writing piles of handwritten personal letters to recruits soon, as well). Also, I think the Hokies strive to keep up with Virginia in football facilities, and Tech sets the bar a little higher in that area.
It's bad for Tech when UVa is strong because: Nearly every other reason not listed above. There are a limited amount of resources in this state in terms of high school players, media coverage, and fan loyalty among those who aren't already tied to VT or UVa. The state of Virginia is not the state of Florida, where three or more Top 10 programs can be supported (as well as piping enough players out of state to make other teams better, too). Therefore, when UVa is strong, it taps strength from Virginia Tech, and vice versa.
As the others note above, the two programs have rarely been "successful" (i.e., perennial Top 25) at the same time, and if they have been, as they were in 1995, it has been because they have met in the middle while one was on the way up and the other on the way down. As UVa got strong in the 80's and early 90's, Tech weakened; as the Hokies achieved in the 1990's and early 2000's, UVa fell. Fan support and media coverage in the state, dominated by Virginia in the early 90's, swung back in VT's direction as the decade wore on.
I simply don't think both programs can consistently be annual residents in the Top 20 at the same time, and I seriously doubt both teams will ever be Top 10 at the same time, and if so, not for long.
So, on balance, I think it's better for Tech for UVa to be weak. And vice versa.