It’s Rivalry Week across SB Nation, so we’re diving into all the rivalry content we can think of. First up, we asked our staff here at Streaking the Lawn who they consider Virginia’s primary rival in football and basketball.
Let’s get to it!
Pierce: VaTech is the universal rival really — at least in the sports that they’re not too scared to participate in. Hoops fans may care more about the Duke or UNC games than the ones against the Hokies, but I think the instate school rivalry transcends how good the specific teams are in relation to one another. That’s doesn’t mean I think we don’t have other rivals, though! So my list for football would be VT, UNC, and...FSU? Maybe I’m biased by the rivalry game designation in NCAA ‘13, but the FSU-UVA matchup has it’s own trophy, history-making upset, and the opponent brings loads more pizzazz to the game than going with a team like Duke. You could put Maryland in here a decade ago, but ever since Randy Edsall ruined that program and they fled the conference, it’s an outdated designation.
Similarly for basketball, I would love to have Maryland on the list for how heated those games were back when we played them...and because of the BIG Ten/ACC Challenge we’ve been able to beat the Terps more recently than football, but I can’t include it over UNC, Duke, or VT. While the Louisville conference-mandated rivalry has become a meme at this point and Coach Mack will probably make that program a bigger thorn in UVA’s side than the Hokies, I still think you keep our land-grant little brothers in the list over the amusing dominance Tony Bennett has had on the Cardinals. UNC is on the list for obvious reasons — South’s Oldest Rivalry in football translated to UVA’s new position in the upper echelon of ACC basketball programs challenging the historical conference blue bloods.
As a kid, UNC was always the team I watched UVA fail to ever get past, so I’ll probably always hate them the most. Our distaste for Duke really needs no further explanation but, as we are a program and institution of values, integrity, and class, it’s natural to put the antithesis of such things on the list. That and the similar natural rivalry of annually competing for ACC titles (plus the recent marquee headlining matchups) keeps Duke on the list. While it might be difficult to find any Duke fans listing the Hoos in their list of rivals, I bet a further discussion with most would lead to them admitting the Tony and the Hoos have climbed to the top of the list of programs that concern them.
Ryan: I always find the rivalry question very interesting as a UVA fan. For me it all comes down to when your fandom began and how long it’s spanned. It all starts with North Carolina. Given UNC and UVA are both their state’s premier public universities and their annual football game is hailed as the South’s oldest rival, it’s no shock that the schools would be considered rivals. However, ask any UNC fan who their biggest rival is and the Hoos are likely to come in third behind Duke and NC State. To me, the UNC-UVA rivalry is a relic from the days before Duke was a behemoth at basketball that came to a head in the late 90’s with the Ronald Curry recruitment saga. However, the angst from that ordeal was on the UVA side and not coming from Heel fans. Fast forward to UVA fans from the late 90s and early 2000s, and Maryland is clearly the hated rival. Pick a sport and Virginia and the Terps were almost always going at it. Add in the huge portion of the UVA student body coming from Northern Virginia and it’s the perfect match. However, all that changed when Maryland left the ACC for the BIG paycheck.
All the while there’s been the little brother down in Blacksburg. While the Hokies have always been a rival, things got ratcheted up a notch in 2004 when VaTech joined the ACC. Now it’s undeniable that the Hokies are the Hoos biggest rival. While they played each other every year pre-ACC, the games now have much more meaning. The football game has had ACC Coastal implications multiple times and despite its hokey nature, the Commonwealth Challenge is something I pay attention to. Finally, I’ll be interested to see if, in 10 years, the Louisville rivalry turns into something. While Kentucky is their main rival, the fact that we’re set up as rivals for scheduling purposes could lead to more animosity between the two schools. And while I can’t take credit for this idea (and can’t remember where I heard it), there is no reason that our annual matchup with the Cardinals shouldn’t be called the Bourbon Bowl.
Wiley: Despite being raised in an ABC household—“Anybody But Carolina”—the UNCCH rivalry has gone a little stale, what with the Heels going all of 3-7 against the Hoos on the hardwood the past five years—and the gridiron Hoos going only 3-7 in the South’s Oldest Rivalry over the past decade. I’ve always felt far more loathing toward Duke on the basketball front, especially with Coach K showing his true colors and abandoning any pretense of valuing the educational aspects of college basketball. For football, it’s Tech, no ifs ands or buts about it.
Tiki: I was at UVA in the late 90s. Echoing what Ryan said, to me it was the Terps. We played them in every sport and most of them were competitive. VT wasn’t even ACC so they were only a rival in football. When Maryland left, that rivalry basically ended. But I live in Maryland and know too many UMD grads, so I still have more hatred for Maryland than for Tech.
The Duke and UNC rivals are always going to be one-sided because they don’t care about Virginia as much as they care about their Tobacco Road brethren. With Maryland out of the picture as a rival, its Tech by default. Still mostly just feels like a football rivalry to me.
Darns: The departure of Maryland left a bit of a rivalry void for the Hoos, in my opinion. The Terps were a natural rival both with location and competition. As one of my lovely colleagues mentioned above, the rivalry with Maryland spanned multiple sports (they ALSO emphasize Olympic sports!) and didn’t just focus on the gridiron or hardwood. But, they’re gone. That leaves Virginia Tech, I guess. In football, the Hokies’ dominance left it feeling like not much of a rivalry until Bronco & Co. returned the Commonwealth Cup to its proper resting spot.
In basketball, I think there’s potential to see a development of a rivalry with Louisville and/or Syracuse. With the Cardinals, there have been a lot of thrilling games in the short time that they’ve been ACC (and Virginia has been winning them). Games with Duke and North Carolina hold more weight as they’re usually battling to win the ACC, but there’s no delusion that they care as much about Virginia as they do each other. No matter what, it’s always of the utmost importance to beat Virginia Tech, so it’s safe to say that they’re the primary rival for now.
Who do YOU think are Virginia’s rivals? Leave a comment!