Fauber: VT, WVU to rekindle rivalry

By Brad Fauber

There has been plenty of news that has rolled out of Virginia Tech’s athletic department within the last week.

First, there was the announcement that head baseball coach Pete Hughes was leaving the school to take the head coaching job at Oklahoma University, which came just a month after Hughes led the Hokies to one of the most successful baseball seasons in the program’s history.

Then there was the news earlier this week that Billy Hite and Jim Cavanaugh, both longtime assistants in the football program under head coach Frank Beamer, were being reassigned to positions within Virginia Tech’s athletic department and would no longer be a part of the football staff.

Both of those announcements came as a bit of a surprise, but probably the biggest news came on Wednesday, when it was announced that Virginia Tech and West Virginia would be renewing their football rivalry with a home-and-home series beginning in 2021.

The news came as a bit of a shock, because Virginia Tech athletic director Jim Weaver had seemed very content with leaving the Mountaineers off the football schedule until recently, but I am excited by the possible revival of the emotionally charged rivalry.

I think most Hokie fans, myself included, were OK watching the West Virginia game — which had been held annually for 33 seasons — come to an end in 2005 as Virginia Tech was getting comfortable with its new home in the ACC after moving from the Big East in 2004.

But after a while I came to miss that game with the Mountaineers. The rivalry with UVa has started to become stale (at least for now), Miami isn’t the same football program that I used to love to hate as a kid, and the developing rivalry with Georgia Tech, while competitive, still just doesn’t feel right.

The Virginia Tech-WVU game, on the other hand, was a game that was never dull and almost always competitive, and it was a game that many fans on both sides looked forward to each year. Geographically the rivalry just makes sense, and the fans of both teams hate each other, plain and simple. Sounds like the perfect recipe for a great rivalry to me.

Virginia Tech and West Virginia first played each other in 1912, and the two schools have met 51 times since then, playing annually from 1973-2005. The Mountaineers hold a 28-22-1 overall record in the series, with Tech winning six of the last nine meetings since the introduction of the Black Diamond Trophy, which is awarded to the game’s winner.

Those matchups have provided plenty of exciting football games (a certain game in Morgantown in 1999 stands out as one of my all-time favorites) and although a lot will have changed since the last meeting between the two, it will be interesting to see what the rivalry has in store.

Of course with all of the fun that the heated rivalry provided, there was also a dark side, and a major reason the annual showdown ended was a concern for the safety of fans and players. The rivalry got downright ugly, and it seemed like an only fitting farewell when former Hokie quarterback Marcus Vick was seen flipping off WVU fans (shocking, I know) after a touchdown run during the final matchup between the two schools in 2005.

The mistreatment of fans, particularly of Hokie fans traveling to Morgantown, is well documented, with plenty of people claiming to have had objects such as batteries thrown at them during football games at Mountaineer Field. And if I’m not mistaken, I believe Beamer made it a requirement that his players leave their helmets on at all times while on the field during games at WVU for safety reasons.

Some Hokie fans aren’t happy with the announcement to rekindle the rivalry due to the behavior of WVU fans, but the hope is that the time off, which will have been 16 years when the two teams finally meet again, will be enough to allow a lot of that hatred to simmer down a bit, and both schools’ athletic directors seem confident that enough time will have passed to safely reignite the matchup.

Personally, I’m excited about possibility, as I feel the Virginia Tech-West Virginia rivalry has the potential to be a very good one, not only for both schools and their fans, but for college football as a whole.

There is still a long time to wait for this anticipated rematch, but we should get a good sense of the status of the rivalry when the two teams square off in Morgantown on Sept. 18, 2021. Hopefully the game can safely resume as a fairly consistent matchup.

Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or bfauber@nvdaily.com