Tech fans (including myself) were surprised when it was announced earlier today that West Virginia was interested in adding former rivals, including Virginia Tech, back to their schedule to boost their non-conference slate.
Here are the comments from WVU Athletic Director Oliver Luck to the Bluefield Daily Telegraph:
"I would love to get Pitt back on the schedule, I would love to get (Virginia) Tech back on the schedule, I would to get UVa back on the schedule, another school that we used to play a lot, and even Penn State," Luck said. "Is that possible? Well, it takes two to tango, but I think the good news is we will see some stronger non-conference schedules as we go forward."
The rivalry, which has laid dormant for eight years in football come this fall, was originally scrapped due to what officials from both schools essentially dubbed as a casualty of the Hokies leaving to their new home in the ACC, forcing the game to become an out of conference game, something that the two schools were unwilling to accommodate at the time.
Of course, the two teams could have easily moved postponed other, less marquee games for a nominal fee to accommodate the game on the schedule, (or paid no fee at all in some cases) to allow at least a several-year series between the teams to continue. But neither opted for that route at the time.
This is, however, assuming that you take the schools' official standing on the conclusion or at least the hiatus of the rivalry (which I do not). More likely was that the two schools, both entering a period of what looked to be national prominence, often played spoilers for one another in their opponent's pivotal season (or provided a first loss that turned the team into a trainwreck...see Virginia Tech 2003). With the landscape of college football at the time so reliant on undefeated teams playing for the title game (this was before the 2007 season gave birth to the March Madness-esque upsets down the stretch for many top teams), it is more likely that the two teams saw each other as a threat to going undefeated and decided it was in their mutual interests to not pursue a new contract for the series at the time.
That doesn't mean, however, that the Black Diamond rivalry is dead. Even though the game has not been played since 2005, a good amount of vitriol and disdain between the two fan bases still exists. My guess is that the Hokie fans would welcome the game back, as would the Mountaineers' crew (though I must admit I do not have as much of a feel for them). The question is would the Tech athletic department be open to it?
Tech does have openings on the schedule for a non-conference opponent in 2015, 2016 and every year from 2018-on right now according to Hokiesports. The question is, as Tech has recently added three big-name, marquee Big 10 opponents to the schedule over that period, would they really be interested in beefing up the schedule even more? Frank Beamer and Virginia Tech Athletic Director Jim Weaver have said as much based on the perception that the Hokies' play a cupcake out of conference schedule and with the realization that with the playoff system coming up, strength of schedule will become an even bigger determinant of who gets in than it was previously. Of course, Beamer and Weaver have said similar things before with little done to support their statements. We will just have to see how firm they are in their commitment to playing higher-profile/quality non-conference opponents in the near future, whether that be West Virginia or someone else.
Certainly from an administrative standpoint, renewing the rivalry could have positive financial implications in the form of increased donations from boosters who would love to see the annual game back on the Hokies' football slate. It could also be a big money-making opportunity should Tech and West Virginia opt for a neutral site game, possibly another Washington D.C. game, something Tech fans are unfortunately excited about (having gone 0-3 in such games) as many Virginia Tech alums reside in the D.C. metro area.
For more from a West Virginia perspective, be sure to check out The Smoking Musket. For Virginia Tech football coverage, um, you're here at Gobbler Country. So don't touch that internet dial.