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Holding the Cup Holds a Low Bar

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The fact that we pound the ‘Hoos into the ground every year has put the Hokies in a weird position. Winning the Commonwealth Cup every year can’t be a great existential goal, can it?

The Commonwealth Cup of 2016 Sam Rogers and Chuck Clark
John Schneider - SB Nation

Over the time that all the ESPN coaches were up at Bristol for the coach ‘car wash’, I saw a quote that irked me coming out of Coach Fuente. Not because he was wrong, not because he said anything offensive. But he said something- and got affirmation for- something of rather annoyingly low ambition. Not his fault, really. It’s a low bar set by our fanbase that enforces one of the straps on our program.

Dear everyone involved with watching our program on a regular basis:

PLEASE STOP BEING EXCITED OR CROWING ABOUT BEATING THE UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA AT FOOTBALL. WE SHOULD PILEDRIVE THEM. THEY STINK. AND IT STINKS.

Note: I don’t ever WANT UVA to beat us. That’d be humiliating. But not necessarily because they’re a rival. It’s because they’re a terrible football team. If they were any other football team, they’d be Ball State or Bowling Green or UMass or some other lower-end FBS team. They don’t draw a crowd; their fanbase doesn’t give much a care about football (aiming at their basketball or soccer or baseball team is perfectly acceptable); and they’re currently rebuilding from a 2-10 season that saw them embarrassed repeatedly.

But please, tell me about how much you enjoy beating the head in of a whack-a-mole game. How much it matters that the rivals up the road get pounded every year. It’s a low bar for the program. Please quit being satisfied with it. Come to think of it, UVA being awful at football has created something rather unique at our level of competition.

Virginia Tech lacks a real ‘rival’ right now.

Now before you jump all over me, allow me to explain my point of view. We play certain schools yearly over the course of the ACC schedule: the Coastal teams and Boston College. But all of them are inexact targets to aim at because their situations don’t exactly compare with ours. Let me explain:

1. Miami is a private school in another state without much alumni crossover. Miami projects a specific image that the Hokies don’t exactly compete with, and they can open their athletic department doors and a four or five star recruit stumbled in overnight lost. Their history of NFL draft picks and past national championships dwarfs ours. It also is in a fancy urban center in a more populous state. Geographically and historically for high school recruits? We don’t compare one to one.

2. Duke is a private school with some alumni crossover, but they only recently began caring more about football with the success David Cutcliffe has brought them (it ensures them a level of competence that they used to never have because he’s actually a good coach). But their football program will always play second fiddle to their basketball program in a way that prevents them from reaching a higher ceiling. It’s also of a different economic and intellectual character than Virginia Tech.

3. Georgia Tech would be an interesting rival, but they as a program now have a weird image due to Paul Johnson’s option offense. It takes us out of a lot of the same recruiting battles first of all. Second of all, they’re again in a more advantageous geographical position, being in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. They aren’t overly dissimilar in history, though their program does have a national championship in its past. Their intellectual character and disposition are similar to ours, too. Tech-Tech is probably the closest we have to an ‘even’ rivalry, but it doesn’t draw the ire of Hokie fans much like UVA does due to alumni base distance and other smaller factors.

4. Boston College is our crossover ‘rival’, but that, yet again, is a huge alumni crossover distance and, on top of that, it’s another smaller private school of a different character and composition. We got pinned with them being a rival due to meeting them for two years in the ACC championship game and that one epic fail game where Matt Ryan capitalized on our offense’s inability to do anything and beat us out at the buzzer. Now, however, they’ve collapsed back into their standard mediocrity that they’re kind of held to or at due to their geographical location and recruiting territory.

5. Pittsburgh is another potentially interesting rival (especially because Pat Narduzzi insists on making a fool of himself being a jerk to everyone on national television, but one coach doesn’t a rivalry make). They’re of kind of the same character and makeup and we do compete for recruits, but again, we don’t currently have that HUGE OVERRIDING ANGER for beating them that we have for the ‘Hoos. They’re another obstacle to go over at present. Maybe now with them joining the ACC and more and more years of back and forth that might grow, but we’re not in direct ‘we must beat them OR ELSE’ competition with them for any particular reason.

6. North Carolina has a combination of issues to make them a football rival. One, they could be caved in on by sanctions, nuking them for the next couple years. I know the athletic department and the football team are really pushing the #NC2VT tag, and that’s fine. Greensboro especially seems to have become fertile ground for the Hokies. But the reason why we can take advantage of it is, Two, their football program is yet again second fiddle to their basketball program much like Duke’s. No one particularly LIKES the Tarheels, but it’s not forcing us to spend them into oblivion either- we can, if our faculties are in order, usually beat them at football. And they don’t care about it quite enough to effectively counter.

7. If you’re going to talk about FSU, Clemson, or Louisville, remember we play them once every SEVEN YEARS at present. We’re don’t have the history of the former two in terms of success or NFL talent, and the latter is already growing past us because of people that they recruited- and, well, Bobby Petrino is a scumbag I wouldn’t want as my coach, full stop. Louisville as a university just seems to flat not care about perception, and it’s suiting them fine, I suppose.

But when you think about that, add that to UVA, and that’s 7 teams of a 12 team schedule that we sit on weird footing with in terms of rivalry and appropriate levels of concern about our ability to compete with another team. Four out of conference games a year, mostly with mid- to low-level competition don’t engender hatred. ECU might bother us with the fact that they spent a few years holding us down, but that was more due to our own mediocrity than anything they exactly were doing. Not having an offense and having a defense that gave up 50-50 balls more than it should have doomed us. What with the fact that they nuked their own program by running off Lincoln Riley due to them firing Ruffin McNeill for no reason, thus cutting out both of them, they’re not going to be an issue (or they shouldn’t be) anymore. Either way they’re an AAC team. We shouldn’t be getting into fights with them.

So what are we to do? Continue being satisfied with pounding UVA into the ground? Or move up to something else? If so, what then? Leave an answer in the comments, but what exactly is the next big step or next big target to aim at? Because as long as we content ourselves and focus on beating our ‘rival’ up in Charlottesville, we’re satisfied by aiming at a low bar.

Poll

What should Virginia Tech’s real rivalry aim be?

This poll is closed

  • 34%
    Beat Miami.
    (71 votes)
  • 30%
    Beat UVA.
    (62 votes)
  • 6%
    Beat Georgia Tech.
    (13 votes)
  • 3%
    Beat UNC.
    (8 votes)
  • 0%
    Beat Duke.
    (1 vote)
  • 6%
    Beat Pitt.
    (13 votes)
  • 14%
    Beat FSU/Clemson/Louisville (ACCCG rivalry)
    (30 votes)
  • 2%
    Beat ECU (GO AWAY, PIRATES)
    (5 votes)
203 votes total Vote Now