VCU-Richmond Rivalry to Regain Intensity

Doug BowmanContributor IJune 22, 2009

PHILADELPHIA - MARCH 19:  The VCU mascot performs during the game against the UCLA Bruins  during the first round of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at the Wachovia Center on March 19, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

The day Jeff Capel was hired as head basketball coach at VCU marked the day the Richmond Spiders ended their semi-competitive rivalry with the Rams. Capel modernized and popularized VCU Basketball.

Go to a game at the Siegel Center (home of the Rams) and then go to a game at the Robins Center (home of the Spiders) and you'll get the difference between the United States and North Korea. The Rams play to a sold-out crowd, a large (for a mid-major school) student section, and one favorite chant of all Rams fans. The Spiders play in front of 400 alumni, five students, and one spider mascot.

Capel has since left VCU, as has his successor, Anthony Grant. The newest VCU coach is Shaka Smart, a young assistant who aided Billy Donovan at Florida last season. This is the chance for the Spiders to make this rivalry a good intercity rivalry again. You see, the Spiders have stability.

Despite modest success in only the last 12 months, Chris Mooney has been at the helm for a good number of years. VCU is on their third coach in a half dozen years. Give credit to the Spider administration for one thing.

Despite their complete ignoring of marketing Richmond basketball, they have stayed true to their guns and believed that eventually Mooney would get this system to work. Slowly but surely, they are getting there. The youth is gone as Mooney's recruiting begins to provide a number of useful pieces for his Princeton system.

As a sign of changing times in the 804, you could argue that the best player in the capital of Virginia no longer belongs to VCU (Eric Maynor), but rather the Spiders in David Gonzalvez.

Certainly, Mooney is on the hot seat this year. He doesn't win this year and it'll be hard to convince anyone, especially AD Jim Miller, why he should return in 2010-2011. It remains to be seen how close the two programs to rekindling the rivalry, but if it doesn't happen in 2009, a new Spiders coach will have to find a way to do it the next season.