Hokies or Cavaliers? Cavaliers or Hokies?
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With ESPN.com's Heather Dinich asking fans to vote on the best college sports program in the history of the Old Dominion (that's Virginia, folks), I decided I would help the sports nation out.
Contrary to popular belief, the term "best" in a rivalry is not a matter of opinion.
It's not about perception. It's about facts. Cold, hard facts.
So come with me. Let's take a look at the current rivalry of the Commonwealth Cup.
OK. So believe it or not, head-to-head numbers play a pretty crucial role in determining the ultimate winner in a rivalry discussion. And while the match-ups in revenue sports are the most important, Olympic sports cannot simply be pushed aside.
While the Hokies hold the edge in football (48-37-5 in 90 games since 1895), perhaps the most highly regarded competition in the rivalry, the Cavaliers claim a significant advantage in men's basketball (79-50 in 129 games since 1915). So let's call it a near-wash so far, with the Hokies holding maybe a slight edge.
Now comes the interesting part. In the 12 non-revenue sports in which the Hokies and Cavaliers compete head to head, the Wahoos dominate.
Paced by 23-1 and 22-1 records in men's and women's swimming and diving, respectively, UVa. has taken 349 out of 530 contests, including holding a series advantage in 10 out of those non-revenue sports. When excluding football, Virginia Tech has bettered UVa. historically in just wrestling and softball.
All-in-all the Cavaliers maintain a 465-279-8 record against their rivals from Blacksburg. So even though Virginia Tech is the consistent football king of the commonwealth, the historical advantage in sheer numbers has to go to to UVa.
Advantage: UVa., 62-37 (out of a possible 100 points, with one percentage point going to ties)
Recent success in revenue sports
While the history of each program is important when answering the question of who holds an advantage in any rivalry, let us not forget that with each aging generation—and new and energetic one that takes its rightful place as the ultimate UVa./Va. Tech fans—records of old (save for a few historical contests in major sports) are all but forgotten.
So that women's tennis contest in 1988 doesn't hold as much water now as it would have in '88. In fact, it is nearly irrelevant.
In football, this only strengthens the Hokies' dominance, as they have won five in a row and nine out of the last 10 in the battle for the Commonwealth Cup, thanks in no small part to 22-year head coach Frank Beamer.
Beamer has done for Hokie football what Dean Smith did for North Carolina basketball by making them a name thrown about in pre-season top-10 lists for years (including an early 2009 version). Sure, Beamer is national title-less, but the man has won three ACC titles in the Hokies' first five seasons in the league. Before that, he won three Big East titles.
When people think of the rivalry today, they think of football. And when they think of football, they think of Va. Tech winning. That plays a big role when considering who's ahead in this historic match-up.
In men's basketball, the "current card" brings the Hokies closer to the Cavaliers, as the two teams have split their last 10 meetings—the Cavaliers hold a slight 6-5 advantage since six-year Va. Tech head coach Seth Greenberg took over in Blacksburg.
If new Virginia head man Tony Bennett can improve the basketball atmosphere in John Paul Jones Arena and get the Cavaliers playing well, he could take the Wahoos back on top in this category ... or Greenberg could take advantage of the former West-coaster's wet Charlottesville ears and vault his Hokies past UVa. in the second revenue sport.
With their 90-percent clip over the last decade in football and 40-percent winning rate against the Cavaliers in basketball, the Hokies take the cake here.
With those recent successes (or at least relative successes) the Hokies have had on the gridiron and hardwood, the advantage here must go to the maroon-and-orange clad student-athletes of southwestern Virginia.
EDGE: Virginia Tech, 65-35 (The average of each team's winning percentage in the major sports)
Let's face facts. Student-athletes don't stop representing universities when they leave campus. Most fall into obscurity, but some—a very select few—will be Cavaliers or Hokies for life. What these icons have done since their days suiting up for their respective colleges also figures into which program holds the upper hand over the other.
Sadly, Virginia's most heralded player ever and arguably the Hokies' former most prized possession each have spent time in the slammer. While two-time basketball National Player of the Year and Cavalier Ralph Sampson served just two months in prison for mail fraud, Hokie great Michael Vick is finishing up his sentence under house arrest for bankrolling a dog-fighting operation and personally killing some dogs that lost fights.
Disregarding their run-ins with the law, these former athletes both were building solid professional careers before having them interrupted—Sampson due to injuries, Vick because of the dog-fighting.
Sampson averaged a double-double for his first three seasons, scoring 20.7 points and corralling 10.9 rebounds, garnering 1983-84 Rookie of the Year Honors. If he had stayed healthy, the front court of Sampson and Hakeem Olajuwon would have been a threat to the Lakers and Pistons for NBA titles throughout the mid-to-late 1980s.
But Vick was also building an impressive professional resume.
Vick became the first visiting quarterback to win a playoff game at Lambeau Field, defeating Brett Favre and the Packers, 27-7, in 2003. The dual-threat quarterback was changing the way people played his position and becoming the face of the NFL in the process.
Despite less-than-stellar accuracy, it wouldn't be much of a stretch to say he would be the highest-profile QB in the NFL today without if not for his transgressions.
But Vick is not the only big-time gridiron star to come out of Blacksburg. 1985 No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft Bruce Smith is the League's all-time career sacks leader. With 200 quarterback takedowns, 11 Pro Bowl selections and nine First-Team All-Pro choices, Smith is one of the best defensive ends to ever play the game.
However, playing par for the Hokies-and-Wahoos-in-the-pros course, Smith was arrested on DUI, speeding and refusing to take an alcohol breath test May 15, 2009, his third arrest for driving under the influence (he was not convicted on either of the first two charges).
Taking into account professional careers, as well as representation of their respective universities, the Hokies take this one. But it's close.
EDGE: Virginia Tech 55-45 (Vick's and Smith's careers combine to outshine Sampson's by a rather wide margin, but their more significant troubles make this one a hard-fought battle).
So, with my flawless formula of .40(Record)+.35(Current Success in revenue sports)+.25(Big names), the winner is ... Hold on, I've got to do some math.
The winner is Virginia Tech by the slimmest of margins, with their recent dominance in football putting them over the edge, 51.7-48.3.
So there you have it. When it comes to Hokies vs. Cavaliers, the Hokies take the cake ... for now.
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