The University of Virginia and Virginia Tech are two institutions close to the hearts of the many alumni, parents, students, or student hopefuls in our region. Northern Virginia Magazine takes a look at their history as both rivals and partners and shows you how they stack up.
The athletic rivalry between Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia dates back to 1895, President Grover Cleveland’s second term, when the two schools played gridiron football for the first time. Virginia Tech has won 60 games to UVA’s 38, with five ties. In basketball, UVA has defeated Virginia Tech 97 times to Tech’s 59 victories since 1915.
From 2005 to 2007, the two schools called the rivalry the Commonwealth Challenge. Now, it’s known as the Smithfield Commonwealth Clash. The schools tally up which one beats the other in every intercollegiate sport, not just the moneymakers. The school with the most victories at the end of the year wins bragging rights. UVA clinched the 2023 title when the Cavaliers men’s golf team beat Virginia Tech in June.
Seeing UVA on the schedule “definitely adds something to the week,” says Virginia Tech starting baseball pitcher Drue Hackenberg. “No one wants to lose that one. It makes it a little more intense.” As it happens, his father, Erick, played quarterback for UVA in the early 1990s and “roots for me all the way” during baseball season, Hackenberg says. But when football comes around, the elder Hackenberg is true to his alma mater and supports the Cavs, naturally.
The players may play with more intensity during UVA–Virginia Tech tilts, and spectators may cheer louder, but once the games are over, everyone exits the field, diamond, arena, or stadium peacefully, says longtime UVA–Tech sports observer Steve DeShazo, who got his start in sports journalism in the early 1980s at The Cavalier Daily, UVA’s college newspaper. He’s now sports editor of the Fredericksburg Free Lance–Star and continues to cover the two schools’ contests.
“I never see any [conflicts] between fans,” he says. “The rivalry is not like that. For the most part, it’s very respectful. … Of course, there was the time [Virginia Tech cornerback] DeAngelo Hall got into a fight with the whole UVA sideline, but even that wasn’t usual. Honestly, there’s pretty good respect for each other.”
The teams also show respect and support for each other in times of tragedy. On April 17, 2007, the day after the mass shooting that left 32 dead at Virginia Tech, Beta Bridge on Rugby Road on the UVA campus was painted Tech’s maroon and orange on one side and emblazoned with “Hoos for Hokies” on the other. “The students did that,” says staunch Tech fan and 1988 grad Carl Schmitt. “Because of that, I only hate them six or seven times a year.”
And a few days after three UVA football players were killed and two others injured in a November 2022 shooting, Hokies players ran onto the football field before their game with Liberty University waving UVA flags. The schools mutually decided to cancel their football season finale against each other. “It’s nice to see that both schools shined in their darkest hours,” says 1994 Tech grad Kevin Peters.
Feature image courtesy Virginia Tech
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