In February of 2002 and for a few years afterwards, I was sweating it. Al
Groh had arrived to much fanfare in Charlottesville in 2001, had inked one of
the nation’s top recruiting classes in 2002 (much of it at VT’s expense),
and for a while, was making a run at a VT program that had started to take
control of the rivalry. Things looked shaky there in the early part of the new
millennium, but the Hokies have now won seven out of eight in this rivalry and
are clearly in the driver’s seat.
In the late 90s, buoyed by guys named Mike Vick and Corey Moore and taking
advantage of a George Welsh staff that had started to lose steam, the Hokies
laid rubber and started to pull away from Virginia. In the 1990s, the Tech-UVa
rivalry was a puncher’s battle, as the two schools slugged it out. From
1990-1999, neither program won more than two in a row in the series, as the
Hokies struggled to take back a rivalry that UVa controlled from 1987-1992,
winning five out of six. By 1999, the Hokies had pulled ahead where it mattered
most, in-state recruiting, and VT was starting to take control on the field, as
With their stratospheric rise to the national championship game in 1999, and
with the hype surrounding Michael Vick, the Hokies were poised to leave UVa
behind. Welsh’s star was fading in Charlottesville, and after the 2000 season,
when Tech won their second in a row and threatened to win more, Welsh was gone,
replaced by Al Groh.
On the surface, Groh appeared to be a self-centered blowhard, and in his
first year in 2001, the Cavaliers went 5-7, their worst record since 1986, when
they were 3-8 under Welsh. The Hokies won their third in a row in the series,
the first time either team had managed that in a decade.
But what UVa was doing off the field was cause for concern. The Hokies had
been the clear winners in the in-state recruiting wars for a few years,
beginning in 1998, when Tech broke a long UVa stranglehold
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