June 27, 2013

A Historical Perspective on UVA Football

Now that baseball and the other spring sports are behind us, it's time to get back to our summer View from 515 series. Continuing with the easy-to-digest tidbits for the casual-yet-dedicated Hoo fans out there, we had a request for an overview of UVA's history as a football program. There's plenty to read in depth out there on the subject, and I've heard tale of an excellent DVD as well, but here's some important nuggets in my mind, including a frame of reference for the current team and the new ACC:

The Dates

1888 - Football is established at UVA

1892 - The South's Oldest Rivalry begins with UVA's first game vs UNC

1921 - UVA, with 13 other schools, forms the Southern Conference

1923 - The team officially becomes the Virginia Cavaliers

1931 - Scott Stadium opens

1953 - UVA joins the Atlantic Coast Conference

1984 - Following a 33 year self-imposed ban on postseason play, the Wahoos play in, and win, their first bowl game (Peach Bowl)

1989 - First ACC Championship

1990 - First #1 Ranking

1995 - Beat FSU for their first-ever ACC loss

2003 - Most recent victory over Virginia Polytechnic. Yeeeeeoooouch

The People

George Welsh
  • Longest tenured coach in team history (19 seasons '82-'00)
  • Led the team to their only 2 ACC championships, first 10 win season
  • Rebuilt the program from one of the worst in the country, creating a consistently competitive team the likes of which UVA hadn't seen since coach Art Guepe left in 1952
  • Adopting his son's design, started the use of the V-sabre logo

Bill Dudley
  • Usually regarded as the greatest UVA player of all time ('38-'41)
  • All-American and Maxwell Award winner
  • Led the nation in '41 in touchdowns, yards per play, and points scored

Matt Schaub
  • With apologies to Shawn Moore, the best quarterback in UVA history
  • Owns UVA records for game, season, and career passing yards
  • 2x Tire Bowl Champion (the greatest of all bowl games)

Thomas Jones
  • Owns the UVA single season and career rushing yardage records
  • 1999 All American
  • Also owns the UVA single-game all purpose yardage record (331)

Anthony Poindexter
  • Personally, my favorite UVA player ever and current assistant coach
  • 1998 All American, ACC Defensive POY
  • Hit people really hard. Really really hard. Also saved busloads of orphans by stopping oncoming trains
  • Helped tackled Warrick Dunn in the final and deciding play of the 1995 win over FSU


How does Virginia stand historically in the Atlantic Coast Conference? Not very well. Clemson and FSU dominate in number of championships (14 and 13, respectively) made even more impressive by the fact that FSU's first season in football wasn't until 1992. UVA's two conference championships tie the school with GT and Wake for the fewest championships, save those schools with zero (BC, Miami, Pitt, Cuse). Considering the recent history of the conference, I'd say UVA is solidly a middle of the road team for the conference. Often, the team has done well enough to play in ok/good bowl games and every so often beats a top team on national TV. However, second or third best in the coastal division isn't the consistency fans are looking for. So far, the Mike London era has been up and down in terms of success, but the future of Virginia football, whether with London as the head coach or not, should be better than the recent history. At least, that's what the team will hope to achieve.

This Season

So. After a glance at where we've been, in what context does that put this year's team? Unfortunately, there's such a ridiculous amount of uncertainty leading into fall practice, that it's really hard to say. With turnover at both coordinator roles, a new quarterback, and the loss of some key players, this team is going to be hard to predict. Vegas has put the over/under on wins at 4.5, which I think is where it should be. However, UVA tends to overachieve every few years, so we could very well win 7 games. Regardless, this season is unlikely to have much historical impact on the program - aside from what may be one of the best recruiting classes ever...but that's an article for another day.


  1. Great post, Pierce. Really like it, and glad we have something like this on the blog.

    HOWEVER. You're crazy if you think Schaub was better than Shawn Moore (or even Aaron Brooks). Also, where's Herman Moore, Tiki and Ronde Barber, and Chris Long (among many others)? Can't argue with the four players you listed -- they should absolutely be on there -- but there's a few glaring omissions. Perhaps I should submit a "Part II"?

  2. 5 year old me doesn't recall much of Moore's ability, though I bet he was a better QB than Schaub. However, the stats back up Schaub.

    In no way shape or form was Aaron Brooks a better QB than Matt though.

    A part II focus on the best players is a great idea!

  3. What was the cause of the self-imposed bowl ban?

  4. Bowl games were played during UVA's exams, and the powers-that-were didn't want that disruption for the student-athletes, so they self-imposed the ban. Crazy, right?

  5. According to wikipedia:

    The Guepe years ended after the 1952 season, when the coach was wooed away by Vanderbilt in the wake of University President Colgate Darden's refusal to allow Virginia to participate in any postseason football play. Virginia had just escaped being banned permanently from the NCAA for granting athletic scholarships to student athletes, which was illegal at that time. The NCAA's "Sanity Rules" mandated that college athletes were required to work for their tuition, though this rule was often openly flouted (for instance, prior to the 1950 Rose Bowl, it was revealed that at least 16 Ohio State Buckeye football players had cushy jobs with the state of Ohio, including a running back on the payroll of the state’s transportation department as a tire inspector[11]).
    President Darden made a principled argument against the statute, noting the example of teams such as Ohio State, and stated unequivocally that his school had no intention of following the Code as it enabled the powerhouse schools of the Big Ten and SEC to ignore academics and essentially pay to retain football talent. While UVA (along with traditional UVA rivals Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Maryland, and Boston College) escaped being banned from NCAA play, President Darden was concerned about the effect of "big time football" on the academical status of the University. After the 1951 football season, in which UVA only lost one game, the Virginia Cavaliers found themselves invited to the Cotton Bowl, which President Darden promptly declined, setting a precedent not broken for thirty years.[11]

    More details here: