Who are the Virginia Cavaliers?

Virginia Cavaliers

2009 record: 1-3 (1-0 in the ACC)

2008 record: 5-7 (3-5 ACC)

2008 Sagarin: 47

2009 Sagarin: 69

Coach: Al Groh (9th season, 57-47)

Series: First meeting

Video: 3:30 p.m., ESPN360 (no TV, Internet only)

On Saturday, Indiana and Virginia will meet on the football field for the first time.  As the week continues, I'll discuss the 2009 Cavaliers, who after a rough 0-3 start that included a loss to I-AA William & Mary rebounded to upset North Carolina 16-3 on the road last weekend.  Still, given the lack of history between the programs, it's worth a look at where Virginia stands as a program. 

 

One of the most interesting aspects of UVa's recent history has been coaching longevity.  Al Groh, the former coach of the New York Jets, left the NFL for Charlottesville in 2001 and is in his ninth year.  He and Bill Lynch shared space on many a preseason "hot seat" list.  Groh succeeded George Welsh, who spent 19 years at Virginia and won 60 percent of his games there.  That means that Virginia has had only two coaches in the last 28 years.  The only other major programs that come to mind with similar stability are Florida State (Bobby Bowden), Virginia Tech (Frank Beamer and Bill Dooley), Iowa (Hayden Fry and Kirk Ferentz), and Penn State (Joe Paterno). 

While all of those programs have been more successful than Virginia, the Cavaliers were solid under Welsh, with 17 .500 or better seasons in 19 years.  In 1990, Virginia spent three weeks ranked #1 in the nation before losing four of five games down the stretch.  On the other hand, the Cavaliers have never finished the season ranked in the AP top 10 (for reference, IU has done so twice, in 1945 and 1967). Virginia has played in 17 bowl games, all since 1984.  The Cavaliers' 23-22 loss to Tennessee in the Sugar Bowl following the 1990 season was Virginia's only appearance in what are now the BCS bowls. While Groh has not been as successful as Welsh, he has won eight or more games in four of his first eight seasons.   On the other hand, he has produced two losing seasons of the last three and speculation suggests that he won't survive a third.

While IU and Virginia never have played in football, the two schools have played some memorable games in other sports:

1984 NCAA Basketball Tournament: IU's upset of top-ranked North Carolina in the 1984 NCAA Tournament has become the stuff of legend, the game in which Dan Dakich shut down, relatively, national player of the year Michael Jordan.  Less remembered is the next game, the regional final, in which IU lost to the #7 seed Virginia, an improbable Final Four participant the year after losing Ralph Sampson to the NBA. 

2002 Maui Invitational: The news isn't all bad.  In 2002, just months after IU's own improbable run to the Final Four, the Hoosiers beat Virginia 70-63 in the championship game of the Maui Invitational.  Of course, reading the recap of that game evokes memories of unfulfilled expectations:

Bracey Wright scored 21 points and his fellow freshman guard Marshall Strickland added 15 as No. 19 Indiana beat Virginia, 70-63, last night at Lahaina, Hawaii, to win the Maui Invitational for the first time.

Ah, how bright the future looked in November 2002. 

1994 NCAA Men's Soccer Championship: in 1994, IU and Virginia squared off for the men's soccer NCAA title.  The Cavaliers, then led by future US national coach Bruce Arena, were the three time defending NCAA champions and held off an excellent IU team led by Brian Maisonneuve and Todd Yeagley, 1-0.  If it's any consolation, that was UVa's most recent title, but IU has won the NCAA Tournament four times since that loss. 

Finally, to those of you who are going to this game, I am jealous.  If you are young and unattached, hit the road.  UVa is reputed to have a beautiful campus, Charlottesville is supposed to be a great college town, and the university itself, founded by Thomas Jefferson, is one of the most historically and architecturally significant of all American universities, public or private.  I wish this game were coming at a time in my life when I could get away.  For those of your who are so fortunate, enjoy.

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