Hello. Or hello again, if you’re lucky enough to have read my scribblings at my old blog, From Old Virginia, and kind enough to remember doing so. Someone clearly did, because just as I was fiddling with the idea of creating a few more scribblings, the good folks here at Hoos Place offered their platform for just that. I took it as a sign.
By way of (re-)introduction, I’ve decided I need to start with a foundation. Kind of like the football program, except hopefully this first effort is better than going 2-10. I have baseline expectations for how Virginia football ought to be, and my happiness or displeasure with the program and its direction are directly related.
Actually, where the program should be isn’t too far from where the program was. If you’re in high school, you don’t know what that was like, which is the exact problem Bronco Mendenhall has to overcome. But if you were at UVA during better times, the consistently pitiful showings of the Mike London years still feel like the aberration and not the standard. Once upon a time, we went to mid-tier bowl games against what today are Power 5 opponents – and complained about it. We hosted night games in packed stadiums against SEC teams. Certain rivals coached by men the size of an asteroid would say they “expect to beat teams like Duke and Virginia” and we’d casually stomp them by five touchdowns. Our fans would go to road games against crap teams with SCRIMMAGE spelled across their chests. This stuff actually happened. There’s proof, because it was televised on ESPN, not a network that sounds like a brand of radio manufactured in 1970.
In short, UVA mattered. In today’s college football world, it’s too much to ask a program to consistently be a national champion favorite and also not flout every amateurism rule in the book. It’s not too much to ask to matter on the national scene, though. Or to beat your instate rivals more than once every twenty years. I don’t want to hear that college football has passed us by and we should be OK with aspiring to 6-6 or 7-5. Or that Scott Stadium with 35,000 people in it is the new normal. The SEC was still crawling with bagmen in 2003 and there was still an arms race on. And every win and loss mattered for UVA football.
It should be that way again. UVA should be bowling every year – period. From 1989 to 2005, UVA missed three bowl games – two of which would've been bowl trips anyway in today’s overglutted bowl season. UVA should be competing for division and conference titles every year – period. Just because Hurricane Clemson is out there dominating everything (and we probably never will) doesn’t mean we can’t be trying to crap in their Cheerios every now and again. 7-5 is a season to complain about, not a season to aspire to. And getting there, by the way, should not be an exercise in beating up on MAC-snacks and hoping to scrape together enough ACC wins to squeak in.
College football is cyclical. Texas upset TCU this year. Ten years ago that sentence would’ve been asinine. Florida State is crashing into the mountain. Alabama is the gold standard right now; in 2028, they won't be. Once, UVA was a consistent, quality, respected program. It ceased to be about ten years ago. UVA will be up and down like everyone else; the goal is for those cycles to stop taking us to such low extremes and to hit the high notes a lot more often. For that, we need the right coach, the right support from the admin side, and especially, the right standards. And while I love the team embracing what it calls the New Standard, it's really the old one we need.