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Virginia Tech/North Carolina isn't your typical football rivalry, for two reasons. Number one, it is renowned (among Tech fans anyway) not for what has happened on the field, but what happened off the field. And number two, these two teams played 26 times in the first 52 years of the rivalry ... and just once in the next 57 years.
From 1895 to 1946, these two teams played 26 times, with the Hokies holding a 12-8-6 edge. But after a 14-14 tie in 1946, they wouldn't meet again for over 50 years.
What happened off the field, as Tech football fans from the early 80s know, is that UNC once shut VT out of a Peach Bowl bid. In 1983, a powerful VT team that featured Bruce Smith, Mike Johnson and Ashley Lee on defense went 9-2, plowing through nearly every team on the schedule, with the exception of a season opening loss to Wake Forest and a midseason 13-0 defeat at West Virginia.
Meanwhile, UNC was having a stellar season also ... to a point. The Tar Heels started out 7-0 and went as high as #3 in the rankings, only to lose three straight games, including a defeat at the hands of Virginia that dropped UNC to 7-3, out of New Year's Day bowl consideration ... and right towards the Peach Bowl, where VT was headed.
According to a Roanoke Times article that was written prior to VT's season ending game with UVa, an unidentified Peach Bowl official said the 7-3 Tar Heels refused to play the 8-2 Hokies in the Peach Bowl.
"North Carolina says it's not in the same class with Virginia Tech," the Peach Bowl official said, implying that UNC felt they were too good to play against VT. UNC, which had success recruiting in the state of Virginia, especially in the Tidewater area, wanted no part of playing the Hokies and possibly losing prestige in the state that fed many good players to their program.
The Peach Bowl had a choice for the host team -- North Carolina or Virginia Tech -- and they chose North Carolina. Since the Heels refused to play the Hokies, the Peach Bowl matched UNC up with Florida State instead. The Hokies, who plastered Virginia 48-0 to finish the season 9-2, sat at home and fumed.
The bad off-the-field blood between VT and UNC goes farther back than that. Some surmise that it goes all the way back to 1953, when seven schools left the Southern Conference to form the ACC, leaving VT and many others behind. One theory holds that UNC played in bowl games in 1948 and 1949, sending them over the Southern Conference-allowed limit of ten games per season, and that VT was among a handful of Southern Conference teams that pushed to get UNC reprimanded by the league.
Whether that's true or not, UNC hasn't scheduled a regular season game with the Hokies since 1946 and voted no every time VT was up for ACC membership. Then came the 1983 Peach Bowl snub, and Hokie fans simmered about that for 15 years, until the two teams finally clashed at the Gator Bowl after the 1998 season.
Unfortunately for Tech fans, the '98 Gator Bowl was a disaster for the Hokies. An injury-riddled VT team was fading fast that year and limping to the finish line, while UNC boasted a BCS-caliber team, especially on defense. The Tar Heels annihilated the Hokies 42-3 in a game that had a men-against-boys quality to it.
This fall, the two teams will meet during the regular season for the first time in almost 60 years, despite being just 200 miles apart. But it wasn't necessarily ACC membership for VT that brought them back together. Even before the Hokies were extended a membership invitation, the two teams were scheduled to play against each other in 2004 (in Chapel Hill) and 2007 (Blacksburg). So maybe that long standing dispute, whether real or imagined, was already over.
Be sure to catch the Nov. 6th game between VT and UNC in person or on the television,
because a regular season clash between these two hasn't happened since just after the end of World War II.
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|TechSideline.com Updates From the Past Week|
New ACC TV Deal Vindicates Swofford, League
Hokies Poised to Match Finances With Rest of the ACC
A Gym Rat's Notebook #17: Recruiting Hits Final Stretch
The Ten Most Important Hokie Football Players for 2004
Once More Into the Zone
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