Thursday, October 27, 2011

Hokie Heaven vs Wahoo-Wa

My sister Jillian and me
Last Saturday I received an invitation from my sister to attend a football game at Virginia Tech, where she is an undergraduate.  I gladly accepted and made the 2.5 hour drive from Charlottesville to Blacksburg, happy to catch up with my sister and seeking to gain a greater understanding of the UVA-VT school rivalry.

I will say that attending a business school with a big-time football team is pretty cool, especially as I didn’t have a real football team to take pride in during my undergraduate university experience (more on that later).  Internationals tend to find it odd that American universities even have glorified sports teams at all.  These teams are a source of pride for students and alumni and date back to the late 19th century.  American football and men’s basketball are by far the two most popular with spectators; unfortunately UVA has struggled at both of late.  You can think of the passion surrounding a big college football game as being comparable to a raucous soccer stadium abroad.

Having attended a Tech and a UVA game on successive October weekends, let’s compare the two experiences on several important dimensions…

Tailgate: Big edge VT
I arrived in Blacksburg at 11AM for a 3PM kickoff, and when I met my sister she was already frantic to get out of her apartment so we could join the tailgate frenzy.  Get this – fans of VT are out tailgating 5 or 6 hours before game time!  Each group grilling in the parking lot seemed to have a Virginia Tech tent and the bean bag game “cornhole”.  My sister’s tailgate at Tech had a delightful spread: grilled burgers, brats, pizza, chips & guacamole, shrimp salad, broccoli salad, assorted fruits and vegetables, rye crackers, potato chips, and some exceptional jalapeno peppers stuffed with cheese and wrapped in bacon.  I washed this down with a couple beers and several “dark and stormies” (a cocktail consisting of rum and ginger beer).  And after the game we did even more tailgating – I've never done that anywhere before!
The Darden tailgates before UVA home games are good as well, but simply can’t compare to the exceptional tailgate experience at Tech.  Darden generally has barbeque (pulled pork, potato salad, cole slaw, burgers) or some spread from Chick-fil-A and keg beer, but the tailgates only begin 2 hours before game time and can become too crowded to navigate when corporate recruiters are in town.
Fans: Big edge VT
UVA students storm field after unexpected football upset
Even before I arrived at the stadium I knew who the winner would be on this dimension, based on all the vehicles I saw on the highway covered in VT stickers and flags.  At Tech, everyone is in the stands before kickoff, and the stadium is full.  Everyone is in Tech gear – thankfully my sister had a sweatshirt I could borrow so I could fit in.  The stadium is LOUD – students stand the entire game and scream on almost every play when the defense is on the field.  Third down plays are a bit obnoxious – students rattle their keys (because it’s a “key play”) and the disgusting sound of a turkey gobbling plays on the stadium speakers – but certainly intimidating for the opposing team.
UVA, on the other hand, is what I will term nicely a “wine and cheese” crowd.  The fans are relatively sedentary compared to the Tech fanatics and certainly don’t rush to get to the game on time.  The dress code is confusing – some fans wear orange, others wear the more traditional ties and sundresses (weird Southern tradition), and the remainder don’t even dress up at all.  I’ve never seen Scott Stadium at capacity, either.  But the UVA students did rush the field after an unexpected win against a highly regarded opponent two weeks ago, which was pretty cool to watch.
Band: Tie
Both the Cavalier and Hokie marching bands are loud and enthusiastic.  Each amplifies the spirit in the stadium.  Both bands dance around endlessly in the stands and get me revved up.
Halftime Entertainment: edge UVA
Well I already compared the bands, but UVA gets the edge here for its talented baton twirlers.  At the last game I saw one juggling 3 batons simultaneously, each lit on fire!  Simply awesome.
Song: big edge UVA
UVA’s fans are definitely the more musical of the two.  The “Good Old Song” that plays after each touchdown does cheer hearts and join hands, as the lyrics go.  And I like the “Wahoo-Wa” cheer, though it’s difficult for most Darden students to learn.  Students at Tech, on the other hand, don’t even know their school song…pathetic.
Cheerleaders: definite edge VT
UVA’s cheerleaders can barely form a human pyramid.  Tech’s were quite skilled.
Team Quality: definite edge VT
Tech has had a far better football team than UVA for years – it has won the last 7 games between the two teams and 11 of the last 12.  Tech perennially receives invitations to top post-season bowl games while UVA football players are stuck at home.  And I’ve seen some wretched UVA football team performances in front of the home crowd during my two years of business school.  But perhaps there is hope…UVA was the #1 ranked football team for a brief period in 1990 and had successful teams throughout the 1990s.
Mascot: definite edge UVA
This guy rocks!
The Hokie is an ugly, turkey-like bird.  Not ferocious at all.  Surely Tech could have picked a better one.  UVA’s CavMan, on the other hand, is fierce and good-looking.  The human embodiment of the Cavalier rides into the stadium on horseback prior to kickoff waving a sword…one of my favorite parts of any UVA football game.
Stadium Aesthetics: edge UVA
Scott Stadium is beautiful – fellow blogger Patrick Clifton once described it as having a "a gladiatorial, amphitheatre feel."  The symmetric horseshoe wrapping around the field is completed by a lawn area for students.  Tech’s Lane Stadium is an intimidating concrete jungle and not pretty at all.
Overall: After judging on nine dimensions, the VT and UVA football experiences have fought to a tie with 4 wins each.  But UVA is simply the best – I now have a special place in my heart for Mr. Jefferson’s university, and Tech will always be the “enemy”.  Plus, Tech doesn’t have a top-tier business school like UVA does!
Speaking of which, let’s see how Darden compares to top 10 U.S. business schools (as judged by the Poets & Quants aggregate ranking) in terms of football quality, in case that is an important consideration for deciding where to apply!

This is the MIT marching band in "pi formation"...I kid you not
·        Harvard: This school’s biggest game every year is against Yale.  Most of my friends that are alumni of these two schools tell me that people mostly don’t even end up in the stadium for the football, but rather drink in the parking lot.  Way to support your team, guys.  Kudos to Harvard though for having Ryan Fitzpatrick graduate to the NFL.
·        Wharton: Penn has a mediocre team – I don’t think anyone watches them
·        Tuck: Same as Wharton
·        Columbia: Even worse than Penn or Dartmouth.  And the players wear baby blue jerseys.
·        Stanford: A top 10 ranked team this year, but the school’s mascot is a dancing tree.  If your mascot is a dancing tree then I have a hard time taking your football team seriously.
·        Haas: Cal has a good team, a big rivalry with Stanford, and my all-time favorite quarterback (Aaron Rodgers) played for them several years ago.  I approve.
·        Fuqua: Awful, awful, awful football team.  But if you love getting psycho about men’s basketball then Duke is a great place to go.
·        Kellogg: Northwestern’s football team is typically the doormat of its conference, and the team wears a not-so-ferocious purple jersey.
·        Booth: I didn't know Chicago had a football team until I looked it up. 
·        Sloan: I can confirm from my undergraduate experience at MIT that the football team is pathetic (I had roommates on the team).  The football “stadium” would be embarrassing for most American high schools and the stands always had more supporters for the away team than for the Engineers.  The mascot is a goofy-looking grinning beaver and the “band” consists of about 5 amateur geeks looking for an excuse to blow their trumpets outdoors.
So there you have it – clearly, only Haas and Darden can offer top-notch MBA and football experiences.  Go Wahoos!!!

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