Another banner year
Students can sing the Good Ol' Song outside Scott Stadium or John Paul Jones Arena
Another year at the University of Virginia has begun and we must once again awaken from the throes of summer to balance classes, clubs, social events and my personal favorite, sports. As we so often do at Virginia, we can look to Thomas Jefferson for advice: “Leave all the afternoon for exercise and recreation, which are as necessary as reading,” he wrote. A pretty good start, but what Mr. Jefferson really should have said was to leave the afternoon to appreciate the entire wonder that is the Virginia Athletics Program.
When discussing any college athletics program, the first sport to inevitably come to mind is football. Our own team has been a roller coaster of success, crushing defeat, hope and cynicism. The team has hardly been a shining example of athletic prowess, but with a whole new crop of coaches and a supposedly revised quarterback plan, this year could mark a turnaround.
Next, we look to basketball. Virginia hoops bears some resemblance to football, but with more success to speak of — who could ever forget last year’s win against Duke on our home court?
But that’s the problem — the team was only great at home, and lackluster efforts on conference opponents’ courts ultimately cost them a NCAA Tournament bid. That’s not to say that this year’s team won’t be any better — in fact, I fully expect this team to be excellent — but, like football, Virginia basketball has not been a truly stellar example of college athletics.
I don’t mean to bash the two biggest sports at my own school, but my point is this: far too much importance is placed on football and basketball — and their lack of ACC or NCAA titles — as indicators of our school’s entire athletic program.
The Virginia athletics department is much more than the sum of its “revenue sports” — thank goodness — and yet most students continue to ignore the remaining 21 Cavalier teams. Not only are we cheating the hundreds of student-athletes competing in non-marquee sports, we’re also cheating ourselves. There are some spectacular athletics to be witnessed at this University — not to mention a whole lot of victories for the orange and blue.
Historically, the Virginia athletics program has been a mighty one. Each year the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics awards the most successful collegiate athletics department with the Directors’ Cup. Schools earn points for order of finish in NCAA championships and media polls for football, and the department with the highest point total is named the winner.
Despite a decided lack of titles from the football or basketball programs, Virginia has finished in the top 20 for seven consecutive years, including a third-place finish in 2010. The only ACC school with a comparable record is North Carolina, yet we still fall under the shadows by Duke basketball and Virginia Tech football.
This spring the Virginia men’s tennis team won 30 matches and lost a whopping zero. The team’s perfect season culminated at the NCAA Championships, where after years of heartbreak, the Cavaliers finally brought home the national title.
The swimming and diving program maintained its powerhouse status as the men and women each won their 6th consecutive ACC titles. The women’s rowing team took yet another ACC title and a fifth-place finish nationally, while the baseball team shook off any “rebuilding year” label as it stormed through the regular season and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the 10th consecutive season.
By all logic, this year should be another banner year for Virginia sports. Preseason polls have already ranked our men’s soccer team No. 25, women’s No. 8 and field hockey No. 7. Of course, football and basketball will be exciting as ever, but will inevitably sap student audiences away from other deserving sports.
It’s true that schoolwork is time-consuming and students must allocate their hours wisely. It’s equally true that most students are more familiar with the rules of football or basketball than other sports — or at least more familiar with the tailgates. But I’d wager that watching Mitchell Frank battle back from the losing end of match point to clinch the tennis program’s first-ever NCAA Championship last year was probably more satisfying than seeing Mike London squander away the last minute and a half of last year’s ill-fated Virginia Tech game.
I’d like to reiterate that I support our football and basketball programs wholeheartedly. Sometimes I still daydream about Jake McGee’s game-winning, last-second catch against Miami and my roommates will attest that I am as big a Joe Harris fangirl as anyone. But as students and supporters of the Virginia athletics program, we should give credit where credit is due: to our talented peers excelling beyond the confines of Scott Stadium and John Paul Jones Arena. After all, you can sing the Good Ol’ Song at Klöckner, Davenport and Snyder just as well as you can anywhere else.