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ODU-William and Mary football series may not die Saturday after all

David Teel

November 7, 2012

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WILLIAMSBURG — The demise of football games between 757 neighbors William and Mary and Old Dominion isn't as long-term, or permanent, as many of us feared.

Tribe athletic director Terry Driscoll said Tuesday that the schools have tentatively agreed to play in 2020 at ODU's Ballard Stadium.

Yes, that translates to a seven-year hiatus following Saturday's clash between the two. And yes, periodic meetings pale to what could have been a compelling, competitive and edgy rivalry.

But given the program's contrasting ambitions, it's about as good as we're going to get.

ODU is exiting the Colonial Athletic Association after this season and transitioning to the Bowl Subdivision's Conference USA. Smaller in enrollment and bank account, William and Mary is quite content in the CAA and Championship Subdivision.

Moreover, the Tribe's annual game against an FBS program is traditionally reserved for opponents with larger stadiums and deeper pockets than the Monarchs — Maryland paid William and Mary $250,000 for this season's opener in College Park, Md.

That's how these FBS vs. FCS games work. Big brother essentially buys a presumed victory, while kid brother experiences the big time and cashes a handsome check.

Driscoll said Bruce Stewart, ODU's senior associate athletic director for football, called him last month to suggest a 2020 game. With William and Mary's FBS dance card booked through 2018, Driscoll agreed to pencil in the Monarchs.

Ballard Stadium's capacity of 19,782 doesn't approach half the size of the FBS stadiums the Tribe is accustomed to visiting, but who knows, by 2020 ODU may have expanded. Regardless, Driscoll expects to get paid.

"If they want to play us," he said, "they'll have to pay the going rate."

By then, the Monarchs figure to be established in Conference USA. They may have even earned their first bowl bid. In short, they likely will rate as prohibitive favorites against the Tribe.

The roles were reversed in 2010 when the programs first met. William and Mary was fresh off a national semifinal appearance; ODU was in its second season.

But the Monarchs led for much of the evening, and the Tribe needed a late touchdown pass from Mike Callahan to Gareth Hissong to win 21-17. Last season in Williamsburg, ODU overcame Jonathan Grimes' epic performance — 227 yards and three touchdowns on 38 carries — to prevail 35-31 en route to the playoffs.

The teams combined for 1,003 yards in offense — Monarchs quarterback Taylor Heinicke threw for 273 — and ODU's Eriq Lewis intercepted two passes in the final three minutes to secure the victory.

A neighborhood rivalry was brewing. The teams shared a conference and area code, and competitive tension between Monarchs coach Bobby Wilder and his Tribe colleague, Jimmye Laycock, added cayenne to the gumbo.

But another spring and summer of realignment madness forced Conference USA to hunt new members, and ODU's urban campus and precocious football program were natural targets. In accepting CUSA's invitation, the Monarchs sacrificed annual CAA games against not only William and Mary, but also Richmond and James Madison.

"They're big state games," Laycock said. "I think that's what everyone envisioned when they joined the (CAA). But things change. Everybody's got to do what they have to do. You can't worry about things that could have been or would have been."

Laycock also envisioned an immediate challenge the moment ODU revived football. He suspected the Monarchs' resources and local recruiting base would make them a quick study.

"They didn't surprise me," he said. "I knew they'd be good."

That they are, and now they move on, but not without some pangs.

"This isn't good for the Old Dominion-William and Mary community, that we're not going to play on a consistent basis," Wilder said. "I hope we can work something out that we can get in their rotation of FBS opponents, because I do think the Old Dominion-William and Mary community likes this game.

"They like the fact that it's close, there's so many graduates from both schools that are in the area and they like to talk about the game. They like to talk about the competition between the schools in all sports. I do hope we can find a way to play it because I think it's good for college football in this area."

Hear, hear.

David Teel can be reached at 757-247-4636 or by email at dteel@dailypress.com. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/ teeltime and follow him at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP