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Main Virginia Cavaliers Athletics article: Virginia Cavaliers

Virginia Cavaliers football is a college football program that competes in the NCAA Division I-FBS and the Coastal Division of the Atlantic Coast Conference. Established in 1888 playing local YMCA teams and fellow state teams without pads, the Cavaliers have evolved into a multimillion dollar operation in front of over 61,500 fans at Scott Stadiummarker in Charlottesville, Virginiamarker.

Three major football rivalries involve the Cavaliers. The longest series in the entire ACC is the South's Oldest Rivalry against North Carolina, and the Cavaliers are also part of the Commonwealth Cup against Virginia Tech and the Beltway Brawl against Maryland. While Virginia has played UNC more times (114) than any other rival, all of these programs – North Carolina, Virginia Tech, and Maryland – consider Virginia to be their longest standing rival.

In 1915, Virginia became the first southern team ever to defeat the Yale Bulldogs, winning 10–0 in the newly opened Yale Bowlmarker during an era when the 'dawgs were a great power. Eighty years later in 1995, Virginia was the first ACC team to defeat the Florida State Seminoles, 33–28 in Scott Stadium, at a time when the 'noles were ranked no. 2 in the country and held a 29–0 all-time conference record spanning four years.

Conference Affiliation

Coastal Division (2005-present)


Former University of Virginia President Edwin Alderman
The Virginia Cavaliers' first team--a helmetless band of young men in tight shirts, laced-up pants and high-top cleats--opened its season on a gravel-strewn field, the historic contest witnessed by a sparse gathering of fans and no press coverage. That 1888 squad of 11 men and one substitute played three games, winning two and losing one, on a tract behind what is now Madison Hall.

President Grover Cleveland spoke at finals in 1888. The next fall, the first intercollegiate football game was played at UVa, with the team dressed in new school colors--orange and blue--that replaced the original, Confederate-inspired cardinal red and silver gray. The first squad, its coach forgotten by history, was run club-style by a "Foot Ball Association." The '88 team defeated Pantops Academy and Episcopal High School, and lost decisively to Johns Hopkins.

The General Athletic Association was formed to govern UVA sports in 1892.

Lambeth field

Work began in 1901 on Lambeth Field, propelling sports development at UVa. The trend was not welcome in all corners, however, according to University historian Philip Alexander Bruce, who wrote disparagingly of the arrival of "professional athletes in disguise" from all over the country. School President Edwin Alderman was significantly alarmed to appoint an investigating committee in 1904, and a strict athletic code was written in 1906.

Coaching carousel

Between 1900 and 1915 saw Virginia change coaches 10 times and achieve 10 winning seasons with help from a quarterback named Robert K. "Bobby" Gooch and a Walter Camp All-America halfback named Eugene N. "Buck" Mayer. Season tickets were $7.50 for students and $9.50 for alumni when 8,000-seat Lambeth Stadium opened in 1913, with a price tag of $35,000. The season began with three home shutout victories for Virginia, followed later in the season by a home game with Vanderbilt that was billed as The Football Classic of the South. Trainloads of alumni rolled into Charlottesvillemarker to watch Virginia crush the Commodores, 34-0, at Lambeth's dedication.

1900 - 1920

For years hence, it was traditional to designate "a greatest home game" each season. In 1914, it was Georgia -- a "Rally 'Round the Rotundamarker" won by UVa, 28-0, in a drizzle, as Bobby Gooch "general-led his men with rare ability," the Alumni News gushed.

The Rotunda
Betting was heavy on Yalemarker for a 1915 game that ranked as the biggest all-time win at that stage of Virginia's history. No Southern team had ever defeated the Ivy League power until Virginia--led by quarterback Norborne Berkeley and Buck Mayer--won 10-0 in New Havenmarker. Headlines in the Charlottesville Daily Progress read, "Yale Bowl a Soup Tureen--Virginia Eleven Serves Dish of Bulldog Stew!"

The University's first-ever losing football season occurred the next year, including a 61-3 payback at Yalemarker. "Played them too early in the season," moaned a 1916 Alumni News. Questions about the role of athletics were cast aside in 1917, dwarfed by a larger battlefront now known as World War I. Athletics were curtailed in 1917 and 1918 "in an effort to adapt this University to the stern necessities of a people at war," according to the Corks & Curls.

The war ended, enrollment began to rebuild, and football practice resumed in 1919 with only two lettermen. "All Trains Lead to Charlottesville!" proclaimed posters promoting the "Great Post War Gathering of Virginia Alumni" for the November 15, 1919, home game with Vanderbilt. UVa lost, 10-6, and dropped the traditional Thanksgiving Day game with North Carolina to finish the "start-up" season at 2-5-2.

In December 1919, Dr. Rice Warren was hired as coach in 1920. Warren led the 1920 squad to a 5-2-2 record. UVa also joined the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association in 1920, but left with many SIAA teams to form the Southern Conference in 1921. Rice Warren's tenure ended before the 1922 season, and new coach Thomas Campbell guided the team to a 4-4-1 record--not so mediocre considering the '21 team had managed only three points in its final four games.

Beginning of the Cavaliers

University teams became the Virginia Cavaliers around 1923, and the leader of the first "official Cavs" was Earle "Greasy" Neale. Although his 1923 record was 3-5-1, his teams enjoyed winning records from 1924-27 before falling to 2-6-1 in 1928. Student indifference ran high, participation ran low, and Neale resigned after the '28 season.

Earl Abell took the football reins for two years in the midst of another athletic department reshuffle. The position of athletic director was created, and James G. Driver--a three-year letterman at UVa--was named Athletic Director.

Lambeth Field was outgrown by the spring of 1930, as varsity and first-year teams in football, baseball, track, and lacrosse attempted to practice there. UVa historian Virginius Dabney related that spring football workouts were stopped due to the javelins and discus throwers.

New stadium

Scott Stadium
The University began negotiating to obtain land for a new sports site, and plans were finalized for Scott Stadiummarker to open in October, 1931. Land for practice fields between Ivy Road and the C&O Railroad tracks also was acquired.

Support for UVa football had become spasmodic--even fraternity brothers were betting openly against the Cavaliers--around 1930, but in 1931, a dynamic new coach named Fred Dawson buoyed spirits. Losing seasons and a lack of athletic scholarships took a toll on Dawson's enthusiasm, however, and he quit after '33--succeeded by Gus Tebell.

Just as frustrated at the dearth of notable wins was University President Edwin Anderson Alderman, who impaneled a committee to study the situation. Virginia decided in 1936 to resign from the Southern Conference, which prohibited players from being paid, in order to be able to offer sports scholarships.

Tebell bowed out after three losing seasons, succeeded in 1937 by Frank Murray. Although the Cavaliers went 2-7 during Murray's first year, the team produced a state championship and near hysteria in the student body in 1938 with a 4-4-1 record.

WWII years

The 1940s arrived in Charlottesville, soon to be etched in memory as a decade of war and the era of "Bullet Bill."William McGarvey Dudley, a 168-pounder from Bluefield, Virginiamarker, is called the best ever to wear a Virginia uniform. Dudley, number 35, ran, passed, kicked, blocked, tackled and intercepted his way to All America honors.

Under Murray, the 1940 team--running out of a T-formation--went 4-5, but improved to 8-1 in 1941, the only loss a 21-19 upset at Yalemarker. In his final game as a Cavalier, Dudley scored 22 points at North Carolina in a Thanksgiving classic broadcast nationally. After a 28-7 UVa win, his teammates carried him off the field. Dudley finished fifth in the 1941 Heisman Trophy balloting. Murray's 1942 squad dropped to 2-6-1, having lost 29 players to graduation and "scholarshipping for Uncle Sam."

Until the war ended in 1945, UVa football functioned with makeshift teams--guest stars from other schools who enrolled in the University's military units and were thus eligible to play. In spite of a 7-2 season, Frank Murray left, succeeded in 1946 by Art Guepe, who coached seven years with a winning record.

Post-war years

In 1947, Virginia defeated Harvardmarker, 47-0, with a team that featured John Papit, George Neff and Bob "Rock" Weir. The game was significant because UVa was facing its first-ever black player--Harvard's Chester Pierce. The gridiron success of the late '40s continued into the early '50s, as Guepe teams--with Papit, Joe Palumbo and Tom Scott winning All-America honors -- lost only five games from 1950 through 1952. The Guepe years ended after the 1952 season, when the coach was wooed away by Vanderbilt. In successor Ned McDonald's first year, the record plunged to 1-8.

Joining the ACC

Heated arguments ensued about whether Virginia should join the Atlantic Coast Conference. Athletic Director and former football coach Gus Tebell and President Darden differed sharply--Tebell in favor, Darden worried about the league's academic standards--and the Board of Visitors backed Tebell. Virginia was admitted into the ACC on Dec. 4, 1953. The first 9 years in the ACC brought 9 losing seasons and a 28 game losing streak lasting from the third game of 1958 until the opening game of 1961. The streak ended in front of 18,000 fans in Scott Stadiummarker for opening day of the 1961 season. Virginia beat William & Marymarker 21-6.


In 1970, George Blackburn's last year, UVa's football program was integrated for the first time, with the signing of Harrison Davis, Stanley Land, Kent Merritt and John Rainey. Blackburn was replaced by Don Lawrence, who suffered through three consecutive losing seasons between 1971 and 1973. Lawrence was succeeded by Ulmo Shannon "Sonny" Randle, UVa '59. Astroturf was laid at Scott Stadium in May of 1974 and team still had a losing season going 4-7.

After a disastrous 1-10 season in 1975 Athletic Director Eugene Corrigan fired Randle and hired Dick Bestwick in 1976. Bestwick proved to be popular with players, alumni and faculty until five losing seasons out of six. Bestwick was dismissed by Athletic Director Dick Schultz after the 1981 season.

The George Welsh era

Head Coach George Welsh was hired for the start of the 1982 season leaving the same position at the U.S.marker Naval Academymarker. He spent years as an assistant coach under Joe Paterno and brought a winning tradition in his 19 years at the helm.

After going 2-9 and 6-5 in his first two campaigns, he guided the Cavaliers to an 8-2-2 season in 1984 with a 27-24 Peach Bowl win over Purdue representing UVa's first-ever bowl appearance and win.

Many firsts continued under George Welsh:
  • 1st-ever unanimous All-America choice - 1985, offensive tackle Jim Dombrowski
  • 1st 10-win season - 1989 10-3
  • 1st ACC Championship - 1989
  • 1st time ranked #1 - 1990, 3 weeks

In 1984, George Welsh led the Wahoos to their first bowl game ever. The season opened with a 55-0 loss against Clemson but they regrouped and would go on to win big games against Virginia Tech and West Virginia. They would go to the Peach Bowl and beat Purdue 27-24. In 1985 and 1986 the Cavs did not go to bowl games. In 1987 they started 3-4 but would win the last 5 games to finish 8-4 with an All-American Bowl win over BYU. In 1988 the Cavs started 2-4 but would win the last 5 to finish 7-4 with no bowl game. The 1989 season was the greatest season in school history, with a record of 10-3 and the winning of the program's first ACC Championship. Virginia would go on to lose the Florida Citrus Bowl, the first New Years Day Bowl in school history.

New uniforms & Stadium improvements

Virginia, wearing new uniforms for the first time in 10 years and only the second time in head coach George Welsh's tenure, enjoyed one of the finest seasons in UVa history in 1994.Most noticeably, the team switched from white helmets with orange and blue stripes down the middle to dark blue helmets with a "V" over two crossed sabres on the sides. The V-Sabre logo was designed by Coach Welsh's son Matt. The rest of the uniform changed from predominantly orange and white to predominantly blue and white.

Representing a major athletic facility improvement, the artificial turf at Scott Stadiummarker was removed and replaced with natural grass before the start of the 1995 season. Artificial turf was first installed at Scott Stadium in 1974. David A. Harrison III Field was dedicated September 2, 1995, at Virginia's home-opener against William & Mary.

Memorable games

Virginia 17 - Michigan 18
In the Pigskin Classic on August 26, 1995, Virginia led Michigan, in Michigan's home stadium, 17-0 in the fourth quarter. The Cavaliers blew the lead, giving the Wolverines two scores, and the final came on the last play, where Scott Dreisbach threw a fifteen yard touchdown pass to Mercury Hayes for the touchdown that gave the Wolverines a one-point win, 18-17.

Virginia 37 - Texas 13
The season before Virginia lost 17-16 to Texas in Austin, but this time the Cavs got their revenge. Tiki and Ronde Barber had career days as they won easily on homecoming weekend 1996.

Virginia 20 - Clemson 7
Prior to the arrival of George Welsh, Clemson dominated the series against Virginia. The Tigers had not lost a single game to the Cavaliers and most games were blowouts. Former Clemson coach Frank Howard had referred to the Cavaliers as "White Meat" back in the 1960s and they hadn't lost to Virginia since. Despite Welsh's success, the Tigers' record against the Cavaliers stood at 29-0 after Clemson defeated the 1989 Virginia team that captured the ACC championship. Behind the high powered offense with Shawn Moore, Herman Moore, and Terry Kirby and a strong defensive effort led by Chris Slade, the Cavaliers finally defeated Clemson, which was ranked in the top ten at the time, in the second game of the 1990 season. The win propelled the Cavaliers' rise in the polls which culminated in a number one ranking in late October.

Virginia 33 - Florida State 28
UVa managed to win its share of close games as the 1995 season unfolded, including a 33-28 upset victory over second-ranked and previously unbeaten Florida State. Playing on national television in the first-ever Thursday night game in Charlottesville, Virginiamarker stopped the Seminoles at the goal line on the game's final play to preserve the win. With the victory, the Cavaliers ended FSU's four-year, 29-game winning streak against ACC teams since joining the conference in 1992. Florida State became the highest-ranked team to ever fall to the Cavaliers. Virginia and Florida State were later crowned co-ACC Champions after finishing the season with identical 7-1 conference records.

Virginia 20 - North Carolina 17
During a generally disappointing 1996 season, the Cavaliers upset the top ten ranked Tar Heels at Scott Stadium. In the fourth quarter, North Carolina led Virginia 17-3 and, having advanced within the Cavaliers' five yard line, were about to put the game away. However, Virginia cornerback Antwan Harris intercepted a Tar Heel pass in the end zone and returned it 100 yards for a touchdown. Quarterback Tim Sherman then led the Cavaliers to another ten points, capped by Rafael Garcia's late game field goal, and the defense shut down the demoralized Tar Heels for a stunning 20-17 comeback victory. The defeat cost North Carolina a bid in the Bowl Alliance; coach Mack Brown left UNC for Texas after another highly ranked Tar Heel team in 1997 also failed to receive a Bowl Alliance bid.

Virginia 36 - Virginia Tech 32
Virginia ended the 1998 regular season with a 36-32 victory at Virginia Tech in the greatest comeback in school history. Down 29-7 at the half, the Cavaliers outscored the Hokies 29-3 in the final two quarters. UVa capped its historic rally with a game-winning 47-yards touchdown pass from Aaron Brooks to wide receiver Ahmad Hawkins with 2:01 left to play.


Citing concerns about his health as a primary reason for his decision, Welsh announced his retirement in a press conference on December 11, 2000. Welsh stepped down at Virginia at the age of 67 after establishing himself as the winningest coach in UVA and ACC history. He compiled a 19-year record of 134-86-3 at Virginia, including a conference-record 80 ACC wins. Welsh led the Cavaliers to 12 bowl games and 14 consecutive years of winning at least 7 games.

The Al Groh era

With the retirement of a UVA legend, the Virginia faithful were looking for a new coach that could bring the same success to the team that George Welsh maintained throughout his tenure. On December 30, 2000, Virginia hired New York Jets head coach and former Virginia player Al Groh. His first year was a rebuilding year with the team going 5-7. Groh led the Cavaliers to four consecutive winning seasons from 2002 to 2005, including a 3-1 record in bowl games. The 2002 squad saw the breakout season of quarterback Matt Schaub, who led the Cavaliers to a 9-5 season capped by a 48-22 blowout of West Virginia in the Continental Tire Bowl. The 2003 team faced adversity with an early season injury to Schaub; the team rallied to finish the year 8-5 including a victory over Pittsburgh in the Continental Tire Bowl. The 2004 team reached #6 in national polls after a 5-0 start, the Cavaliers' highest ranking since 1990, but lost 36-3 at #7 Florida State and finished 8-4 after an upset loss to Fresno Statemarker in the MPC Computers Bowl. The 2005 team finished with a 7-5 record, but included Virginia's second ever victory over Florida State on the tenth anniversary of the first win, and a win over Minnesota in the Music City Bowl. The 2006 Virginia Cavaliers football team record slipped to 5-7. In 2007 the team went 9 and 3 for the season, including a 48-0 shutout over the University of Miami in their last home game in the Orange Bowl, as well as setting an NCAA record for wins by two points or fewer (5). Gaining an invitation to Jacksonville, Floridamarker for the Gator Bowl, they subsequently lost 28-31 to Texas Tech. For 2008, the team started with several big losses, but went on to win four games in a row before losing the last four of the season, finishing 5-7. Virginia's 2009 campaign under Groh started with a stunning 26-14 loss to William & Mary of the FCS (formerly I-AA). It was UVA's first loss to a I-AA team since losing to William & Mary 41-37 in 1986. The 2009 season ended 3-9 and Groh was fired following the last game of a season, a loss against rival Virginia Tech.

Head coaches


  • 1888–1912 Madison Hall Field
  • 1913–1930 Lambeth Field
  • 1931–present Scott Stadiummarker

Conference championships

Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association Championship
  • 1908
ACC Championships
  • 1989 (co-champions with Duke)
  • 1995 (co-champions with Florida State)

Individual award winners


Bill Dudley - 1941
Thomas D. Burns - 1993
Heath Miller - 2004
Chris Long - 2007


George Welsh - 1991
  • ACC Coach of the Year
Al Groh - 2002
Al Groh - 2007

First Team All Americans

# -consensus All Americans

Retired numbers

Retired Jerseys

"Jersey retirement honors Virginia players who have significantly impacted the program. Individuals recognized in this way will have their jerseys retired, but their number will remain active."

College Football Hall of Famersmarker

NFL Hall of Famersmarker

Traditional rivalries

Non-annual rivalry games

Current NFL players

Famous former players

See also


  1. Charlottesville Daily Progress
  2. Corks and Curls Yearbook web site
  3. This Is the ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference site)
  4. Official ACC Website
  5. [1]
  6. 2008 Virginia Football Media Guide, page 175

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