South's Oldest Rivalry
October 22, 1892|
Virginia 30, North Carolina 18
October 14, 2017|
Virginia 20, North Carolina 14
|All-time series||North Carolina leads 63–55–4|
|Largest victory||Virginia 66, North Carolina 0 (November 26, 1912)|
|Current win streak||Virginia, 1 (2017–present)|
The South's Oldest Rivalry is an American college football rivalry game played annually by the Virginia Cavaliers football team of the University of Virginia and the North Carolina Tar Heels football team of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Both universities have been members of the Atlantic Coast Conference since 1953, but the Cavaliers and Tar Heels have been playing much longer. They played their first two football games over sixty years before the eventual formation of the conference, with the series starting 1–1 after a split doubleheader in 1892.
As the name of the rivalry indicates, it is the oldest and most played rivalry game in the ACC and throughout the American South. It is tied for the second-most played in all of Division I FBS, after the rivalry game between Wisconsin and Minnesota (for Paul Bunyan's Axe) in the Big Ten.
Long being the most played game among all Football Bowl Subdivision series in the Southeastern United States, it has become known over the years simply as the South's Oldest Rivalry. It is also the oldest series in this highest division in the east. The 2017 meeting marked the 122nd edition of this game (played continuously since 1919), five more than the Army–Navy Game (played continuously since 1930), and equal to the "Deep South's Oldest Rivalry" (Georgia–Auburn, played continuously since 1944).
The game was first twice played in 1892 (Virginia won the first, and North Carolina the second, splitting the southern title). Virginia then claims a southern championship for every year of 1893–1897, with North Carolina gaining a Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association title in 1895 (only loss to Virginia) and 1898. Both overshadowed by Sewanee in 1899, Virginia again went on a tear from the turn of the century until 1905 when North Carolina pulled the upset.
Virginia and North Carolina have faced each other 122 times. North Carolina leads the all-time series, 63–55–4.a In 2010 UNC broke a long losing streak in Charlottesville, UNC's first road win in the series since 1981. It ended what many UNC fans mockingly described as the "Charlottesville Curse." UVA led the series from 1893 to 1944, and UNC has since led from 1945 onward. Virginia closed to within two games in 2009, but UNC then proceeded to win seven in a row. Even after the losing streak, Virginia is 20–13–1 in the rivalry since 1983, the year that UVA snapped a long losing spell to the Heels, during which Virginia only beat UNC once from 1969 to 1982.
Nature of the Rivalry
There is considerable historical lineage and academic standing between the two universities involved. The University of Virginia was founded by third President of the United States and founding father Thomas Jefferson, whereas the University of North Carolina was the first operational state university in the United States. William Faulkner was Writer-in-Residence at UVA, and Peter Taylor was on the UVA faculty and retired in Charlottesville. UNC is the alma mater of Thomas Wolfe, Walker Percy, and Shelby Foote. President Woodrow Wilson attended the University of Virginia and was President of its Jefferson Literary and Debating Society, whereas President James K. Polk attended UNC and was a Senator in its Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies
When the 1985 Richard Moll book was published listing the original eight "Public Ivies," public colleges with rigorous academic standards, there were only two sharing a common athletic conference: the University of Virginia and the University of North Carolina. For at least nine consecutive years, U.S. News & World Report has ranked UVA second and UNC fifth among all public universities, and they are first and second in the east. The two were also the first future members of the Atlantic Coast Conference to be elected to the prestigious Association of American Universities: UVA was elected in 1904 and UNC in 1922. Only Duke University would join them, in 1938, before the ACC was formed in 1953.
The rivalry is often called a "Gentlemen's Rivalry." One reason for this moniker is the prestigious image, both academically and socially, of both universities in their states and throughout the region. The institutions' student bodies also tend to somewhat mirror one another from a social and academic standpoint. As for today and recent decades, the rivalry itself has been lackluster and less heated despite a few recent historical wins by UNC. Neither program has finished at the top of the ACC since the 1990s, nor has UVA yet played in the ACC Championship Game.
Often considered the best high school football player of all time from the state of Virginia, and the only junior ever to be named the nation's top high school quarterback by USA Today, Ronald Curry announced a verbal commitment to George Welsh's Virginia program on September 4, 1997 during ESPN coverage of that night's game between Virginia and Auburn. With the commitment from Curry, Welsh declined to recruit Michael Vick, whose own stellar career in the same high school district was largely overshadowed by Curry's. While Curry's high school football coach, 12-time state champion Mike Smith, was happy that Curry would attend Virginia, Curry's AAU basketball coach Boo Williams told Curry he should decommit and go to a "basketball school" like North Carolina to get a better shot at the NBA.
Curry decommitted from UVA on signing day, causing him to be called "Benedict Ronald" and "Benedict Curry" by the Virginia faithful who blamed him not only for the program losing out on his own services, but for losing out on the unrecruited Vick. Curry was lampooned in the media, earning the title "Sports Jerk of the Year" in the nationally syndicated Tank McNamara comic strip. At North Carolina, Curry went 0–3 against UVA the next three seasons as a starting quarterback. The Tar Heels did finally beat Virginia when he was a senior and yielded much of his time under center to freshman Darian Durant.
Probably the most famous spectator of this rivalry was present on Thanksgiving Day 1928. United States President Calvin Coolidge and First Lady Grace Anna Goodhue Coolidge were among the 20,000 spectators watching the game at Charlottesville to see North Carolina win 24–20 over Virginia.
|North Carolina victories||Virginia victories||Tie games||Forfeits|
- ^* North Carolina forfeits due to using an ineligible player
Carolina currently leads the series 127–50.
Comparison with other football rivalries
At 122 games played, the "South's Oldest Rivalry" is tied for the second most played rivalry game nationwide among college football's Power Five conference schools, behind only the Paul Bunyan's Axe rivalry between the Wisconsin Badgers and Minnesota Golden Gophers. The UNC-UVA rivalry recently surpassed the Lone Star Showdown between Texas and Texas A&M and Border War between Kansas and Missouri due to the 2010–13 NCAA conference realignment, as one school from each of those pairs moved from the Big 12 to the Southeastern Conference in 2012.
The Deep South's Oldest Rivalry (Auburn-Georgia) may eventually surpass "South's Oldest Rivalry" (UNC-Virginia) in number of games played due to the conference expansion of the SEC and ACC conferences. With the possibility of a same-season rematch in the SEC Championship, Auburn and Georgia can play a second game in the same season; North Carolina and Virginia, however, are in the same division of the ACC, making a similar North Carolina vs. Virginia ACC Championship matchup impossible. Georgia and Auburn's meeting in the 2017 SEC Championship equaled the UVA-UNC rivalry in total games played at 122. Nonetheless, as the UVA-UNC rivalry was not suspended during World War II, the "South's Oldest Rivalry" has still been played for more consecutive years.
^a North Carolina forfeited the 1956 game to Virginia for using an ineligible player. The UNC athletic department does not acknowledge the forfeit when reporting on the result, and chooses to count the game as a UNC win in its marketing materials.
1Virginia won the first game played in 1892.
2North Carolina won the second game played in 1892.
- "Carolina Athletic Record Over 37 Year Period High". The Tar Heel. January 7, 1926. Retrieved March 5, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- Ranked above both is the University of California, Berkeley and UVA is tied with UCLA. UNC then trails only the University of Michigan for fourth nationwide.
- "The Amazing Ronald Curry". Dave Sez. 2004-08-12. Archived from the original on 2004-10-16. Retrieved 2012-07-26.
- "Virginia Won Big Before It Took The Field"; Richmond Times – Dispatch – Richmond, Va.; Bob Lipper; Sep 5, 1997; Page D1
- Ronald Curry Has All the Moves; The Washington Post – Washington, D.C.; Angie Watts; Apr 8, 1998; page C1
- O'Neals (1968) Pictorial History of the University of Virginia. Charlottesville, Virginia: University Press of Virginia (p. 154)
- "Wahoos Play Host to No. 18/22 UNC Saturday – University of Virginia Cavaliers Official Athletic Site". VirginiaSports.com. Archived from the original on 2012-05-17. Retrieved 2012-07-26.
- Jon Blau, Penn State Daily Collegian, "Forfeits uncommon in realm of college sports" Archived February 22, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
- Sports Illustrated, 1957 Football Issue, September 23, 1957
-  Archived October 19, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.