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Aug
13

"Everybody Appreciated His Integrity & Honesty The Most"

Long before Florida State joined the ACC in 1990, then-Seminoles football coach Bobby Bowden had become aware of one of his future conference rivals.

Decades earlier, Bowden was the football coach at West Virginia when the Mountaineers played Virginia in 1972

Of those two, only UVa was an ACC member at the time. Bowden, who died earlier this week at 91, was the Seminoles' head coach from 1976-2009.

Surprisingly, he was named ACC coach of the year only twice despite such accomplishments as opening conference play with 29 straight wins, posting a record 173 conference victories, and winning or sharing nine ACC championships.

Four separate Virginia head coaches -- George Welsh, Al Groh, Mike London and Bronco Mendenhall -- have beaten Florida State once. Nobody from UVa has done it twice.

UVa's biggest win in the series was in 1995, when a Cavaliers team led by George Welsh upset then-No. 2 Florida State 33-28 in Charlottesville.

As a coach, Groh's only victory over FSU was in 2005 in Charlottesville.

"It was the same year that they had the anniversary of the '95 game," Groh said in a phone interview this week. "It was kind of ironic that both those wins in Charlottesville occurred with that same team in place, one time as participants and another time as honorees."

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Aug
13

College Notebook: Cavanaugh Remembers Bobby Bowden

In nearly 40 years as a college football coach, including stops at five different ACC programs, it's no wonder that Jim Cavanaugh had some thoughts on the passing of distinguished former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden.

"It's funny,"said Cavanaugh, who spent most of his career under Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech. "I coached against [Bowden] when he was at West Virginia and Florida State. He knew who I was but he knew me more as Chuck's friend."

When Cavanaugh was on the staff at N.C. State, one of his colleagues was Chuck Amato, twice the assistant head coach at Florida State sandwiched around his six-year tenure as the head coach at State.

"I coached against [Bowden] on both sides of the ball, on offense when I was at N.C. State and North Carolina, and then defense at Tech," Cavanaugh said.

'The ol' boy could recruit. He had good players, and I'll tell you this: they played hard. He also had a great staff, too, now. I think, sometimes, that gets lost in the shuffle with some of these big-time guys. They could coach 'em up, too, now."

Cavanaugh worked at so many places that it's hard to remember, but he does remember a stint at Maryland and going up against a Bowden-coached West Virginia team.

Bowden got to Florida State in 1976 and Maryland left the ACC in 2015.

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Jul
21

Virginia 11th, Virginia Tech 32nd In Learfield Directors' Cup

It would have been easy to dismiss or overlook the Learfield Directors' Cup rankings this year, coming, as they did, following a school year when there was no assurance that many sports would even be conducted.

Virginia and Virginia Tech finished 11th and 32nd respectively among Division I programs in competition for the 2020-2021 Learfield Directors' Cup rankings that reflect athletic success.

There was no Directors' Cup competition in 2019-2020 due to the coronavirus. Prior to that, Virginia was eighth at the end of the 2018-2019 season and the Hokies were 49th.

Texas won the 2020-21 Directors' Cup title, marking only the second time an institution other than Stanford has taken the title. 

The ACC had six teams in the top 25, compared to the Southeastern Conference with eight.

North Carolina was ranked fourth and led the ACC schools, followed (in order) by UVa, Notre Dame, Florida State Duke and N.C. State in the top 25.

One explanation for Virginia's drop was the inactivity this year of sports such as women's basketball, which played only five games, all before Christmas, after playing 30 games the previous year.

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Jul
15

When It Comes To Halifax County Athletes, He's Seen It All

One of the highlights for me this week was the opportunity to speak with Tucker McLaughlin, a longtime sportswriter for the News and Record of South Boston in Halifax County.

A phone call to the News and Record office confirmed what I had heard about McLaughlin's undergoing three rounds of chemotherapy as the result of a brain tumor.

"He's still working" a colleague told me and I spoke with Tucker (at right) later in the afternoon -- twice in fact, including a second call in which we discussed the Major League Baseball draft, where University of Virginia pitcher Andrew Abbott had been selected by the Cincinnati Reds in the second round.

Abbott was a baseball standout at Halifax County High School, where he also was a swimmer of some distinction.

Some of the outstanding Halifax County athletes covered by McLaughlin included UVa running back Barry Word, the 1985 ACC rushing champion; and Tyrone Davis, whose 2,153 receiving yards rank third in school history. Three Words played at Virginia and earned a combined nine varsity letters.

AS BEST AS I CAN REMEMBER, McLaughlin didn't start covering Virginia athletics until 1990, the year that Virginia was ranked No. 1 in the country. We were headed down to the field from the parking lot one day when he shared a little bit of his background.

He had not attended Virginia but had UVa ties. I'm not sure what he was covering at the time but two of his major beats were high schools and auto racing, which was big in his part of the state. It wasn't long before he started to show up regularly at Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Duke and N.C. State., as well as NASCAR races.

To his credit, he didn't hesitate to hire "stringers" when he had a conflict. He didn't work in a particularly large market but didn't want his "beats" to go uncovered.

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Jul
02

One Of Roanoke's Most Colorful Characters Is Retiring

The University of North Florida has announced the retirement of Lee Moon, the athletic director at UNF since 2009, and one of the true characters to come out of the Roanoke Valley.

Moon played football at William Fleming High School in Roanoke before heading to VMI, where he was an offensive lineman between 1966-69.

Moon later served as a graduate assistant at Virginia from 1972-73 and as a full-time assistant to then-UVa coach Dick Bestwick.

Moon later had full-time coaching stints at Duke, UVa, Mississippi and Kansas State, where he was the interim head coach.

Moon later served as the interim athletic director at Kansas State and was the AD at Marshall and Wyoming.

Moon's decision to retire, announced earlier in the spring, became official this week

"For the past 12 years, Coach Lee Moon has served the university with great distinction, integrity and devotion to our student-athletes, coaches and athletic programming," UNF President David Szymanski said in a statement. "Under his leadership, UNF Athletics has fostered a strong culture of athletic excellence, high academic achievement and great respect that has directly contributed to the remarkable growth and success of UNF's sports programs. His legacy will leave a long-lasting impact on our Osprey community."

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Jun
24

UVA Ace Abbott Has Had An Unusual Group Of Followers

Andrew Abbott has had an unusual group of followers as his Virginia baseball career comes to a close in the College World Series.

Abbott, a left-handed All-American pitcher who has been the ace of the Cavaliers' staff, is remembered by high-school rivals who competed against him in another setting.

"He swam at the South Boston YMCA and I know he swam all four years in high school," said Tyler Smith, a graduate of Patrick Henry High School in Roanoke.

"I did swimming and then cycling, and he did swimming and travel baseball. The best I knew him was when we were in middle schools."

Abbott's mother, Jeannette, coached the South Boston YMCA Sea Serpents. of which Andrew was a member.

Smith is a graduate of Virginia Tech who happened to stop by the Hokies' baseball game with visiting UVa earlier this spring.

"It was curiosity," Smith said. "I recognized him when I was on the mound. He did not know I was there. I wish I'd kept better touch with him but I didn't."

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Jun
17

Olympic Trials Further Evidence UVA Now A National Power

The swimming Olympic trials this week in Omaha, Nebraska were further evidence that Virginia has become a national power, particularly on the women's end.

Senior Paige Madden and sophomore Kate Douglass earned sports on the 2022 U.S. Olympics team, and freshman Alex Walsh could be added at a later time. Walsh trailed Douglass by .02 seconds in the 200 individual medley.

After winning the regular-season ACC women's swimming championship, Virginia also won the NCAA championship, the first of two for the Cavaliers, who later won the Division I men's lacrosse title.

Lord Botetourt High School graduate Olivia Bray is beginning to make her mark at Texas, earning an invitation to the Olympic trials, where she landed a spot in the final heat of the 100-meter butterfly. She finished seventh in the semifinals, touching the wall with a time of 58.36 seconds.

Making the final heat was an accomplishment by itself. She had been ranked no higher than 11th going into the competition.

"It was such a blast," Bray said this week. "It was very different from 2016."

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Jun
10

UVA-ODU: A Virtual Lesson In VA College Baseball History

The matchup between Virginia and Old Dominion in the baseball regional in Columbia, S.C., was a virtual lesson in college baseball history in Virginia.

Old Dominion's head coach, Chris Finwood, played at VMI from 1985-88 and was a career .300 hitter, posting a .399 average as a senior.

Finwood, later named to the VMI Sports Hall of Fame, also served as the Keydets' baseball coach from 1992-94. The Keydets won a school-record 21 games in 1993 after winning two games two games earlier.

After leaving VMI, Finwood's teams at Western Kentucky won 190 games in six years. Originally from  Hampton, he was hired by Old Dominion in athletic director Wood Selig in 2012.

Selig is a graduate of Washington and Lee who worked at Virginia and has a son in Virginia Tech's  Corps of Cadets.

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May
26

College Notebook: Bryant Pushes UVa In Men's Lacrosse

One of Virginia's toughest challenges in the NCAA men's lacrosse tournament came in a first-round match-up with Bryant, where the score was 10-10 as late as the fourth quarter before the Cavaliers prevailed 13-11.

UVa coach Lars Tiffany was quick to praise his Bryant counterpart Mike Pressler, a 1982 graduate of Washington and Lee, where he was a four-year starter in football and lacrosse

Pressler later was the head coach at Ohio Wesleyan for five seasons before serving for 16 seasons as the head coach at Duke, where he was 153-82 and led the Blue Devils to three ACC titles and 10 NCAA bids.

"The competition in Division I lacrosse when you get to the month of May is intense," Tiffany said. "Bryant’s effort today did not surprise me at all.

"Having coached against Mike Pressler and the Bulldogs during the years we had together, we fully knew what to expect and that is a tenacious team that was going to be all over the contested groundballs."

Clearly, Bryant had a chance.

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May
20

Gill Finding Success Coming Off The Bench For NBA Wizards

Anthony Gill, who transferred from South Carolina to Virginia before there was a transfer portal, scored in double figures twice in a three-game span for the Washington Wizards.

This has been the first NBA experience for Gill, who played for Khimki in the Russian-based VTB League before signing with the Wizards in November.

Much of Gill's playing time comes when he is on the floor with other reserves who have been dubbed the "Trenches."

A personal memory occurred in 2016, when Virginia and Clemson met for a rare off-campus game in Greenville, S.C., where the Cavaliers won 64-57. On the way out of the arena, I came across Gill and complimented him for his season-long successes in winning the opening tap.

As far as I know, nobody keeps records on game-opening tips or tip-offs.

"Thank you for noticing," responded an appreciative Gill, who couldn't have been any taller than his listed 6-8 and might have been a touch smaller.

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May
13

All-Big East PG Reunited With Former UVa Coach at Miami

Charlie Moore, an All-Big East point guard at DePaul, is no stranger to one of the coaches he will be joining at Miami.

One of the Hurricanes' assistants, Bill Courtney, previously was on the coaching staff at DePaul, where he worked for Dave Leitao. Courtney earlier had been an assistant to Leitao at Virginia.

Moore, named Mr. Basketball in Illinois as a senior in high school, had stints at California and Kansas early in his college career.

A spot opened for Moore when the Hurricanes' Chris Lykes transferred to Arkansas. An ankle injury limited Lykes to two games last season. He scored 1,256 points in just over three years for the Hurricanes.

Drafting

In an ESPN.com projection of candidates for the NBA Draft on July 29, Virginia shooting guard Trey Murphy is rated 42nd. Murphy has not said for sure that he has eliminated an additional year at UVa.

The only ACC underclassmen ranked ahead of him are Duke's Jalen Johnson at No. 7, Florida State's Scottie Barnes at No. 10 and North Carolina's DayRon Sharpe at No. 33.

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Ricky LaBlue

Ricky LaBlue

A longtime sports fanatic, Ricky is now channeling that passion into the world of sports media. Meet Ricky LaBlue.

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The only things he loves more than following Virginia Tech and Washington sports teams are dogs. Meet Stephen Newman.

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