Documentary brings UVa. football history to life
Kevin Edds was moonlighting for ESPN in 1995 the night a Virginia football team upset #2 Florida State in Charlottesville. The then-recent UVa. alum purchased a tape of the game as a keepsake, but something was … lacking.
“There was no setup by a host to set the scene and put this win in perspective, so I started to write one up myself,” said Edds, now a Discovery Channel producer, whose effort to put the Florida State win in perspective led, 15 years later, to “Wahoowa: The History of Virginia Cavalier Football,” a documentary on the history of the South’s oldest college-football program.
Told in a style reminiscent of Ken Burns’ famed baseball and Civil War documentaries for PBS, “Wahoowa” goes all the way back to the Virginia football program’s origins in the late 19th century and through to the modern day. It was a labor of love for Edds, who admits sensing that “not many people could figure out how I was going to make a film about a program that had never won a national championship.”
“As a documentarian you try to present the story factually, but in order to tell the story I had to highlight the positives and at times downplay, but never dismiss, the negatives,” said Edds, who as a first-year student at UVa. in 1990 saw Virginia break its 29-game losing streak to Clemson in its home opener on the way to three weeks as the top-ranked team in the country, then drop its final three games in a blaze of inglory that included a demoralizing 38-13 loss to a three-win Virginia Tech team.
The history of Virginia football has plenty more lows to go with the highs. A particularly low point, a 28-game losing streak that spanned 1958-1960, is the point in UVa. football history that Edds boasts about the most.
“We have a hilarious photo of a sad cheerleader from those seasons, pom-poms by her sides, and frown on her face that captures the feeling surrounding the program. And we have four interviewees all talking about how bad the team was. Because of that, it makes the program’s rise to #1 in 1990 that much more impressive,” Edds said. “No one in 1960 sitting through that 28th-straight loss could ever have imagined the heights that the UVa team would reach that season and many others during the Welsh era. When Northwestern broke that consecutive-games losing streak in 1982, I was actually sad that we no longer held that distinction.”
The interview list is a veritable who’s who – a Hoos’ Hoo? – of Virginia football. A highlight for Edds was his sitdown with “Bullet” Bill Dudley, the 1940s star and college and pro football hall-of-famer who passed away in February. Edds also laments two interviews that got away – he tried but wasn’t successful in lining up interviews with CBS news anchor Katie Couric and “30 Rock”‘s Tina Fey about their UVa. years.
The film premiered at the Virginia Film Festival in November to strong audience reaction. “That was a real thrill,” Edds said.
The film is now available for purchase online at UVaFootballHistory.com.
Story by Chris Graham. Chris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.