Kaine, Kilgore on opposite sides of Tech-UVa. rivalry

The Top Story by Chris Graham

 

Jerry Kilgore was getting ready to talk hard politics.

Which makes sense, given the stakes. There’s a state to be run, after all, not to mention a gubernatorial election – Kilgore, the attorney general in Virginia, is the frontrunner for the Republican Party nomination to run for governor in the Old Dominion in 2005.

After an exchange of pleasantries with the reporter on the other end of the phone line, though, Kilgore let on that something else was on his mind in addition to what one might otherwise expect.

“I’m not doing well, I have to admit. I’m still not over the Miami game,” said Kilgore, a native of Southwest Virginia and a lifelong fan of University of Virginia sports.

A few minutes and another phone call later, and Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine, the presumptive Democratic Party nominee to run for governor in ’05, revealed that he had college athletics on the brain on top of the usual things regarding budgets and taxes and what to do about the state’s transportation infrastructure.

“You’ve caught me at an interesting time to bring up that question. I’m on my way down to the Tech-Maryland game as we speak,” Kaine said last week a few hours before Virginia Tech’s home football game with the University of Maryland.

Kaine, as it turns out, is a self-described “huge” Tech football fan.

One point on which Kaine and Kilgore agree in the walkup to the Virginia Tech-Virginia football contest coming up on Saturday is that the addition of Tech to the Atlantic Coast Conference was very much a good thing for the Blacksburg school and its sister school in Charlottesville as well.

“I’m thrilled that Virginia Tech is in the ACC,” Kaine told The Augusta Free Press. “It’s definitely to their advantage, and really it’s to the benefit of both schools that both are in the ACC. It’s a good thing for the state of Virginia. It takes what has been a traditional rivalry and gives it that much more meaning.”

“Being in a conference like the ACC can do so much for your athletic programs and for your academic programs,” Kilgore told the AFP. “The only evidence that you need there is to look at what happened the year Virginia Tech played for the national title in football (in 1999). Applications soared after that. It was unbelievable. So when it appeared that the Big East might be crumbling around them, it was imperative that they secure a place in a viable conference.”

It seems that both are a bit out of place with their football rooting allegiances – given that Kilgore is a native of rural Scott County in the heart of Hokie Nation, and Kaine is the former mayor of Richmond, a Wahoo stronghold.

“I go down to Blacksburg every chance that I get. I love seeing the Hokies play in Lane Stadium,” Kaine said. “Tonight’s game will be my first Thursday-night game. I’ve been down a number of times on Saturdays, but I understand that they really get this place rocking on Thursday nights.”

They did, as Virginia Tech rolled to a convincing 55-6 win over Maryland, a team that had fallen to Virginia by a 16-0 final two weeks earlier.

Kaine might not be able to make it back to Southwest for Saturday’s Tech-UVa. matchup.

“My wife and I are taking a trip to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. We’re supposed to be back later in the week, and I’m hoping to be able to make it down. It’s just a matter of how bad the jet lag is. But for me, I really want to be there,” Kaine said.

Wild horses couldn’t keep Kilgore away, for those keeping score at home. Kilgore will watch the game from the president’s box at Lane Stadium as a guest of Tech president Charles Steger, “but I won’t be afraid to be in there with my orange and blue,” he said.

“All my Virginia Tech friends understand,” Kilgore said. “I’m not going to walk the political tightrope and try to pretend that I’m neutral. I have friends on both sides, but when it’s time for the football game, I’m a Cavalier all the way. And then when UVa. wins, we can go back to being friends.”

Whether he’s in Blacksburg or watching at home with friends, Kaine will be pulling hard for his Hokies.

“This is the kind of issue that politicians like to dance around and walk the fence on. I can’t do that. When it comes to Tech and Virginia, I’m always rooting for Tech. I root for Virginia every other weekend, but I’m a big Tech football fan,” Kaine said.

The winner of this weekend’s game could have the inside track to the ACC title and the conference’s slot in the lucrative Bowl Championship Series. Kilgore, for his part, thinks the outcome of next year’s game could mean even more.

“I think that next year’s game could decide who plays in the national-championship game. I really do,” Kilgore said.

“I’m not sure if I can take it. Running a gubernatorial campaign in the fall and watching Virginia make a run at the national title. I’m not sure if my heart can take it,” Kilgore said.

uva basketball team of destiny
Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, by Jerry Ratcliffe and Chris Graham, is available for $25.


The book, with additional reporting by Zach Pereles, Scott Ratcliffe and Scott German, will take you from the aftermath of the stunning first-round loss to UMBC in 2018, and how coach Tony Bennett and his team used that loss as the source of strength, through to the ACC regular-season championship, the run to the Final Four, and the thrilling overtime win over Texas Tech to win the 2019 national title, the first in school history.
 
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