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Mailbag: Readers weigh in on our optimistic 2024 UVA Football Preview

Chris Graham
uva-football
Photo: UVA Athletics

Will you give game-by-game preseason predictions? I’m interested in your analysis.

John

Meh, no.

I loathe ESPN for this.

(Among many other things. Stephen A. Smith, ruining “SportsCenter,” giving billions to Dana White. Another column for another day.)

Game-by-game analyses of a team’s schedule is a way to fill 22 or 44 minutes on an off-season studio show, but I don’t see any actual value to them.

The primary reason: injuries.

Football teams aren’t even fully intact for Week 1, much less into October and November.

Looking at UVA Football’s 2024 schedule, at Clemson and at Notre Dame stand out, obviously.

Aside from those two …

Virginia should be competitive against that schedule.

I wish Tony Elliott had done something with his special-teams coach. UVA lost three one-score games (JMU, NC State, Louisville) because of special-teams blunders.

Those three were a combined 30-10 last season. If Virginia just takes care of the basics with special teams in those games, Elliott might have gone bowling in Year 2.

This year’s team should be better.

I’m OK dying on that hill.

Better than I am dying on the Joe Biden should stay in the race hill.


tony elliott
Photo: UVA Athletics

Coaches coach, players play, right? And the ride-or-diehard fan sticks with their team through lean times and times of success and abundance, right? Well, all that looks good on paper, but I’m not convinced some (maybe many) ‘Hoos football fans have much depth, follow me here.

The key to any journalism that reaches the reader is to be thoughtful, fair and engaging. At least in a perfect world. 

I spent some time on the West Coast when I was a kid. Sure we didn’t have much to be thrilled about in the now disbanded Pac-12 (it was the Pac-10 in the 1980s). My father would regularly take me to San Francisco Giants and Oakland A’s baseball games because we lived about the same distance from Candlestick and the Oakland Coliseum. And though the Oakland teams of that era were dynastic for a few years, the stadiums across the bay were full as well. The Giants played second chair to a far superior Oakland club who had Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Dave Parker, Harold Baines and some other guys the casual baseball fan had never heard of. And yes, when I saw Mark McGwire as a 7-year-old boy, he was skinny, not all ‘roided up, but I digress.

I’ll admit the current landscape of Virginia Cavaliers football has given the fans year in and year out of lofty expectations with little staying power and results. I remember hearing a local radio host in town advertising Cavalier football as “The Standard” under Bronco Mendenhall and thinking, “Man, they need to call it something else, right?” But if you measure your loyalty to a team that many us have educational, regional, and maybe even personal ties to (as an employee or donor) by just wins and losses, you are tone-deaf. 

My dad tells me he and his brothers and my grandpa used to go to 49ers games to see stars from the other teams and see how much they would lose by. Truth be told, my Niners have been pretty damn close to glory the last few seasons, so maybe I’m talking myself into a corner. But I think the nexus here will prove my point.

Last season didn’t see a lot of winning in Charlottesville for our Cavs. But if you are a fan when times are tough, then you have time to dig into the strides made and looking at the whole body of work, see there’s room to be optimistic. Four games last season were decided by three(!) points or less. Aside from the blowouts vs. Tech and Tennessee, this team was close to six or seven wins, and well within bowl eligibility. I guess what bothers me about UVA football fans in general is this sense of entitlement. An elite four-year public university with all the academic cachet, accolades, top flight medicine, sports science, engineering, etc., is something we are all proud of. 

It almost seems as another season quickly approaches that some of you all actually want UVA to have a down year. Maybe Tony Elliott is too positive, maybe you don’t like the uniforms or the stadium, who knows. But the basketball team across the parking lot and down the road had some lean years as well. The fans back then seemed comfortable with a team mired in mediocrity, and proud of a rare tournament berth or a couple wins in the NIT.

The point I’m trying to make is the heart of a true fan is ownership. The same people who call for coaches heads on a pike can’t be the same ones who use the pronoun “we” when times get better. “We” are fans of a great institution. “We” (many of us, not myself) got a degree from one of the best schools in our hemisphere. But I’m tired of the fair-weather fan who only exercises this ownership when times are good.

I heard it once said if you pray rain, you gotta be willing to deal with the mud, too. And in fairness, the football team has had plenty of “mud.” Not that long ago after the senseless act of violence claimed the three fine young men on Grounds, there was almost a reverence for being a UVA fan (in general). Most of us stepped back, tried to evaluate what’s important, and take the long view. That has all but evaporated as the years have passed by. 

I think it’s time for some fans to evaluate why their loyalty flails around like one of those tube machines you see outside a used car lot of furniture store. If you do any research on the recruitment, who we gained in the portal, listen to coaches evaluate the improving offensive and defensive lines, etc., there’s cause to be very hopeful this ship is sailing in the right direction. Or, do you hope for another underwhelming season because you wanna be right about Tony Elliott, a guy some of you all haven’t liked since Day 1.

Cut the guy some slack. He came from a championship-level program (he has rings to prove it). He learned under a Top 5 college football coach and enjoyed success. But Clemson didn’t arrive at that point overnight, did they? When Dabo Swinney was hired, nobody wanted that job. It’s looking like a pretty good choice now. And I’m not saying we will enjoy that level of success anytime soon. But there is that potential. Call me crazy, I don’t care. I’m a fan of fair evaluation and optimism. Maybe the success of most of the other programs has caused the football fan to become a little whiney and impatient. The season football ticket doesn’t mean what it once did. But as true, proud, lifelong supporter of this brand I think it’s absurd to want a team to fail just so a few of you all (who really aren’t fans anyway) can play Monday morning QB and be right. 

Take some painstaking inventory of where you stand as a fan. Our top rival to the southwest continues to sell out their games year in and year out. They support the other guys faithfully, through thick and thin. Sure it was easy when Frank Beamer was posting regular nine and ten win seasons, but I think they like what they see in coach Pry, and their revenue from home games proves that they are committed to “ride or die” with their squad. 

That’s the measure of a fan, ownership. You can claim ownership like you actually affect the outcome of the game whether you like it or not. But what you can do is support the team you have no problem with when they are on the mountaintop, when maybe, just maybe they are coming out of the valley and need a little encouragement.

And I applaud the thousands of fans who ride with this team. Wins and losses matter. JPJ is packed because winning is attractive. People want to feel good about the product they support. But the victory is sweeter when you’ve endured some hard times, and still put on your fan apparel and support your team faithfully, even when the rains come and the tempest rises. Go ‘Hoos!

B.P

I love the passion. That said, I don’t mind people asking questions about where things are headed, whatever the topic is.

That’s my brand.

But B.P. makes a lot of good points here.

It’s Year 3 for Tony Elliott. I don’t like that he decided to tear down what he’d been handed by Bronco Mendenhall to start from scratch, but that’s been done.

I think we see progress in terms of wins and losses this year.

There’s room for optimism.

We can save the gloom and doom to when we need to have it.

Everybody’s 0-0 right now.

This isn’t the time, maybe?

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham, the king of "fringe media," is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].