Hampton, Old Dominion launch new rivalry Saturday

Just down the road at Hampton University's Armstrong Stadium on Saturday afternoon, they'll stage a football game that doubles as a socially competitive exercise. Or vice versa.

Hampton U. and Old Dominion meet at 1 p.m. in a game with no tradition and little bearing on the big-picture aspirations of both programs, yet is widely anticipated in both camps.

In the football offices at Hampton U. and on Norfolk's Powhatan Avenue, they're calling this a big game. Not in the "Every game is a big game" or "It's a big game because it's the next game on our schedule" coaches' mantra that provokes reflexive eye-rolls among non-believers.

Geography and novelty fuel much of the interest. The two campuses are roughly 15 miles apart. Start-up program versus established program. Rosters dotted with local talent.

"Our goals are still obtainable," Pirates head coach Donovan Rose said earlier this week. "We're not looking past Old Dominion. To me, it's a great situation. It's going to be a playoff-type atmosphere. I think the guys get excited about that."

The outcome has no effect on Hampton's quest of a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship. The Pirates seek to rebound from last week's loss to South Carolina State and establish momentum heading into their final three league games.

Old Dominion, meanwhile, tests itself against a conference championship contender as it takes baby steps before diving into the deep end of the Colonial Athletic Association schedule beginning next season.

"I'm a proponent of the four schools in the area — Old Dominion, Hampton, Norfolk State and William and Mary — trying to play each other as much as possible," Monarchs head coach Bobby Wilder said. "I think it would be great for Hampton Roads and great for the 757 players, fans and coaches.

"Kids grow up in this area and would love to be able to stay here and play in this area, and these four schools provide a great opportunity to get quality educations and to be seen by family and friends. Personally, I would love to see every player in the state of Virginia remain in the state to play college football, and I'd like to see the majority of players in the 757 remain here to play."

Hampton and Norfolk State play annually as MEAC members, just as Old Dominion and William and Mary will do in the CAA. HU and Old Dominion are scheduled to play again next season in Norfolk, and the Monarchs have contracted to play Norfolk State beginning in 2013.

HU has averaged just over 10,000 fans in its two home games, while ODU has played to capacity crowds at Foreman Field (19,782) in each of its first five home games.

Given proximity and ODU's passionate following, there's every reason to think that 17,000-seat Armstrong Stadium will have a heavy Monarch presence.

Rose gives little thought to the possibility that it could be a de facto home game for Old Dominion.

"The only thing I'm concerned with is things I can control," he said. "I don't worry about things I can't control. So far as the marketing and ticket sales and all that kind of stuff, we have marketing people and sports information directors and all those type of folks that do that stuff.

"All we're concerned with is on the field. Our whole thing is, between those white lines, that's what I'm going to be concerned with."

As of Friday afternoon, tickets still remained, according to a woman in the Hampton U. ticket office.

"I don't know what the crowd breakdown will be, but I'd love to see 17,000 people there," Wilder said. "I think it would be very important if we had a sellout Saturday. I think it's important to get people believing that all of the local college programs are worthy of that level of support."

Dave Fairbank can be reached at 247-4637 or by e-mail at For more from Fairbank, readh his blog at