Plug pulled on ODU-VCU rivalry

One of the commonwealth’s oldest college basketball rivalries will be put on ice for the foreseeable future.

The Old Dominion University-Virginia Commonwealth University rivalry, which dates back to when VCU was known as Richmond Professional Institute, will not be renewed in the 2022-23 season. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported the news Monday.

In a statement to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, VCU vice president and director of athletics Ed McLaughlin indicated the decision was VCU’s choice.

“After much thought and serious consideration, we have decided to not renew our series against Old Dominion University,” McLaughlin said in the statement. “We appreciate the excellent rivalry that our programs have shared over the years with deep respect and wish them all the best in their transition to the Sun Belt Conference.”

The Rams and the Monarchs had met 97 times previously, with VCU holding a 53-44 all-time advantage in the rivalry. VCU has won six of the last seven meetings, including a 75-66 win in Norfolk last December. 

The rivalry’s most heated days were in the rear view mirror long before Monday’s announcement. The programs were conference rivals in the Sun Belt and the Colonial Athletic Association before both programs defected to different conferences. 

With ODU’s planned move to the current version of the Sun Belt on July 1, the Rams would likely be risking too much to keep the rivalry going while also maintaining a tournament-quality resume. Last season’s win was no higher than a Quadrant 3 win the entire season, despite being a nonconference road victory. 

The Sun Belt is also a weaker conference in basketball than Conference USA, the conference ODU is leaving. Last season the conference had an average NET ranking of 199.58, with conference champion Georgia State ending the season ranked #158. 

By comparison, the Atlantic 10 has an average NET ranking of 135.86, with half of the conference ranked higher than the Sun Belt’s highest-ranked team. 

Despite having outgrown its practicality in the modern college basketball landscape, the rivalry was still a fan favorite road game and had many fans on both sides make the two hour trip on Interstate 64 to attend the game.

Although VCU left the door open for future ODU-VCU games, the decision to not play this season will end a streak of meetings dating back to 1977. 

Featured image: VCU and ODU shake hands after VCU’s 75-66 win in the 97th edition of the VCU-ODU rivalry, Dec. 11, 2021. (Jason Boleman/A10Talk)