It is old news now, but the Old Dominion Monarchs are scheduled to face off versus the Virginia Tech Hokies seven times in nine years from 2017-2025. Not only is that an impressive haul for one of the newest FBS programs in the nation, that is one of the biggest scheduling coups for a Conference USA team in conference history.
Just how did a team that was in the FBS ranks in 2013 get a team from the ACC to play a seven game series that includes three trips to S.B. Ballard Stadium?
Basically, it comes down to a combination of luck, geography, a willing partner, stubbornness, and a changing of the times.
Let's look at location first. There are reasons beyond the game alone that Virginia Tech is willing to go to Norfolk to play Old Dominion in 2018, 2022, and 2024. The main one that jumps to mind is recruiting. In the final years of Frank Beamer, the Hokies started to lose recruits from the 757 to other programs. Blacksburg and Norfolk are on opposite sides of Virginia, making it tough to give proper attention to recruits on that side of the state.
Heading to the far east coast of the state gives Virginia Tech a bigger stake in that area. It is virtually the same reason that the University of Tennessee will occasionally head to Memphis to play in the Liberty Bowl. Like Memphis, the Norfolk area is full of talent that the Hokies would love to poach. Since the first announcement of the series, the Hokies have landed 14 signees from the 757 area code.
Finding a willing partner is also a key. Old Dominion got in on the ground floor scheduling of scheduling for Virginia Tech. They were willing to play the long game and schedule the original three game series back when they were still a FCS program. Back then, a two for one scheduling setup was incredibly lucky news for the Monarchs. No other G5 program would have even considered that option at the time.
Of course, in order to earn a willing partner from Virginia Tech, Old Dominion had to make a few concessions. There are many that we will never hear about and even more that we will hear about as the first meeting in Norfolk comes to pass in 2018.
Some agreements between the programs likely had to do with stadium expansions that were already in the plans for a move to the FBS. It is also a big deal for Virginia Tech in a public relations standpoint to "throw a bone" to an up and coming in-state FBS program.
Stubbornness is more important to the negotiation process than almost anything else. At first Old Dominion was more than willing to agree to the demands of Virginia Tech to do a two and one series. Things changed a few months later as the Monarchs started to make the move to the FBS. A long term schedule was on the table, but Old Dominion was very stubborn in making sure that they would get a one for one series this time.
After negotiations, the teams agreed to meet from 2022 to 2025 with the 2022 and 2024 meetings taking place in Norfolk.
A bit of good luck is key to landing a series of this length that is so helpful to the Monarchs on publicity and recruiting standpoints. Proximity to a school like Virginia Tech is something that is out of the hands of everyone. That proximity along with the luck of working with a team that was willing to go on the road was very positive luck for the Monarchs.
Times are different now than just a few years ago. For a program like Virginia Tech, they can pay a lower amount for a "money game" if they offer to play a return game at ODU. Power five conference teams are starting to see "money games" hit the $1.5 million range. It is much smarter to pay a lower fee for home games and give up a road game in return. Teams like Alabama can pay that without blinking, but that is a tougher amount to swallow for the Hokies.
Now, let's look at the most impressive part of this series. From 2017 to 2025, the Hokies have 14 road/neutral site games scheduled. That list includes East Carolina (4), West Virginia (2), Notre Dame (1), Michigan (1), Rutgers (1), Wisconsin (1), Penn State (1), and Old Dominion (3).
The Monarchs are in a very rare grouping of schools that include some of the biggest FBS programs in the country. Outside of a longtime rivalry with East Carolina, the only other Group of Five team that Virginia Tech will travel to in the next ten years is Old Dominion.
It is possible that other outside forces helped to make this rivalry happen as Virginia has also agreed to a three game series with Old Dominion.
For a program that is taking part in their third year as a FBS program, that is very impressive scheduling.