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Dawn of a rivalry? ODU and NSU talk football series

Courtesy: ODU Athletics
         
Release: May 28, 2008
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May 28, 2008

Old Dominion and Norfolk State are negotiating a long-term series between the schools' football teams, with ODU officials looking at 2013 as a starting point.

Norfolk State athletic director Marty Miller was even more proactive when reached Tuesday.

"Why not 2012?" he asked.

ODU would have its first class of fifth-year seniors in 2012.

The Monarchs, after nearly seven decades without football, are kick-starting a Division I-AA program that will begin play in 2009 and will join the Colonial Athletic Association in 2011. The school's first class of recruits arrives on campus this fall.

Norfolk State is an established member of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, which also plays at the I-AA level.

"We haven't spent a lot of time on this because we're still ironing out our schedules for '09 and '10 and then looking ahead to '11 and '12," ODU athletic director Jim Jarrett said Tuesday as he took a break from a hard-hat media tour of ODU's new football practice facility. "But we're definitely looking at a home-and-home series with Norfolk State in the near future."

Which school gets the first home game is a matter of debate. Still, Miller was blunt when he said, "no matter where the game is, we'll have sellouts at our respective places."

The Spartans, under fourth-year coach Pete Adrian, are coming off an 8-3 season and have upgraded their schedule in recent years.

Last season, Norfolk State traveled to Big East power Rutgers. This year, the Spartans will visit SEC member Kentucky, as well as CAA member William and Mary.

William and Mary will return the favor with a visit to Norfolk State in 2009.

"A series with ODU would be great for the city and the whole area," Adrian said. "It's all about trying to match up dates at this point."

The third Saturday of September would seem to work best for both programs, according to ODU coach Bobby Wilder.

The NCAA is in the process of expanding the Division I-AA playoffs from 16 teams to 20, which would mean the regular season would have to end a week earlier than it currently does.

Should that happen, there would be no "bye" weeks on any Division I-AA team's 11-game

schedule. Playoff expansion is expected to go into effect in 2010.

Meanwhile, NCAA officials are encouraging all conferences to backload their football schedules, meaning that Norfolk State likely would have the first four weeks of the season to fill with nonconference schedules while ODU would have the first three weeks to fill. Norfolk State expects to be playing a seven-game MEAC schedule by 2012 while ODU expects to play an eight-game CAA schedule.

While kicking off the season with an ODU-NSU showdown might sound appealing, Norfolk State officials said they cannot consider walking away from their annual Labor Day Classic against Division II Virginia State.

Although the game does not improve Norfolk State's profile when an at-large bid to the NCAA playoffs is at stake, it's still a game that draws huge crowds to Norfolk State's Dick Price Stadium.

"We average 25,000 for that game," Adrian said.

"It's just such a big ballgame for us."

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