It was a natural, born of geography and the area's obsession with football. An ambitious start-up and an established college program separated by just 13 miles. It made too much sense for Hampton and Old Dominion not to play each other.
But as HU and the Monarchs prepare for their third meeting, 6 p.m. Saturday at Armstrong Stadium, the landscape has changed.
ODU is in its final year in the Football Championship Subdivision, on its way to Conference USA and the Bowl Subdivision. Meanwhile, HU remains firmly entrenched as a signature program in the Mid Eastern Athletic Conference.
"I like the game," ODU coach Bobby Wilder said. "I think it's a good football game. I've said from the first day I was hired, playing Hampton, playing Norfolk State, that's exciting to me. It's changed a little bit now that we're making the transition to the FBS, because I don't see how we'll be able to play on a regular basis.
"I'm hoping we can still at some point be able to schedule these games and play these games. I think it's good for the area. I think there's some excitement to it. I know we're excited to play Hampton and I get the impression they're excited to play us."
Hampton-ODU has become a quasi-rivalry, fueled by familiarity and location. Both rosters are heavy with local players. Recruiting sometimes overlaps.
"It's kind of a '757' thing," said Monarchs' running back Colby Goodwyn, a Phoebus grad. "Us and William and Mary, HU and Norfolk State. We want to be the best team in the area."
Hampton was the first school to offer a scholarship to Goodwyn. He knew little about ODU until the Monarchs' staff called and invited him to make the short drive for a visit.
ODU's new facilities and the opportunity to help build the foundation ultimately swayed him, though he still has a soft spot for Hampton and coach Donovan Rose. Until game time.
"It's a pretty big game," Goodwyn said. "Since I'm from Hampton, it's a little bigger deal for me."
Devon Simmons, ODU's redshirt senior safety, also drew some interest from Hampton as a junior at Denbigh. But he said that the Pirates' interest waned as a senior, and ODU offered the best opportunity to compete at a high level and close to home.
Simmons views the matchup as more regional gauge than competitive rivalry.
"You want to be recognized as a team that's doing things out there," he said.
Hampton and ODU played two competitive games that were diametrically opposite. Two years ago, defense ruled in the Monarchs' 28-14 win, a game that was much closer than the final score and decided by three blocked punts.
Last year, the Monarchs won a 45-42 shootout that featured nearly 900 yards of offense and also included an ODU blocked punt.
"I would love to continue to play," Rose said. "I think the fans have been given a game. Both times the game was a very exciting game, and hopefully we can continue to do that. But our biggest thing now is the concern about Hampton and the direction we go. My hat goes off to them, going in that (FBS) direction. But we're more concerned about what we do. If the availability is still out there, I would love to continue playing."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun