Change filled the sporting landscape in 2013. Some was gradual and incremental, some sudden and profound.
Familiar faces were gone, familiar schedules and relationships transformed perhaps for good. How well people and organizations adapt and adjust set the tone not just for this year, but for the future.
There were sea changes in high school athletics and staff changes among the state's most visible and successful college programs.
Virginia and Virginia Tech attempted to improve their football programs, while their athletic home, the Atlantic Coast Conference, secured its future.
Old Dominion officially set out on its upgraded football journey in a new conference, after a striking change in its men's basketball program.
Here are the top 10 stories for 2013, as voted on by the staff.
1. VHSL realignment
If you listen to high school coaches, administrators and traditionalists, the Virginia High School League's new, enrollment-based classification system is a cross between the recent college conference realignment and Obamacare. There wasn't even the lip service of, "If you like your district, you can keep it." Actually, districts remain mostly intact, but many longstanding rivalries are affected by new alignments. Hampton finds itself in something called Group 5A South Conference 10, where its new rivals include Great Bridge, Hickory and Indian River. Among Bruton's new rivals in Region 2A East Conference 33 are Arcadia and Nandua from the Eastern Shore, Maggie Walker from Richmond and Windsor High in Isle of Wight County. Warm up the buses, fellas, and keep your AAA membership current.
2. ODU's athletic ambitions
Old Dominion officially became a competing member of Conference USA, the result of the school's upwardly mobile football program. Results are mixed thus far. Men's soccer under Alan Dawson thrived and advanced to the NCAA tournament again. Women's soccer struggled, prompting a coaching change. Football doesn't play a full C-USA schedule until next season, but the program's first exposure to FBS competition illustrated how far there is to go. The Monarchs lost four of five games versus FBS opponents, including an epic 80-20 beatdown at North Carolina to conclude the season. A campus master plan calls for a new 30,000-seat stadium, and funding is in place for a new basketball practice facility adjacent to the Constant Center.
3. U.Va. football overhaul yields little results
Virginia's football staff extreme makeover did little to enhance Coach Mike London's ledger or quiet the discontent among the faithful. The Cavaliers brought in steady hand and former head coach Tom O'Brien to serve as London's consigliere, plus new coordinators Jon Tenuta (defense) and Steve Fairchild (offense). The result was a 2-10 record that included only one win against an FBS program, a 19-16 decision over Brigham Young that still gives Cougars coach Bronco Mendenhall the shakes. The Cavaliers gakked up double-figure leads at home to Ball State and Duke. Turnovers and penalties were numerous and costly, and the team seemed to wilt when adversity struck. Still, athletic director Craig Littlepage expressed confidence in London, and the staff continues to land top-tier prospects.
4. Peninsula icon passes away
Longtime Christopher Newport coach and athletic director C.J. Woollum passed away at age 64 in February after a battle with brain cancer. Woollum left an immense legacy and bridged the gap between the institution's early days as a local commuter school and its place now as a modern educational showplace. He coached basketball for 26 years, winning 502 games and advancing to 17 NCAA tournaments. He served as athletic director from 1987-2011 and oversaw the tremendous growth in facilities and overall excellence that have elevated the program to a Division III national power. More than 1,000 people attended his memorial service at the Freeman Center, a fraction of the number of lives he touched.
5. LPGA extension
Professional golf's long, if sometimes tenuous, relationship in the area will continue for at least the next four years. The LPGA and Kingsmill's Colorado-based resort and property owner announced in October that the tour would stop here each May through 2017. All parties will continue to pursue a title sponsor that they hope will goose the $1.3-million purse and assume a majority of costs, but the Kingsmill Championship remains. The tour stop has been a favorite of LPGA players since it first made the calendar in 2003. For a time, it was considered an unofficial fifth major and its champions are on the A-list: Annika Sorenstam, Se Ri Pak, Karrie Webb, Cristie Kerr. Kerr defeated Suzann Pettersen, another former champ, in sudden death in May.
6. Hokies' promising overhaul
Following Virginia Tech's worst football season since 1992, head coach Frank Beamer engineered his biggest staff shakeup in years. The Hokies' 8-4 record and Sun Bowl berth — the program's 21st consecutive postseason appearance — weren't up to the program's lofty standards, but their shortcomings and missteps were more a function of personnel than new coaches and schemes. Out went quarterbacks coach and play-caller Mike O'Cain and offensive line coach Curt Newsome. Offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring, a Beamer fave but fan pinata for years, was moved back to tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator. In came new O.C. and quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler, offensive line coach Jeff Grimes and receivers coach Aaron Morehead. The offense was spotty, due largely to lack of a run game and new receivers. The high-water mark was a 42-24 win at Miami in the rain. It remains to be seen if the offense will match Bud Foster's defense.
7. Coaching change for ODU hoops
A jarring upheaval resulted in the dismissal of men's basketball coach Blaine Taylor and the hiring of Jeff Jones. Taylor was the most successful coach in program history (239-144, 3 NCAAs, 1 NIT) and was arguably the school's most visible figure. He was a gregarious and productive fundraiser, as well as a superior tactician. But he was canned last February over what athletic director Wood Selig termed "leadership issues." Assistant coach Jim Corrigan rallied the team in the final few weeks of a dismal 5-25 season. A subsequent search yielded Jones, a solid and respected figure whose Virginia and American University teams won 358 games and made nine postseason appearances.
8. ACC insurance policy
It sounds rather benign and a bit wonkish, but when ACC athletic directors announced last April that they had signed a grant of media rights, they insured that the league would remain viable and lucrative for at least the next 14 years. Remember way back in 2012, when the ACC was likened to the final days of Hollywood's old studio system? Maryland was splitting for the Big Ten, while Florida State officials castigated the league's supposedly inadequate TV deal and were thought to be looking elsewhere. The Big Ten supposedly was coming for Virginia and North Carolina as well. Once dominoes started falling, the once-proud league was toast. Instead, all members signed a grant of rights that reflected Notre Dame's inclusion and announced a new TV deal that would pay each school at least $20 million per year through 2027 — roughly $300 million over the course of the deal. Any school that departs will receive zip. Revenue is tied to the league, not individual schools. A monumental move.
9. Virginia Tech's Weaver retires
Jim Weaver hates that poor health forced him to retire prematurely as Virginia Tech's athletic director, but the man certainly earned a break. Weaver merits a place on the Hokies' athletic Mount Rushmore for his guidance and longevity in a tumultuous era within college athletics. He shepherded Tech's moves from the Atlantic 10 to the Big East to the ACC. He built a comprehensive athletic program that succeeds in multiple sports and compares favorably with many of its broadly successful ACC brethren. He has been a voice of wisdom and reason in league meetings and served as mentor to many younger colleagues. Weaver has been second-guessed at times, but has remained visible and approachable throughout. Can't ask much more of a leader.
10. Peninsula hoops Class of 2013
Four Peninsula natives went to marquee-league Division I programs, and another stayed close to home in perhaps the deepest class the area has had. Anthony "Cat" Barber (Hampton High) averages 12.3 points and has a nearly 2-to-1 assist-turnover ratio for N.C. State. Troy Williams (Phoebus) started all 13 games for Indiana and averages 7.9 points and 4.8 rebounds. Rodney Bullock (Kecoughtan) followed high school teammate Josh Fortune to Providence, but has been suspended for the entire 2013-14 season for an undisclosed violation. Adrienne Motley (Woodside) plays 25 minutes per game for Miami's women and averages six points per game. Jordan Baker (Hampton) is a valuable reserve for the ODU men, averaging 20 minutes and 5.7 points per game.
Also receiving votes: Poquoson's Chad Pinder and Kyle Crockett selected in the MLB draft; Heritage football goes to state semifinals; Peninsula Pilots win first Petitt Cup; longtime coach Charlie Hovis passes away; Lafayette's dominant football team goes to (what can be considered) state quarterfinals; Hampton University's women's basketball team makes its fourth straight NCAA tournament appearance; Grand Stock's Ricky Derrick becomes first driver in Langley history to win five consecutive division titles; William and Mary baseball earns NCAA tournament berth.
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