William and Mary should have won last season's national football championship. And the Tribe's opening loss this year was a fluke.
So preached Old Dominion coach Bobby Wilder this week as he prepared the Monarchs for tonight's visit from their Williamsburg kin.
Sincere flattery or predictable bluster? Absent a polygraph or sodium pentothal, we'll never know.
We do know that with any luck, tonight is the start of something big.
William and Mary is a national player in college football's Championship Subdivision. Not every season, mind you, but frequently enough to reach the playoff semifinals in 2004 and '09.
ODU is a precocious fledgling, 9-2 last year as a rookie, bold enough to enter the thorny Colonial Athletic Association in 2011.
If they remain CAA brethren, parlay their glittering facilities and tap their recruiting pools, the Monarchs and Tribe could become honest-to-goodness, message-board-smack-talkin', marriage-counseling-causing rivals.
Games that decide conference titles? Playoff rematches? That's not difficult or far-fetched to envision for these programs.
Head-to-head recruiting spats won't be commonplace. The schools have contrasting academic missions, and while ODU focuses on Hampton Roads — the Monarchs roster includes 37 locals — William and Mary casts a wider net with only 12 locals.
But that only adds to the intrigue. It's like the region's other FCS programs, Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference neighbors and traditional combatants Hampton University and Norfolk State. With 10 area players, the Pirates branch out, while the Spartans stay close to home with 30 locals.
Wilder would like to see all four programs scheduling one another, and indeed, ODU moseys to Hampton next month. William and Mary had two-game series with Hampton (1997-98) and Norfolk State (2008-09), plus a playoff against the Pirates in 2004.
But this will be different. This will be, presuming CAA schedule-makers don't brain cramp, an annual affair, and fans of both schools will flock.
Few sporting events in these parts are a tough ticket, but tonight is. Nearly 20,000 will descend upon Foreman Field, and since William and Mary's allotment was only 1,000, expect more blues than a Buddy Guy show.
"I think that's great, to have a full house, to have a great atmosphere," Tribe coach Jimmye Laycock said. "That's a whole lot better than the other extreme, I promise you that. Obviously they'll be against us and pulling for them, and that's the way it should be. … That's what you want as a player."
William and Mary (1-1) lost its opener, at Massachusetts, where the crowd was tepid. But Wilder called that defeat a fluke. Moreover, he said the better team lost when eventual national champion Villanova edged W&M in last season's playoff semifinals.
"I think they would have gone to beat Montana (in the title game)," Wilder said of the Tribe.
Laycock and Wilder are not strangers. Wilder was an assistant coach at Maine for 17 years, the last 14 of which the Black Bears and Tribe were conference rivals.
Those were fair fights. Tonight's?
"There's nobody that comes close," Wilder said, comparing previous opponents to William and Mary.
On that point, he's not bluffing. The Monarchs aren't in Buies Creek anymore.
But with a full CAA schedule looming in 2011, ODU had little choice but to upgrade this season. Be the bug today, the windshield manana.
As a graduate of Virginia Beach's Princess Anne High, Tribe receiver Chase Hill understands the Monarchs are well-positioned for the future. He also knows William and Mary needs to make sure the new kid doesn't get too cocky.
"They're only going to get better," Hill said. "They've got the facilities, they've got the stadium. … Guys from Jersey on our team may not understand. But I've lived in ODU's backyard. It's definitely going to be a statement game."
David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/teeltime, and follow him at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP. Sign up for text alerts by texting "BIGSPORTS" to 71593Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun