The Black Diamond Trophy is up for grabs this weekend as the West Virginia Mountaineers welcome the Virginia Tech Hokies. For the fans of both teams, what it means to have that trophy in your program’s possession needs no explanation. However, Mountaineer players, especially those not from the Mountain State, are getting a crash course in the storied rivalry.
Even WVU head coach Neal Brown, a native Kentuckian who bounced around the college football world before landing in Morgantown, is in for a history lesson.
“From a fanbase’s standpoint, the rivalry sticks out more than the players. Just because it hasn’t been played on an annual basis since the early 2000s and for me personally, it’s been very interesting to learn about it. I’ve really enjoyed it,” said WVU coach Neal Brown..
One resource Brown and his staff have at their disposal is senior defensive analyst Jeff Casteel. From 2001 to 2016, Casteel was a member of the WVU coaching staff and saw six consecutive West Virginia-Virginia Tech matchups during the early years of that stint.
“Coach Casteel has been a really good point of contact for me as far as learning about the emotions of the game and how both fan bases feel, so we are in the process of educating our players about it,” Brown said. “He was on the defensive staff under Rich Rod when this rivalry was really going strong.”
Casteel has been meeting with the coaching staff to give them the ins and outs of this rivalry and will sit down with the team Tuesday to help them get a better grasp of what this matchup truly means.
West Virginia and Virginia Tech have met on the gridiron 52 times in history, and did consecutively from 1973 to 2005, largely as Big East foes in that period. The most recent matchup came in 2017: it was quarterback Will Grier’s debut as a Mountaineer and unfortunately for the transfer, it wasn’t the memorable start he hoped for as the Hokies finished with the 31-24 edge at FedEx Field.
Linebacker Exree Loe redshirted that season as a freshman, but even then, he knew the significance.
“In 2017 when we played, I knew it was a big game then, so I know it’s a big game now. It’s just going into it like any other game, though,” Loe said. “We gotta prepare like we’re playing the worst team or the best team we play.”
When the Hokies come to Morgantown, they will have a No. 15 attached to their name, but for the Mountaineers, this game has much more at stake than just beating a ranked opponent.
“It’s a trophy game, we’re playing for the Black Diamond Trophy. I think anytime you play one of those games, it matters, but by my calculation, Tech has had possession of the trophy for over 6,000 days,” Brown said. “That’s a long time.”
Brown’s right, and to be exact, that number will be 6,541 days on Saturday.
The hardware hasn’t been displayed in Morgantown since 2003, and it hasn’t been put on the line at Milan Puskar Stadium since 2005, and Virginia Tech has taken it home three straight times. In 10 of the last 11, the Hokies have been ranked in the top-25, while West Virginia was ranked in five of those matchups over that span.
This weekend, there’s plenty at stake for all associated with the WVU football program, and that includes bragging rights for the first time in 18 years.