Stephen Varanko III on VMI’s Football and Basketball Program
Will VMI’s Athletics Program Ever Be Great?
The Virginia Military Institute is known as the oldest state-supported military college in the country. Yet, for all the prestige cadets get once graduating from VMI, the college’s athletics program has remained wanting for the last few decades. Stephen Varanko III believes that a public senior military college like VMI has the means to compete with other Division I schools in the NCAA. The military college just has to want it.
With the rigorous training these cadets get (think military discipline), it’s not unreasonable to think it’s a rather tall order to ask them to commit to sports as well. Stephen Varanko III however imagines that the physically demanding training and environment at VMI can be advantageous to athletes. The Spartan-like training and lifestyle may translate to a better performance on the field or on the court.
“The college’s football program actually boasts of 7 Conference Championships,” says Stephen Varanko III. “Unfortunately, the last one was more than forty years ago, back in 1977. At the very least, VMI retains some of its fun rivalry against Virginia Tech.”
Indeed, before Tech was pitted against the University of Virginia, the rivalry to watch even if you weren’t a fan of either teams was the one between VMI and Tech. Stephen Varanko III shares that the rivalry was so popular it was dubbed “The Military Classic of the South” and “Biggest Day of the Year in Virginia.” It reportedly even made the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1959.
While the glory of those days is long gone, Stephen Varanko III shares that VMI has a new primary rivalry in the Citadel Bulldogs. The two teams have met a total of 73 times, where the Bulldogs lead the Keydets 41-30-2.
Regrettably, when it comes to basketball, things aren’t much different. The Keydets men’s basketball team’s best showing in history goes way back to 1976-1977.
“In 1976, the Keydets made it all the way to the regional finals of the NCAA,” shares Stephen Varanko III. “They faced Rutgers University. Unfortunately, the team fell short, losing 75-91 in the finals. Still, it was enough to get the college excited about something, and it was sports!”
The year after, in 1977, VMI had another relatively successful run. The Keydets made it all the way to the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA. They finished with 26 wins and 4 losses. The team had Ron Carter, one of three players who had their basketball jerseys retired by the college. The other two are Gay Elmore and Reggie Williams.
“I really do find it unfortunate that the college has yet to produce an athlete that could make a name in the major leagues,” says Stephen Varanko III. “The most recent player to have had a successful major league campaign was Reggie Williams. But the farthest he ever got was the D-League.”
Right now, the things aren’t looking so great for the Keydets. They rank 7th in the Southern Standings, with a record of 5-9.