The Big Ten and ACC announced the matchups for the 2012 ACC-Big Ten Challenge today and our mighty Iowa Hawkeyes were drawn against the mysterious Hokies of Virginia Tech for a game in Blacksburg, VA on November 27, 2012. (TV is still TBA but let's assume it's another ESPNU shindig.) What the hell is a Hokie, anyway? Surprise! It has nothing to do with turkeys. But isn't their mascot kind of a turkey? What's with that?
The origin of the term "Gobblers" is disputed, with one story claiming it was coined in the early 1900s as a description of how student athletes would "gobble" up their more than ample servings of food. Another story attributes it to the fact that the 1909 football coach, Branch Bocock, wanted to stimulate better spirit amongst his players and initiated them into an impromptu and informal "Gobbler Club."
Thus, the name was already popular when Fred Meade, a local resident chosen by the student body to serve as the school's mascot, had a large turkey pull him in a cart at a football game in 1913. The school's president halted the cart pulling after one game because he thought it was cruel to the turkey. Meade continued to parade his mascot, which he had trained to gobble on command, up and down the sidelines--and did so until another "turkey trainer" took over in 1924 to continue the tradition. Enthusiastic fans and sports writers adopted the "Gobbler" nickname and began to use it regularly. In 1936, a costumed Gobbler joined the live gobbler for at least one game. The use of a live gobbler mascot continued into the 1950s, and the first permanent costumed Gobbler took the field in the fall of 1962.
College football used to be such a wonderfully strange sport back in the olden days. But enough about football! We're playing Virginia Tech in hoopyball! What should we know about VT when it comes to hoops?
They went 16-17 in 2011-12 and just 4-12 in the ACC, finishing in a four-way tie for 9th (or last, depending on how you spin it). Their best win was a 47-45 defensive slugfest over cross-state rival, Virginia. FUN FACT: like Iowa, they played mighty Campbell last year. Unlike Iowa, they mopped the floor with the Fightin' Camels, 85-60. Then, over a month after their season had concluded, Tech surprisingly fired longtime head coach Seth Greenberg. Greenberg's ouster came after the departure of several VT assistant coaches, so maybe the writing was on the wall. In fact, one of those departing VT assistants, James Johnson, did a 180 and came back to VT to assume the now-vacant head coaching gig. Not surprisingly, turmoil has been the order of the day among VT's players, with all-ACC freshman Dorian Finney-Smith heading for the exits. He was joined by one of Tech's top incoming recruits, too.
Iowa is 0-2 all-time against the Hokies in basketball, with both previous losses coming in the B1G-ACC Challenge. They narrowly lost a game in Blacksburg, 69-65 in 2006 and lost another close game in Iowa City, 70-64, in 2009. Those two losses are just part of a pattern of futility on Iowa's part in the Challenge -- we have a miserable record of 2-9 in Challenge games, by far the worst of all the teams that have played in the event (ignoring Nebraska's 0-1 mark since they're pretty new to the Challenge). Iowa's lost six games in a row in the Challenge and hasn't won since a "bowling shoe ugly" 45-42 home win over North Carolina State in 2005. It would be really, really, really nice to get another win in the Challenge.
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The announcement of this game also fills in another part of the jigsaw puzzle that is Iowa's 2012-13 non-conference basketball schedule.
So far, we know the following games:
* Iowa State (home)
* UNI (neutral; part of the Big Four Classic in Des Moines)
* Central Michigan (home)
* DePaul, Wichita State, Western Kentucky (neutral; part of the Cancun Challenge in Cancun, Mexico)
* Virginia Tech (away)
That's probably about half of the non-conference slate (Iowa played 13 non-conference games in 2011-12).
Also, here's the full slate of ACC-Big Ten Challenge games, courtesy ESPN:
Tuesday, Nov. 27
Minnesota @ Florida State
North Carolina @ Indiana
NC State @ Michigan
Maryland @ Northwestern
Iowa @ Virginia Tech
Nebraska @ Wake Forest
Wednesday, Nov. 28
Purdue @ Clemson
Ohio State @ Duke
Georgia Tech @ Illinois
Michigan State @ Miami, FL
Boston College @ Penn State
Virginia @ Wisconsin
The Big Ten has won three in a row in the Challenge (after losing the first ten Challenges to the ACC) and, on paper, seems pretty well-suited to contend for a fourth-straight Challenge crown. North Carolina-Indiana is a tasty matchup, and Virginia-Wisconsin should be ideal if you pine for an insomnia cure, the return of Todd Lickliter-style hoops, or just the long slow embrace of death.