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The Virginia Tech-WVU rivalry trophy is an advertisement for coal

The Hokies and Mountaineers picked up their rivalry on Sunday after a 12-year hiatus, with VT holding on to the Black Diamond Trophy.

West Virginia hadn’t played Virginia Tech in football since 2005. For the last decade or so of the series, the teams battled for the Black Diamond Trophy:

Virginia Tech-West Virginia rivalry trophy Virginia Tech

The schools from neighboring states used to be rivals, but their series dissolved not long after Virginia Tech left the Big East for the ACC in 2003. That put the WVU-Tech rivalry in the same grave as WVU-Pitt, Kansas-Missouri, Nebraska-Oklahoma, and all the other series that came to an end after waves of conference realignment.

On Sunday, the two played a classic, with Virginia Tech winning, 31-24. In an on-field presentation afterward, the Hokies held on to the Black Diamond Trophy, which collected dust since the Hokies won in Morgantown 12 years ago. The QBs in that game: Marcus Vick and Pat White.

Former VT head coach Frank Beamer with the trophy after 2017’s game:

The Black Diamond Trophy is a relatively new part of the series — and it’s kind of a weird trophy.

The trophy debuted in 1997, decades after the teams started playing. It’s sponsored by a construction equipment company and West Virginia, which signed deals with both schools. The company, Rish Equipment Company in Bluefield, W.V., has kept its name on the trophy all these years, in a plaque on the bottom. The company donates scholarship money to both schools, and has the deal to advertise on the trophy.

The name “Black Diamond” is a reference to Appalachia’s coal industry. But the trophy is definitely meant to promote a company, which is unique for a rivalry trophy.

“I think it is going to be great,” Rish’s managing director, Steve Hamilton, told the Bluefield Daily Telegraph. “I think it is great, one, to promote our region and of course Rish Equipment and what we do because we are a company in both states so the exposure is good for us. It is good for West Virginia, it is good for Virginia Tech and it is also great for our main manufacturer that we sell for which is Komatsu Equipment.”

Where is the trophy? The schools have offered differing takes.

“We have the Black Diamond Trophy, and I expect to keep it,” West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen said during the offseason. He also said he thought it “disappeared.”

But Virginia Tech made clear back in March that it had the trophy.

This used to be a real rivalry, and it’s included some great games.

The schools had played 58 times since their first meeting in 1912. From ‘73 to ‘05, they didn’t skip a season, and the rivalry got hot during those years.

Ask Virginia Tech, and the peak was 1999. The Hokies call the ending to that year’s game the “Miracle in Morgantown.” Tech was ranked No. 3 when it visited WVU on Nov. 6, beating its first seven opponents by at least 13 points apiece. The Hokies would eventually get to the national title game that year (where they’d lose to Florida State), but they needed to beat WVU at Milan Puskar Stadium to keep their dreams alive.

The ‘Eers led 20-19 when they kicked off with just more than a minute left, after mounting a furious comeback from a 19-7 deficit minutes earlier. Michael Vick made one of the iconic plays of his college career when he scrambled for 25 yards, setting up a 44-yard field goal to win — and keep Tech in the title race.

The Vick game is the most memorable one in the series, but the Mountaineers have had some good moments, too. (They’ve won 28 of the 51 meetings.)

For now, Virginia Tech fans have to decide how much they hate the team they’re playing for the first time in a long time. Hokies blog Gobbler Country:

I see nothing in this game beyond my team going against some other team with a history I’m familiar with, but not wrapped up in emotionally. Maybe I should lament that, maybe I shouldn’t. It’s not clear to me now, much like the outlook on the game. Just remember not to get too excited. Leave that to the couch-burning heathens up the road, I suppose. Hopefully, this Labor Day Sunday, not a single La-Z-Boy is put to the torch in Morgantown.

The series is back now, but its future is uncertain.

The teams signed a three-game deal in 2013 that brought them back together. This one’s at a neutral site, and they’ll trade visits in 2021 and 2022. The second game in the set is in Morgantown and the third is in Blacksburg.

The rivalry renewal might not last longer than that. WVU’s Big 12 has a nine-game conference schedule, and VT’s ACC has an eight-gamer. The Hokies are one of the most forward-planning teams in the country, and their non-conference slate is already full through 2030, pending any games getting canceled. West Virginia’s is less full but still busy, and it includes other old, dormant rivalry games against Pitt and Penn State.

Savor this game while it’s happening, because it’s only back for the blink of an eye.