COVER- <i>Wahoowah</i>! Cavalier football hikes and tackles onto the big screen
"People sometimes say, 'Why are you doing this? UVA football isn't that important– how can you fill even an hour of a documentary with stories about UVA football?'" laughs director and UVA alumnus Kevin Edds. "UVA has had so many moments in its history where it's impacted the game."
Admittedly, given its record in recent memory, the Cavalier football team is likely the last athletic team you'd want to go watch a documentary about– for locals, watching from a tailgate is probably enough. But for even the most disheartened football fan, Edds' Wahoowah: The History of Virginia Cavalier Football is guaranteed to entertain, inform, and convince you that perhaps history will one day repeat itself.
"One of my main goals was to preserve a historical record of the program and the impact it has had on its sport," explains Edds. "It's the most comprehensive look at the entire history of the program."
What has UVA done to be so influential? For starters, the university's team was the first football program in the South, back in a time when football was a northeastern sport for schools like Harvard, Princeton, and Yale. When the sport was later attacked as too violent–- the few rules of the extremely rough game did little to prevent deaths from happening dozens of times a season throughout the country–- UVA's president Edwin Alderman stepped in to defend it. The rules of the game changed, and football was saved.
More so than creating modern football as we know it, UVA was influential in nearly every aspect of the game at the college level–- from providing scholarships to players in the 1950s to instituting eligibility standards. Even more surprising to modern-day fans is the impact UVA has had on the field: the name Bill Dudley resonates with long-time fans, who remember the 16-year-old footballer who led the team to numerous successful seasons and played in the NFL. In 1990, Edds was a first year UVA student, the Cavaliers were ranked the number one team in the country, and the famed coach George Welsh turned a decaying team around to become one of the most successful programs in the country.
Through cinéma vérité, archival film, and on-screen narration, Edds crafted a documentary that combines all aspects of storytelling to show the history, the patience, and the personality behind decades of footballery.
"They were trailblazers in the South, trying to learn the nuances of this burgeoning sport that no other colleges were playing in that part of the country," says Edds. "They were literally teaching themselves how to play and ultimately become a goliath in the South."
And then there was the resurgence of UVA success in the George Welsh years, the Al Groh era, and onto the leadership of Mike London. And for the future of the Cavalier football program? "There's something very special about UVA, a defy-the-odds mentality," says Edds. "I think one day they'll get back there."
Wahoowah: The History of Virginia Cavalier Football screens at 10:30am Friday, November 5, in Newcomb Hall Theater. Discussion with director Kevin Edds to follow.