2023 Football

Virginia State University coach not fond of Norfolk State University game

Virginia State’s head coach says he’d prefer not to be a part of a rivalry game with Norfolk State. Here’s why.

It has been four years since Virginia State University and Norfolk State University have battled on the football field for the Labor Day Classic. Both teams will return to the field after the hiatus, but it’s head coach thinks the rivalry may be lopsided for VSU.

Norfolk State University and Virginia State University will continue their rivalry in the Labor Day Classic at William “Dick” Price Stadium in Norfolk, Virginia. Virginia State football coach Dr. Henry Frazier III, understands that everyone loves the return of the rivalry game but he sees it differently.

Virginia State University, Norfolk State University
Va State’s Cordelral Cook scores his first touchdown in 2017. (Photo by Michael Peele.)

“I saw that game from afar years ago when I was at other conferences or even at other schools, and I didn’t realize how big that game was in terms of Virginia State and Norfolk State in the state of Virginia. It’s a huge game,” Frazier told HBCU Gameday. “It’s a game I don’t necessarily want to be a part of because you got Division I, you know, ten full-time coaches, 63 scholarships playing against us. We can’t come nowhere near to those numbers but no one cares about that, because you know, it’s a rivalry and it’s hard for me to fathom it to being a rivalry when the cards are stacked against us.”

Dr. Frazier is not a fan of the Labor Day Classic because it is a rivalry game between a Division I school and a Division II school. The rivalry has been lopsided recently since Norfolk State has won eight of the last nine games against VSU. The last Trojan victory was in 2017 after defeating Norfolk State in a close 14-10 game.

The rivalry dates back to the very beginning of Norfolk State’s football history as it was once a division of Virginia State. The two schools battled fiercely as rivals in the CIAA until NSU made the move to Division I following the 1996 football season. To this day, many Virginia State alumni refer to their alma mater as “Big State” and to NSU as “Little State.”

History aside, the cards are stacked against Trojans because they are a Division II program. Division II schools are allowed 36 scholarships and less full-time head coaches. The Spartans are a Division I program that has 63 scholarships and more full-time coaches.

Virginia State University, Labor Day Classic
Virginia State players celebrate a score.

Dr. Frazier knows the difference between coaching teams in different divisions. Before becoming head coach at VSU, he was an assistant coach at Bowie State University from 2017-2019 and head coach from 1999-2002. Between his two stints at Bowie State, he was head coach at Prairie View A&M University (2003-10) and North Carolina Central University from (2010-2012).

Dr. Frazier enter’s his second season with the Trojans after accepting the position in May 2022. He believes the team will be better because of the maturity and veteran presence on the roster.

“We’ll have 35-40 kids in graduate school, so we’ll have a lot of grown men in our ball club which means you can do grown men things,” said Dr. Frazier, “We return ten starters on offense, nine on defense, and we were able to add a lot key components which makes this year you know, I think we should be a better ball club looking to take a step forward.”

VSU wants to continue taking steps forward after improving from a 3-6 record in 2021 to a 6-4 record in 2022 in Dr. Frazier’s first year as head coach.

“Year one, we able to have a winning season and that’s a testament to the young men buying in to what we’re selling,” Frazier said.

One of the leaders of the veteran group, graduate defensive back Willie Drew, has bought in and explained the transition from last year to this year.

“It was an easy transition, like just rolling over, they made things easier for the players. The way they communicate, the leaders that they are, you know what I’m saying, it’s great to play under those guys.”

Drew and teammates, Matthew Foster and Miqueal Pillow-Smiley were named to the All-CIAA team. They will lead the grown men and help the Trojans continue to move forward.

Dr. Frazier may not be thrilled to play Norfolk State, but he has put together a veteran squad that can compete with anyone. His second year will be tested as they start with The Labor Day Classic on September 2nd.

Virginia State University coach not fond of Norfolk State University game
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