American Football Database
VMI Keydets Football
File:Virginia Military Institute logo.png
First season 1891
Athletic director Donny White
Head coach Sparky Woods
Home stadium Alumni Memorial Field
Year built 1962[1]
Stadium capacity 10,000
Stadium surface Bermuda grass
Location Lexington, VA
Conference Big South Conference
Past conferences Southern Conference
All-time record 461–638–42
Postseason bowl record 0–0
Conference titles 0
Current uniform
File:VMI Uniform.png
Colors Red and Yellow            
Fight song "The Spirit"
Mascot Moe the Kangaroo

The VMI Keydets football team represents the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia. The Keydets compete in the Big South Conference of the NCAA Division I FCS, and are currently coached by Sparky Woods, now in his 4th year. VMI plays their home contests at 10,000-seat Alumni Memorial Field, as they have since 1962.

VMI is biggest rivals against The Citadel, as the two teams have battled 67 times, with Citadel leading the series 35-30-2.[2] The winner of each game receives an award known as the "Silver Shako", which has rested at The Citadel since 2003. The last contest occurred on October 29, 2011, as The Citadel won convincingly 41-14. In addition to The Citadel, VMI has minor rivalries with William & Mary and Richmond. The Tribe and the Keydets first met in 1908, and William & Mary leads that series 52-33-2. VMI's competition with Richmond goes back farther, to just their third year of existence (1893). Richmond has won 41 games to VMI's 40, and the teams have tied five times. Also, the Keydets have played Virginia and Virginia Tech 82 and 79 times, respectively.

Conference affiliations

Conference Joined Left
Big South 2003
Southern 1924 2002
SAIAA 1918 1921
Independent 1891 1918


19th century

File:1891 VMI Keydets football team.jpg

The first VMI football team in 1891

VMI football dates back to 1873 with a one game season, featuring a 4–2 loss to Washington and Lee.[3] No player or coaching records are known from that game. However, the Keydets would not have another intercollegiate team until 1891 under coach Walter Taylor. The Keydets went 3–0–1 with a win and tie against Washington and Lee and by defeating St. John's and Pantops Academy.

VMI had a combined 3 coaches and a total record of 32–10–2 during the 19th century, setting the tone as being one of the state's top football schools.


VMI continued to have success on the field during the early 1900's. Sam Walker became the head coach from 1900–1902, and, after compiling a head coaching record of 11–7–3, was replaced by future College Football Hall of Famer William Roper. Roper was less successful, going 5–6 with the Keydets in only two years.[2]

Nevertheless, VMI continued their winning ways in 1911, under Alpha Brummage. In two years with Brummage, VMI went 14-2, stumbling only to Virginia and St. John's. They were 7–1–2 under Henry Poaque the following year. In 1920, Blandy Clarkson lead VMI to its third ever perfect season at 9–0. VMI had joined the South Atlantic Intercollegiate Athletic Association at this point in time, and had been a member since 1918.

Alumni Field

File:Old VMI stadium.jpg

Old VMI stadium

With the finished construction of Alumni Field in 1921, VMI football no longer needed to play on the Parade Ground situated in front of the barracks. The stadium was placed around the same place it is today, and was completed at a total cost of $69,000.[4] The Keydets went 3–5–1 in the stadium's inaugural year, which included key wins over in-state opponents Roanoke, Hampden–Sydney, and a stunning victory over Virginia.

Blandy Clarkson era

After two years with VMI, the Keydets were 12–5–1 under Clarkson. He led the Institute to a 16–3 record during the years of 1923 and 1924, which was just when VMI joined the Southern Conference. In their first SoCon season, VMI went 6–3–1, good for 13th place in a massive conference of 22.[5] After Clarkson departed from the Institute following the 1926 season, he totaled a record 44–21–2 in seven years, the most wins by any Keydet head coach at the time.

William Raftery era


William Raftery

Following the departure of Clarkson, Worcester, Massachusetts-native William "Bill" Raftery took over head coaching duties of VMI. The Keydets were 6–4 his first season, ranking among the last in the SoCon.[6] Raftery led the team to an 8–2 season in 1929, but it was the last winning season under Raftery's reign, which lasted until 1936. In ten years his record at VMI was 38–55–5.

Allison Hubert era

File:Allison Hubert.jpg

Allison Hubert c. 1925

Allison Hubert took over for his predecessor Raftery in the 1937 season. Nicknamed "Pooley", Hubert was a Mississippi native and a veteran of World War I. After leading Alabama to the 1926 national championship, Hubert coached several sports at Southern Miss in the early 1930's. He went 5–5 in his first season with the Keydets. Hubert's most successful season with VMI was in 1940, where the squad finished 7–2–1, though it was only good enough to get them 7th in the conference. Hubert left with a 43–45–8 record under his belt after ten seasons.

Tom Nugent era

When Arthur Morton left VMI for Mississippi State in 1949, he was 9–8–1 with the Keydets.Tom Nugent took his place that January. Nugent was famous for developing the I formation, though it did not happen until the year after he left VMI. Though the first two years were nothing special, Nugent took the 1951 squad to their first SoCon championship with a 7–3 record. The season included a 34–0 shutout of Richmond, a 29–6 drubbing of Wofford, a 27–21 win over rival Citadel, and a 20–7 win over Virginia Tech in the season finale. Nugent left following the 1952 season.

Alumni Memorial Field and John McKenna era

File:John McKenna.jpeg

John McKenna


Alumni Memorial Field

Possibly the greatest decades in VMI football history were under John McKenna. In his thirteen years with the Keydets, McKenna had a record of 62–60–8, and won four SoCon championships. These occurred in 1957, 1959, 1960 and 1962.

In the same year VMI won the 1962 Southern Conference, 10,000-seat Alumni Memorial Field was built. Costs were around $250,000.[1]

Bob Thalman era

Bob Thalman came to VMI in 1971. Coming from the University of Richmond, he previously coached at Hampden–Syndey. Thalman brought another two SoCon championships to VMI in 1974 and 1977. He departed in 1984 after a miserable 1–9 season.


Eddie Williamson took over the head coaching position for four years, all losing seasons. He was followed by Jim Shuck, Bill Stewart, Ted Cain, and Cal McCombs until 2005. No coach could produce a winning season for the Keydets.

Big South

In 2003, VMI joined the Big South Conference after 79 years in the SoCon.[2] VMI still could not get back to its winning ways. They were under the direction McCombs, who would be fired after 2005. Jim Reid would coach for two years, with a 3–19 record. Sparky Woods, the current coach for the Keydets, became the 30th head coach in 2008. Still, VMI has not posted a winning season since 1981.

Current coaching staff

Name Position
Sparky Woods Head Coach
Matt Campbell Offensive Coordinator/Off. Line
Jeff Farrington Defensive Coordinator/DB's
Greg Shockley Running Backs Coach/Recruiting Coord.
Eric Brown Inside LB's
Trent Walker Safeties
Greg Harris Outside LB's
George Handler Quality Control/Tight Ends
Winston October Wide Receivers Coach
Don Woods Chief of Staff/Defensive Line Coach

Record vs. Big South opponents

School Series First meeting Last meeting
Charleston Southern VMI 6–5 2000 2011
Coastal Carolina CCU 2–6 2003 2011
Gardner–Webb GWU 1–8 2003 2011
Liberty Liberty 3–8 1995 2011
Presbyterian VMI 3–2 2007 2011
Stony Brook SBU 4–0 2008 2011


Bowl games

The Keydets have six wins and 18 losses in 24 minor bowl games. This includes nine Tobacco Bowls and 15 Oyster Bowls.

Year Bowl Game Opponent Result
1949 Tobacco Bowl Richmond Spiders W 14–7
1952 Tobacco Bowl Virginia Cavaliers L 33–14
1963 Oyster Bowl Navy Midshipmen L 21–12
1964 Tobacco Bowl Virginia Cavaliers L 20–19
1967 Tobacco Bowl William & Mary L 33–28
1969 Tobacco Bowl Virginia Cavaliers L 28–10
1974 Tobacco Bowl Virginia Tech Hokies W 22–17
1975 Tobacco Bowl Richmond Spiders L 24–19
1976 Tobacco Bowl Virginia Tech Hokies L 37–7
1976 Oyster Bowl Virginia Cavaliers W 13–7
1978 Tobacco Bowl Richmond Spiders W 23–6
1980 Oyster Bowl Virginia Tech Hokies L 21–6
1981 Oyster Bowl The Citadel Bulldogs W 14–0
1982 Tobacco Bowl Richmond Spiders W 14–0
1982 Oyster Bowl Virginia Tech Hokies L 14–3
1984 Oyster Bowl Virginia Tech Hokies L 54–7
1987 Oyster Bowl William & Mary Tribe L 17–6
1988 Oyster Bowl The Citadel Bulldogs L 31–20
1990 Oyster Bowl William & Mary Tribe L 59–47
1991 Oyster Bowl The Citadel Bulldogs L 14–17
1992 Oyster Bowl Richmond Spiders L 41–18
1993 Oyster Bowl William & Mary Tribe L 49–6
1994 Oyster Bowl The Citadel Bulldogs L 58–14
1995 Oyster Bowl Georgia Southern Eagles L 31–13

Undefeated seasons

Year Record Coach
1894 6–0 None
1899 1–0 Samuel Boyle, Jr.
1920 9–0 Blandy Clarkson
1957 9–0 John McKenna

Conference Championships

Year Record Coach
1894 7–3 Tom Nugent
1957 9–0 John McKenna
1959 8–1–1 John McKenna
1960 7–2–1 John McKenna
1962 6–4 John McKenna
1974 7–4 Bob Thalman
1977 7–4 Bob Thalman

Future schedules


Date Opponent
Sep. 1 @ Delaware State
Sep. 8 Chowan
Sep. 15 Richmond
Sep. 22 @ Navy
Oct. 6 Presbyterian
Oct. 13 @ Charleston Southern
Oct. 20 Coastal Carolina
Oct. 27 @ Gardner-Webb
Nov. 3 @ Stony Brook
Nov. 10 The Citadel
Nov. 17 Liberty



Date Opponent
Aug. 31 @ Richmond
Sep. 14 Bucknell
Sep. 21 @ Virginia
Oct. 12 Charleston Southern
Oct. 19 @ Coastal Carolina
Oct. 26 Gardner-Webb
Nov. 2 @ Liberty
Nov. 9 @ Presbyterian
Nov. 16 @ The Citadel
Nov. 23 Stony Brook



Date Opponent
Sep. 6 @ Bowling Green[9]
Nov. 15 The Citadel


Head coaches

Sparky Woods, the current Keydet head coach, is the 30th all-time. (Note: From 1892-1894, the team had no coach)[2]

Name Joined Left
Walter Taylor 1891 1891
George Bryant 1895 1896
R. N. Groner 1897 1897
Sam Boyle 1898 1899
Sam Walker 1900 1902
William Roper 1903 1904
Ira Johnson 1905 1906
Charles Roller 1907 1908
William Gloth 1909 1910
Alpha Brummage 1911 1912
Henry Poaque 1913 1913
Frank Gorton 1914 1916
Earl Abell 1917 1917
Earl Abell & Mose Goodman 1918 1918
Red Fleming 1919 1919
Blandy Clarkson 1920 1926
W. C. Raftery 1927 1936
Allison Hubert 1937 1946
Arthur Morton 1947 1948
Tom Nugent 1949 1952
John McKenna 1953 1965
Vito Ragazzo 1966 1970
Bob Thalman 1971 1984
Eddie Williamson 1985 1988
Jim Shuck 1989 1993
Bill Stewart 1994 1996
Ted Cain 1997 1998
Donny White # 1998 1998
Cal McCombs 1999 2005
Jim Reid 2006 2007
Sparky Woods 2008

Pound sign (#) denotes interim head coach


Alumni Memorial Field

Alumni Memorial Field at Foster Stadium, located on the VMI post, has been the home of VMI football games since 1962. Completed at a cost of around $250,000, Foster seats 10,000. The stadium went through a major $12 million renovation process in 2006, with new ticket booths, concourses, restrooms, and a new scoreboard and jumbotron. The field's surface is Bermuda Grass. The VMI Lacrosse team also plays about 5 home games here each Spring.

Sprinturf Field

Sprinturf Field serves as the Keydets practice facility, made of artificial grass. It also serves host to 1-2 lacrosse games throughout the season.[11]


  • Moe the Kangaroo

VMI chose a kangaroo to represent the school as a mascot in 1947, when two cheerleaders saw one on a magazine cover and thought how "uncommon the animal was as a mascot".[12] Originally the kangaroo was named TD Bound, but later changed to Moe at an unknown time. VMI is one of four colleges with a marsupial mascot. Zippy of Akron is the one other school with a kangaroo mascot.

  • 12th Man

Around 20 minutes before VMI home games, the Corps of Cadets march from their barracks down to Foster Stadium while the regimental band plays. VMI uniquely requires every student to attend the football games from start to finish.[13]

  • Little John

A replica of a 1750 Howitzer cannon, "Little John" is a corps-owned cannon fires when the Keydets come on to the field, and after every VMI score and quarter end. The one currently in use was designed by Col. Cary S. Tucker. The previous one was retired to the VMI museum after the undefeated 1957 football team finished.[14]


Arguably VMI's biggest rival, The Citadel and the Keydets have played 66 times in a match up known as the Military Classic of the South. The teams first met in 1920, where VMI cruised to a 35–0 shutout win in Lynchburg.[2] The most recent meeting occurred in 2011, when The Citadel prevailed 41–14. The Silver Shako (the trophy awarded to the winner) has rested in Charleston since 2003. The Classic has been set to be played once every year through 2016, with the current contract.

Notable players

Name Team(s) Played
Tim Maypray Montreal Alouettes 2010–present
Gregory Clifton Washington Redskins 1993
Thomas Haskins Montreal Alouettes 1997–2002
Sam Horner Redskins, New York Giants 1960–1962
Joe Muha Philadelphia Eagles 1946–1950
Ray Reutt Pittsburgh Steelers 1943
Mark Stock Redskins, Steelers, Indianapolis Colts 1989, 1993, 1996
Bobby Thomason Eagles, Los Angeles Rams, Green Bay Packers 1949–1957
Mike Wooten Redskins 1987

NCAA Records

Team single game

  • Most Rushing Attempts: 90 vs. East Tennessee State, 1990 (FCS record)
  • Fewest passing yards allowed: -16 vs. Richmond, 1957 (FBS record)

Individual single season

  • Most punts: 101, Jim Bailey, 1969 (FCS record)

See also


External links