What is a Hokie?
According to the Virginia Tech website, the origin of the word “Hokie” has nothing to do with a turkey. It was coined by a student O.M. Stull (Class of 1896) who used it in a spirit yell he wrote for a competition. Virginia Tech was founded in 1872 as a land-grant institution and named Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College. In 1896, the name was officially changed to Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College and Polytechnic Institute, a name so long that people just started calling it VPI. The original college cheer, which made reference to the original name of the institution, was no longer suitable. So a contest was held to select a new spirit yell, and Stull won the $5 top prize for his cheer.
Here is Old Hokie:
Hoki, Hoki, Hoki, Hy.
Techs, Techs, V.P.I.
Polytechs – Vir-gin-ia.
Rae, Ri, V.P.I.
Later, the phrase “Team! Team! Team!” was added at the end, and an “e” was added to “Hoki.”
With a new name, the school also needed a new look. During 1896, a committee was formed to find a suitable combination of colors to replace the original colors of black and gray, which appeared in stripes worn by VPI teams that resembled prison uniforms. The committee selected burnt orange and Chicago maroon (as worn by the University of Chicago, a charter member of the Big Ten) after discovering that no other college utilized this particular combination of colors. Burnt orange and Chicago maroon were officially adopted and were first worn in a game against Roanoke. A mascot would be next.
So where does the turkey come in?
The team mascot is the HokieBird, a turkey-like creature. The teams were originally known as the “Fighting Gobblers,” and the turkey motif was retained despite the name change. According to the Virginia Tech website, the origin of the term “Gobblers” is disputed, with one story claiming it was coined in the early 1900’s as a description of how student athletes would “gobble” up their more than ample servings of food. Another story attributes it to the 1909 football coach, Branch Bocock, wanted to stimulate better spirit among his players and initiated them into an impromptu and informal “Gobbler Club.”
Thus, the name was already popular when Floyd 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 after one game because he thought it was cruel to the turkey. But the bird did not go away, as Meade continued to parade his turkey, which he had trained to gobble on command, up and down the sidelines. In 1924, another “turkey trainer” took over and continued the tradition. Enthusiastic fans and sports writers adopted the “Gobbler” nickname and began to use it regularly. The use of a live gobbler mascot continued into the 1950’s.
In 1936, a costumed Gobbler joined the live gobbler for at least one game and the first permanent costumed Gobbler took the field in the fall of 1962.
But the “Gobbler” was not to last, at least in name. In the late 1970’s, the university hired a football coach who heard the theory that the Gobbler mascot was based on athletes gobbling down their food. The coach didn’t like the image, so he began promoting the “Hokie” nickname. In 1982, the appearance of the Gobbler mascot costume was changed to one that looked like a maroon cardinal. The costume worn by today’s HokieBird made its first appearance in 1987.
92 Days until college football kicks off!
Our countdown started Tuesday with the history of different school mascots:
Friday – Demon Deacons
Saturday – Eagles
Monday – Falcons
Tuesday – Gators