A Staff Report from the Straight Dope Science Advisory Board

What's a Hokie, besides being the name of the Virginia Tech football team?

January 31, 2000

Dear Straight Dope:

You have to help me out. What is a Hokie? I have heard of a hoagie (and grinders), but the mascot of Virginia Tech is a Hokie. I have researched the Internet and looked through dictionaries but have had no luck. Please help.

Ask anyone who should know better, including some professional sportscasters, and you will hear that it's the name of a turkey, specifically a castrated turkey, referring to their goofy-looking mascot. That's the first answer I found searching the Internet, too. Then my astute co-worker Gary turned me onto the straight dope about the Hokie. A little more searching, and I finally found a site that confirms his story. It's not related to the turkey at all.  Virginia Agriculture and Mechanical College became Virginia Polytechnic in the late 1800s, and they needed a new college cheer, among other things. "Hokie" was a word invented by O.M. Stull, a student who won the $5 prize for his original college cheer in a spirit contest in 1896. It has absolutely no meaning, according to the author.

Old Hokie

Hokie, Hokie, Hokie Hy!
Tech! Tech! V.P.I.
Sola-Rex, Sola Rah
Polytech Vir-gin-i-a
Rae, Ri, V.P.I.
Team! Team! Team!

The school colors changed at the same time from black and grey-- which gave students the look of prison inmates--to burnt orange and Chicago maroon.

The turkey mascot has a different story. In the early 1900s, the athletes at V.P.I. were known for consuming huge servings of food, earning them the nickname "gobblers." In 1913, the team's clown mascot, Fred Meade, had a large turkey pull him in a cart to football games. I'd be interested in knowing how he steered the thing. "Gobblers" became a popular nickname among students, fans, and sportswriters. In 1962 the costumed mascot first appeared on the field.

Thanks to http://fbox.vt.edu:10021/ur/news/traditio ns.html for much of this info.

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