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Monday, January 02, 2012

Know Your Foe - Virginia Tech

ED. NOTE:  My former MZone blogging cohort and Know Your Foe's creator, Benny, returns to pen today's very special Sugar Bowl edition.  And judging by the email I got from him late last night, Benny had a blast spending many hours of his holiday weekend blogging again:

OK, it's done. It's 1:24 am and I'm starving and exhausted. I'm going to take a shower.

There are not enough profanities to explain how angry I am right now. And the hatred I have for you is beyond description. I might just write a Wikipedia article about it.

And if you think I'm going to be doing this again in the fall when we play Alabama, well….actually that one might be really fun and interesting to write. I'm going to put it on my To Do list so that I get an early start.

Safe to say, I think Benny's thisclose to coming back to the MZone full time.

The Wolverines’ return to national prominence culminates in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day January 2nd January 3rd when U-M faces the 11-2 Virginia Tech Hokies.  This marks only Michigan's second trip to the Sugar Bowl and its first ever game against Va. Tech.  So you must be asking, who are these Hokies and what should we know about them? To answer these and many other questions, the MZone is proud to present this year's special BCS bowl version of KNOW YOUR FOE.

History – Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, more commonly referred to as Virginia Tech, was founded in 1872 when the Virginia General Assembly purchased the facilities of Preston and Olin Institute and incorporated the Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College (a mouthful of information only slightly less confusing than the 200 pages of family history in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo novel). Since then, the school has been chasing an identity in the shadow of the Univeristy of Viriginia. It’s very much similar to the big brother-little brother relationship that defines Michigan and Michigan State. Virginia is a nationally-recognized academic powerhouse, was founded by Thomas Jefferson, and has an alumni list that reads like a Who’s Who Hall of Fame. Virginia Tech – not so much.

In 1896, the name of the school was changed to Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College and Polytechnic Institute to better reflect the school’s offerings. The “Agricultural and Mechanical” portion of the name was rarely used and in 1944 the name of the school changed yet again, this time to Virginia Polytechnic Institute. In 1970, after an attempt to change the name to Virginia State University, the name was officially changed to it’s current incarnation. The Virginia Tech moniker took hold in the late ‘70s.

Until 1932, every able-bodied male student was required to participate for four years in the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets. The requirement was changed to two years until 1964, when participation became voluntary. Women were allowed in a separate unit in 1973 and were fully integrated in 1979. Virginia Tech remains one of three public universities in the country (along with Texas A&M and North Georgia College and State University) with both an active corps of cadets and "civilian" lifestyle on its campus.

Location – Blacksburg, Virginia. Founded in 1798, this town of 42,620 is dominated by the university. Located in the western end of the state, frighteningly close to West Virginia, the town is named for William Black who owned a large tract of land and laid out the plan of streets and lots. Perhaps establishing a tradition that the university followed, the town changed its name in 1893 by dropping the H in Blacksburgh.

Make no mistake – Blacksburg is no Ann Arbor. This is evident to any visitor and is painfully reflected in their respective Wikipedia articles. Ann Arbor’s “Culture” section could be an article unto itself while Blacksburg’s “Points of Interest” section is so pathetic that it includes an Osteopathic college while its “Annual Town Events” section has two events.

Nickname – Hokies. One of the two things that make Virginia Tech unique is it’s nickname. The name comes from the Old Hokie spirit yell which began with the first name change in 1896. The yell goes as follows:

Hoki, Hoki, Hoki, Hy.
Techs, Techs, V.P.I.
Sola-Rex, Sola-Rah.
Polytechs – Vir-gin-ia.
Rae, Ri, V.P.I.

Later an “e” was added to Hoki and the line “Team! Team! Team!” was added at the end. Old Hokie was the winning entry in a contest that paid $5. We’d say Virginia Tech got their money’s worth.

Although the contest winner claimed that he made up the word “Hoki,” some at Virginia Tech have claimed that the word was in fairly common usage and is equivalent to “hooray.” Sounds to KYF like someone is making this up to attach meaning to their identity.

The unofficial nickname for much of Tech’s history was the Gobblers. The name originated in 1909 when football coach Branch Bocok (yes, VT had a football team before Frank Beamer) started the “Gobbler Club” for his players. The nickname was so popular in the first half of the 20th century that a live turkey would appear on the sidelines gobbling food during games. The Gobbler nickname usage diminished in the late ‘70s, though it lives on in the school’s mascot.

Mascot – HokieBird. The Virginia Tech mascot has its roots in the unofficial Gobbler nickname. In 1913, a local resident chosen by the student body to be the school’s mascot (these were much simpler times) had a large turkey pull him in a cart at a football game. Though Dave Brandon might have liked this idea, the university president at the time felt it was cruel to the bird and ended the practice after only one game. But the turkey returned with the man who had trained the bird to gobble on command. The live turkey mascot continued into the ‘50s. Finally, a costumed Gobbler appeared in 1962. Twenty years later the mascot was changed to something close to what appears today, and has been in its current incarnation since 1987 – a maroon cardinal with a snood. Despite the Gobbler lineage, it was named the Hokie Bird since by that time the Gobbler nickname had lost its popularity.

Colors – Maroon and Orange. This is the most unique thing about Virginia Tech and not just among college teams, but in all of American sports. No other major sports team uses this color combination. There are a number of colleges that wear maroon, mostly with gold (Minnesota, Arizona State), while others combine it with white (Mississippi State, Texas A&M). And plenty use orange. But the maroon and orange combination is one that even Arena Football teams haven’t thought of.

Surprisingly, the uniqueness of the combo is the reason they were chosen as the official colors back in 1896. Before that the school’s athletes wore black and cadet-gray uniforms to recognize the civilian cadet presence on campus. But in 1896 a committee was formed to pick new colors since the school had recently changed their name and had a new nickname. The committee selected burnt orange and Chicago maroon (hey, a Big Ten reference) after discovering that no other college used the combination.

Logo/Helmet – Virginia Tech went to a stylized “VT” logo in 1983 and has used it on their helmet ever since, with “throwback” exceptions. Why the consistency with this logo when just about every school changes theirs (and with Tech’s propensity to change their name)? Well the logo and helmet was the one that’s been in use since just before the arrival of football coach Frank Beamer and with his massive success at the school, there’s no way they’re going to change it.

The Hokies have used the VT combination as the logo on their helmet almost continuously since the mid-‘60s. The only exception was during the early ‘70s when they tried to associate themselves more closely with the state of Virginia by having a silhouette of the state on the helmet (sort of how Sparty used to have the big state of Michigan on their basketball court). But most Hokie fans probably thought it was some sort of hat and the team went back to using the big V with a smaller T on top. But that also likely proved confusing – why would the T come first, and many fans probably wondered why the team had TV on their helmets when their team was almost never shown on television.

Fight Song Tech Triumph. Composed by a Tech student in 1919, the tune is pretty generic college marching fare. Not terrible, but certainly not in the upper echelon of so many of the Big Ten schools’ fight songs. But the lyrics....oh, the lyrics. Part of the lyrics sound like they come from a forlorn lover’s lament (refences to being true and faithful, proclaiming “our hearts are with you,” and “we will greet you with a glad returning,” and TWO references to DYING!). Meanwhile, many lines in the chorus are at least suggestive and could substitute for descriptions of an adult film (“Just watch our men so big and active,” “We know our ends and backs are stronger,” and “To see our team plow through the line, boys.”). KYF does like the reference to the Old Hokie yell at the end.

Techmen, we're Techmen, with spirit true and faithful,
Backing up our teams with hopes undying;
Techmen, Oh, Techmen, we're out to win today,
Showing pep and life with which we're trying;
V.P., old V.P., you know our hearts are with you
In our luck which never seems to die;
Win or lose, we'll greet you with a glad returning,
You're the pride of V.P.I.


Just watch our men so big and active
Support the Orange and Maroon. Let's go Techs.
We know our ends and backs are stronger,
With winning hopes, we fear defeat no longer.
To see our team plow through the line, boys.
Determined now to win or die:
So give a Hokie, Hokie, Hokie, Hi,
Rae, Ri, old V.P.I.

Academics – According to the most recent U. S. News” ranking of America's Best Colleges, Virginia Tech is a solid, if unspectacular 71st, which, coincidentally, ties them with their little brother counterpart Sparty. This ranking would put them near the bottom of the Big Ten, ahead of only Indiana (#75) and Nebraska (#101).

Athletics – Unitl the arrival of head football coach Frank Beamer in 1987, the Viriginia Tech athletic program was essentially non-existent on any sort of national basis Their biggest rival was the Virginia Military Institute. After playing as an independent since 1965, the Hokies moved to the Big East in 1991 and then to the ACC in 2004 (after being rejected by the conference in 1965 and 1997, while big brother Univeristy of Virginia has been in the ACC since 1954.)

Football dominates the athletic landscape at Tech, and for good reason. In the 25 years under Beamer, the Hokies have won over two-thirds of their games and currently have the third-longest bowl streak at 19 (trailing only Florida State and Florida) and their streak of eight straight 10+ win seasons is the best in the nation. Only Boise State and LSU have better records than Virginia Tech since 2004. Furthermore, the Hokies played in the national championship game following the 1999 season. All of this success has been under Beamer who played at VT and has been the head coach since 1987. Beamer is currently the longest-tenured and winningest active coach in Division I. The Hokies had some success prior to Beamer’s arrival, but it was in the obscurity of the Southern Conference, or as a lower-echelon independent. There were six minor bowl appearances prior to Beamer as head coach, while this year’s Sugar Bowl will be Va. Tech’s 19th with him as coach, including eight BCS bowls.

The Hokies field 19 varsity sports (Michigan has 27), but has had limited success at any other sport outside football.  The school has never won a national title in a varsity sport, though it has won a national title in the non-varsity sport of bass fishing.  (yes, bass fishing).  The basketball team has been better as of late, but still has only been to eight NCAA tournaments and hasn’t been beyond the second round since 1967.

Famous alums – The list of famous Virginia Tech alumni is about as thin as any I've seen in all the years I've been doing Know Your Foe, although they do have seven Medal of Honor recipients including Major Lloyd W. Williams who supposedly uttered one of the more famous quotes of WWI: "Retreat?  Hell!  We just got here."

VT alums include some astronauts, some anonymous CEOs, and even a Miss America from 1979. But  the only recognizable names are athletes, and mostly football players: Micheal Vick, Bruce Smith, DeAngelo Hall, and Don Strock who all wore the maroon and orange.

The list also contains plenty of local politicians but, alas, no U.S. Presidents.

The Game – Michigan’s season is already a success in most people’s eyes regardless of the outcome of the Sugar Bowl. Only the most wild-eyed optimists could have envisioned 10 wins, breaking the losing streak to tOSU, and re-establishing the Wolverines in the national consciousness. Meanwhile, Virginia Tech went into their conference championship game with only one loss despite several lackluster wins over hapless teams such as East Carolina and Duke. The Hokies have only lost to one team, but got smoked by Clemson twice. Yet they’ve beaten some decent teams like Georgia Tech and spanked rival Virginia. Frank Beamer’s team is uninspiring but solid. But not good enough to take down Brady Hoke in his inaugural season. 



phil said...

We all love Benny but I say this with the deepest respect, the old guy is slipping. Here's a prime example. How in hell could he miss this fact: It is well known that Virginia Tech has a fantastic womens wrestling team, yet Benny fails to even throw a mention at it????

616goblue said...

@Phil, the Viginia Tech women's wrestling team is more along the lines of the occasional feature "college life vs your life."

Benny, I spent a week in Blacksburg in the fall of 1990 and while Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University is an awesome southern-style campus, the town itself makes places like Mt. Pleasant look cultured--even before the casino was built. I attended a football game against Southern Mississippi which was quarterbacked by a future male diva who would make a name for himself when he attempted to sing "pants on the ground."

Well done Benny.

Space bitches, space.

GoBlueBob said...

Benny... Great job. If you want to retire for good it looks like Phil may want to take over.

Go Blue!

Ramona said...

Women's wrestling, huh. since it was Phil who posted the link I KNOW not to EVEN click on it, as the women will not be wearing anything.

Anyway, the article is excellent - writing KYF really is a unique talent. Great news that Benny will be back to write more in the fall, I love reading these.. and it brightened the day which has not been going well as I picked OSU to win and MSU to lose!!!! I have degrees, honest, but don't comprehend confidence levels... the cash prize is slipping away...
Michigan 42, Hokies 14

phil said...

Ramona is correct. Writing a KYF takes a special talent. I do agree that Benny did a great job on this KYF. He obviously can’t wait to join the MZone team once again. I can just hear him yelling “The team, the team, the team!!!”
I guess I should put up or shut up, so I put together a KYF for the Alabama game in September. Most of you don’t realize that I was, at one time, a scout. I lost that job over a disagreement with my employer over proper scouting techniques. Anyway, KYF Alabama…..
Alabama was founded in 1969 by Randy Owen and his cousin Teddy Gentry. In 1998, Alabama was honored with its own star in the fabled Hollywood Walk of Fame, and in 2000, it was presented with the Minnie Pearl Humanitarian Award. I think they played twice in the Minnie Pearl Humanitarian Bowl but I don’t have those statistics. I don’t think any other college football team has a star on the Walk of Fame. Alabama continues to have fan supported weekends for fans and fan club members wishing to travel to Ft. Payne, Alabama each June to see and sometimes meet their football heroes. Their coach seems to be Waylon Jennings but I’m not sure about that either. I also wasn’t able to determine if Alabama has a womens wrestling team. Can I get some help here Benny?

justthinking said...

Only 20 points Benny? Denard is going to have three rushing TDs by himself and will throw three more. Sugar Bowl Records will fall tomorrow. Time to go look them up.

Yost said...

Yeah, JT, I too was thinking Benny's prediction in terms of Michigan's score was a tad low.

Ramona said...

Stupid Wisconsin... couldn't pull it off? Bowl picks fall to 20-8...and the Big10 not good today..

Dennis said...

Nicely written.

I used to live in the DC area and the CFO I used to work for at an advertising agency was a Virgina grad. She bought an old rusty S10 pickup for a couple hundred bucks at one point to haul garden stuff and help move stuff out of her parent's house. She bought a VT bumper sticker for it because she felt it helped reinforce the image she had of the typical VT fan.