By: Kevin B. Conley
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The University of Kentucky plays host to Virginia Tech today at Rupp Arena. The Wildcats, ranked either eighth or fifth depending on which poll is being used, will be facing a Hokies’ squad that is averaging 96.2 points per game. While the game will be one of the toughest of the young season for the Cats, another thought will be on the minds of some of those in attendance.
What is a Hokie?
That question has perplexed fans of opposing teams for more that 100 years. So much so, that the Virginia Tech game day media notes included a brief snippet explaining how the term “Hokie” came into existence. According to the athletic department, the answer can be traced back to a name change that occurred in 1896.
Virginia Tech, then known as Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College, changed the name of the institution to Virginia Polytechnic Institute. That necessitated the creation of a new cheer. A contest was held among members of the student body with O. M. Stull emerging as the victor.
So, just what is the “Old Hokie Yell”? According to the official Virginia Tech webpage, the following is the original “Old Hokie Yell”:
Hoki, Hoki, Hoki, Hy.
Techs, Techs, V.P.I.
Polytechs – Vir-gin-ia.
Rae, Ri, V.P.I.
Legend states that Stull said the cheer had no specific or hidden meaning – he was just trying to get attention. It obviously worked as he was awarded a $5 prize for submitting the “Old Hokie Yell”.
While an interesting story, that still does not answer the question as to exactly what a Hokie is.
A quick Google search revealed that it’s a turkey – actually referred to as a “Hokie Bird” – but it’s a turkey.
The more one learns, the more one wants to know. With each revelation comes additional queries that takes one deeper into the rabbit hole that is apparently home to the Virginia Tech mascot.
So, next question – why is Virginia Tech’s mascot a turkey?
Even though Ben Franklin argued that the turkey should be national bird because it was “a more more respectable bird” in comparison to the Bald Eagle which was “a bird of bad moral character”, the turkey does not necessarily strike fear into the hearts of opponents.
According to hokiesports.com, the reason for the use of a turkey is derived from the use of the term “Gobblers” to describe the student athletes who quickly “gobbled up” their food – which was seemingly more than was given to regular students.
The rest of the story involves a large turkey pulling a wagon containing a student to a football game, a college president feeling sorry for the bird, a $200 mascot costume, a coach becoming offended that his players were described as “gobblers”, and a return to the original “Old Hokie Yell”.
That is why Virginia Tech uses a turkey for a mascot and has adopted the moniker “Hokies”.