The definition of a Hokie depends on who you ask. Virginia Tech used be known as Virginia Polytechnic Institute, VPI for short. According to ESPN, a student named O.M. Stull needed a word to rhyme with VPI for a new cheer, and made up the word “Hokie”. Virginia Tech details the 1896 chant which is still in existence today.
Hokie, Hokie, Hokie, Hy!
Tech, Tech, VPI
Poly Tech Vir-gin-ia
Ray rah VPI
Team! Team! Team!
Shortly after the cheer was adopted, the school used the term Hokies as a nickname for all the school’s sports teams. Today, it is not only known as the nickname of teams, but it also used as an adjective. Many of the Virginia Tech building on campus are made with “Hokie Stones”, which is how the university describes the white rocks seen all over campus.
So, what does the term Hokies have to do with the turkey mascot we see on the sideline, as well as in some of the secondary logos? Honestly, not a whole lot. According to Virginia Tech, the university at one time called teams “the gobblers”.
The maroon turkey is officially called a HokieBird. In 1913, a Blacksburg man named Floyd Meade began taking live turkeys to football games. This tradition lasted until 1953 when there was no longer a designated person to bring turkeys to games.
According to Virginia Tech, a new idea was formed in the early 1960’s. A student named Mercer MacPherson got inspiration from the Pitt Panthers and Penn State Nittany Lions mascots. He contacted the Pittsburgh company that made the mascot suits, and had one designed for Virginia Tech.
MacPherson aptly debuted the new mascot costume on Thanksgiving Day. While the costume has been re-designed several times since then, the tradition has lived on for the HokieBird.
Now you know the story of a made-up word that became a nickname, evolved into a turkey and is now used at times as an adjective.