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Tell the truth: Are you a Hokie "fan-atic"?

by Sherry Bithell

You can find them everywhere around the commonwealth, across the country, and throughout the world. Chances are pretty good you know one: a family member, a former roommate, a co-worker, maybe even you, yourself. We're talking about...Hokie "fan-atics."

Aside from the infamous Hokie Man's seasonal display of his true colors, the university counts among its numbers legions of dyed-in-the wool Hokies. Whether they show it in their dress or décor, their lifestyles or in the workplace, their vehicles or their feats of derring-do in the name of Virginia Tech, these individuals have one thing in common: unquestionably orange and maroon blood. Although Virginia Tech Magazine received several nominations for this article, space precludes mentioning each one. So in a tribute to all of Tech's loyal alumni and friends, here's a look at just a few of our most Hokie fans!

He gives at the office

C. Wayne Bishop is known as "Mr. Hokie' around the office. It may not sound like a great feat--until you realize he works at Virginia Tech. Bishop, who is the university's payroll manager, says he campaigned to "convince our management to allow us to have 'Hokie Spirit Day' every Friday during football and basketball season. On these days, everyone in the office wears Hokie apparel, and we even purchased--with our own money--Hokie shirts that say 'Virginia Tech Controller's Office.'' Bishop adds that his minister once asked him if all his clothes had Virginia Tech on them. When Bishop retired as a salaried employee, Head Football Coach Frank Beamer arranged for the Hokie Bird to attend the reception.

Bishop's enthusiasm for Virginia Tech isn't limited to his workplace--although his wife might wish otherwise. At home, the walls of his recreation room are covered with Hokie pictures that are now spilling down the hallway. "My wife has said, under no circumstances are they going upstairs when I run out of room in the lower level,' Bishop admits.

A tag-team effort

Jon Wilt (electrical engineering '93) and Mike Abbott (mechanical engineering '96; MS '00) approach their fanaticism as a team. These two die-hard Hokies, along with assorted friends, testify to the following in the name of Virginia Tech:

  • Wilt and Abbott co-founded the "nationally famous' fan club devoted to former Hokie place holder Caleb Hurd's 1999 Heisman Trophy campaign. Their efforts were featured on ABCSports.com and on various radio shows and newspapers; you can still visit their web site at www.hsanet.net/user/jwilt/Hurd/caleb99.htm .
  • According to Wilt, "We know that in the 1890s, "Hullabaloo G-nik G-nik, Hullabaloo G-nik G-nik, Wa-hee, Wa-hee, Look at the Man, Look at the Man, Look at the Virginia Tech Man' lost out to "Hokie Hi' as the official school cheer. We are bitterly disappointed.'
  • The two claim to be the pioneers in the field of wearing paper Thanksgiving turkey centerpieces on their heads at football games.
  • Abbott owns a house in Blacksburg that he rents to graduate students. Written into the lease is the stipulation that he and his friends have the right to "hang out" and sleep on the floor during any football weekend.
  • During the 1997 Rutgers-Tech game, they commandeered the television in the Billings, Mont., airport bar. Hapless patrons had no choice but to watch.
  • Wilt notes that they both "witnessed the horror of 2-8-1 and are stronger men because of it." He adds that, when wounded, they both bleed Chicago maroon.

Neither rain nor sleet nor flu

Watching Virginia Tech play in the 1999 Sugar Bowl wasn't quite the experience Susan Baines (mechanical engineering '96) had expected. After she purchased two tickets on e-Bay, she felt "good, knowing I was going to the national championship with thousands of other Hokies, celebrating a monumental event in Tech football history," she says.

"Everything went downhill from there."

When the tickets for the Tuesday, Jan. 2, game arrived on Friday, Dec. 31, the deliveryman balked because her cashier's check "didn't say 'cashier's check' on it." After he left--with her tickets--an incensed Baines drove to the delivery company's office to retrieve them, only to find that it had closed early because of the holiday. After pounding on the door and calling the company's national number on her cell phone, "ranting and raving," she finally got her tickets. "I couldn't have been happier," she says.

Until the next night, when she started feeling ill. As it turns out, "I had my airline tickets, hotel reservations, game tickets--and the flu." Three days, two flu shots, and a good deal of medicine later, the intrepid Baines headed to New Orleans on the day of the game, no longer contagious but fairly miserable. When she checked into the hotel, her temperature was 104°F. Naturally, she says, "we had to walk about seven blocks before we could catch a trolley."

During the game, Baines says she was happy to be there but "I was silent for the first half of the game, trying to conserve energy just to remain alive." Afterward, she went back to the hotel with a temperature of 103°F. "I slept the entire next day while my boyfriend and college buddies went out on the town. So, I'm waiting for the Hokies to go to the Sugar again so I can enjoy the experience a little more," she says, adding that, regardless, "I never thought once about not going to the game."

Straight from Lee Corso's mouth

It's official: ESPN College Football Analyst Lee Corso is a believer. Corso, whose car was struck by lightning moments after he predicted Virginia Tech would lose last year's pre-empted 2000 Black Coaches' Association preseason game versus Georgia Tech, says the Hokies will play for this year's national championship title. On the August 23 ESPN College Gameday Preseason Show, Corso said, "Last year when I did not pick Virginia Tech, lightning hit my car. And I said 'I don't know what a Hokie is, but God is one of them.' So I'm going with God. I'm going with Virginia Tech."

Endless love?

From childhood, Sandy Thornton was destined to be a Virginia Tech fan. "Talk about Hokie!" she says. "My dad, Bill Thornton (agricultural economics '56), is the Gobbler-town kingor is it turkey? And Rita, my mom, is the Gobbler-town queen. I think I knew 'Tech Triumph' by heart by the time I was four," she adds. "When I was growing up, the house was decorated in maroon and orange carpet, curtains, throw rugs, toilet seat covers, you name it, and with Virginia Tech pictures all over the wall, a Hokie bar with matching bar stools and Hokie glasses. I knew what I would get for Christmas: Tech t-shirts. And to every Tech game we wore maroon and orange. I think there might be a secret closet that used to be a bedroom just dedicated to the maroon and orange Tech wear." In spite of the preponderance of maroon and orange in her life, Sandy chose to attend Tech--graduating in 1990where she met her husband, Bob Noel II (communications '83), whose own family includes three other alumni. Guess it just goes to show that some people simply can't get enough
of Tech.

Set in ink

Brian Rice (accounting '94; M.Acct. '95) demonstrated his lasting commitment to the Hokies when he got his detailed tattoo (shown here). Talk about suffering for the cause. Brian notes that his masterpiece needs one final touch: "National Champions." He's just waiting for the year.

For the record

Secretary of the Commonwealth Anne Peter says her loyalty to the Hokies began at her first Virginia Tech football game in the fall of 1967, which she attended with her future husband, Ronnie Petera (management '69), now a member of the board of visitors. And she's never looked back. "There's nothing better than Blacksburg on a crisp Saturday afternoon in the fall," she muses. "The color, the camaraderie, the coaches, and athletes combine for a memorable experience."

Petera, whose son, Paul, graduated from Virginia Tech in 1991, showed her true colors to the world last year. As a delegate to the Republican National Convention, Petera was chosen to make the motion to adjourn the convention on the second night. When the camera and microphone went live, Petera addressed the national television audience: "Madam Chairman, I am proud to serve Governor Jim Gilmore as the Secretary of the great Commonwealth of Virginia, home of the Virginia Tech Hokies, and I move that this convention stand adjourned until 7 p.m. on Wednesday."

She points out that this was an especially bold move given her boss' own alma mater; Gilmore holds two degrees from the University of Virginia.

Living the "fan-atics" dream

Like most football fans on Saturdays during the fall, Morris Skeen (business '77; M.B.A. '79) and Steve Adams (education '88) can be found rooting for the Hokies from their seats in Lane Stadium, discussing plays and doing a little armchair quarterbacking. On Tuesdays, though, "Morris The Big Cat" and "Hokie Steve" voice their opinions on the air when they host "Tech Talk Tuesday" on SportsRadio 910 in Richmond.

"Tech Talk Tuesday" was started in 1994 by "The Voice of the Hokies," Bill Roth. After he stopped doing the show, SportsRadio 910 approached Skeen and Adams, avid Richmond Hokie Club members, to host the show--in addition to their full-time jobs--for up to 18 weeks out of the year.

"We've tried not to take the professional media approach," emphasizes Skeen. "We're just a couple of regular guys sitting around, having fun, and talking football."

The sports information department has helped the duo land on-air guests such as Coach Frank Beamer, Athletic Director Jim Weaver, current and former players, and members of the football staff. This is the fourth year they have hosted the show, and the first year it will be two hours long. Despite the time they put into the show, Skeen says, "We're still having fun."

Adams agrees, "It's a great time to report on Virginia Tech football. It's like getting calls from friends." He recalls a story from the 1999 West Virginia game, when a West Virginia fan named "Mountaineer Mark" kept phoning in. Tech was about two minutes from losing the game until Michael Vick sprinted for 26 yards to help set up a last-minute, game-winning, 44-yard field goal by Shayne Graham. "Mark didn't call back after that," notes Adams.

During football season, Hokie fans can call the show on Tuesdays from 7-9 p.m. (Richmond : 804/649-9100; toll-free: 800/955-7333).

Home of the Hokies

Technically speaking, Blacksburg is considered the Home of the Hokies, but you wouldn't know it after visiting the house of Douglas (mechanical engineering '62) and D. A. Powell of Halifax, Va. At the front entrance, a sign proudly proclaims the residence as "Hokie Haven"; nearby, a concrete turkey surrounded by orange and maroon flowers proves that the sign is no lie. Inside, the Powells have turned their guest bathroom into the "Tech Lounge," decorating it entirely with Tech paraphernaia, including a hand-carved Gobbler toilet seat, maroon shower curtains, orange bath mats, and the VT logo ringing the top of the walls and laminated into the cabinet doors. A love of Tech only begins at home for the Powells, who take their Hokie Haven on the road when they travel to football games. In addition to flying a Virginia Tech flag, their motorhome sports a maroon patio awning inscribed "The Powells" and "Virginia Tech." "Additional customizing is planned," notes Douglas. No mistaking these fanatics at a tailgate!

View may have changed, seats are the same

Dick Wilkinson (conservation and forestry '42) has seen a lot of change in Lane Stadium since 1966, but one thing that's stayed the same is his view of the game--he has had the same four 50-yard line seats for 35 years. Wilkinson, who acknowledges that his view is "pretty good," says his guest list, unlike his seats, varies from game-to-game. Sometimes it's his son or daughter, sometimes his granddaughter or his good friend, a VMI alumnus. And occasionally, in his role as a volunteer fundraiser for the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets, he invites other lucky alumni to sit with him.

Regardless of his seatmates, Wilkinson says he has enjoyed the changing face of Tech football throughout the years, the one constant being his fellow fans. "The crowd is wonderful. They're not mean and nasty--they're nice," he comments. "I've had friends from other schools tell me, 'You guys make a lot of noise, but you're nice about it.'"

As for the evolution of Lane Stadium around him, Wilkinson looks forward to the expansion. "As long as I can keep my seats," he adds.

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's...a Hokie race car!

Hokie fans who go to a Mid-Atlantic Road Racing Series (MARRS) race might wonder if their loyalty to Virginia Tech is affecting their eyesight when they see an orange-and-maroon blur whip around the track. Don't worry, it's just Dave Dobyns (vocational education '66), who races his self-described "VT Hokie Camaro" as a hobby on weekends. This is the fifth season Dobyns, whose "day job" is vice president and CEO of Dobyns Construction in Manassas, has raced in the MARRS. Observant readers may note that his car number is his class year. In addition to several VT stickers on his car, he sports an Active Alumni sticker and a Tech license plate. Dobyns also admits to a Hokie superstition: "I wear an old Tech t-shirt for every race. And I even have backups in case someone takes it." Whatever his secret, it seems to be working. Last year, Dobyns won the series and, as of August, is this year's points leader. 'Tis the luck of the Hokies?

Crazy for the Hokies? You could be a winner!

Calling all Hokies: On September 1, the Virginia Tech Licensing Department launched a contest asking fans to go "Crazy for the Hokies"and as shown in the accompanying article, that might not be a stretch for some alumni and friends.

The object of the newly created annual contest is for entrants to reproduce one of the four Tech logos in the biggest, most creative, and even outlandish manner possible. "The contest is open to any person, group of people, school, or organization to create the largest reproduction of one of the four university logos," says Director of Licensing and Trademark Administration Locke White. The four logos are the Hokie Bird, the university shield, "VT," and the word "Hokies."

White says he hopes that Hokie fans go "all out and have fun with this. I expect a contestant to enter a giant Hokie Bird in the sand beside the Sphinx in Egypt," he jokes. (We hope.) First, second, and third prizes will be awarded based on the size, uniqueness, amount of exposure, and quality of the logo reproduction. Winners will be announced during halftime at the December 1 home game versus the University of Miami, with photos of the winning entries to be shown on the scoreboard.

All entry forms and related materials must be received no later than November 1. For detailed guidelines and the official entry form, go to www.crazyforthehokies. vt.edu or contact the Virginia Tech Licensing Department. Let's go, Hokies!