Virginia Tech Magazine
Message from the President | Fall 2006

Hokie hospitality | Sportsmanship redux
by Charles W. Steger '69

Hokie Hospitality logo

It's an American tradition. Fork over some bucks to be allowed to pass through the turnstiles. Grab a program, a beverage, and a hot dog. Find your seat. Then proceed to launch verbal attacks on fellow human beings in a loud, obnoxious manner.

Those are the words of a disillusioned high-school athletic director from Oregon lamenting the current state of sportsmanship at all levels of competition. Simply Google "rude fan behavior" and you will see that the topic continues to get attention around the nation.

While I have been told that Virginia Tech is one of the better places to play, I know that we are not immune to the problem of bad sportsmanship. With some regularity, I hear from fans--both ours and the opposing team's--about the unruly, uncivilized behavior of fans of all ages.

Perhaps you have been an unfortunate witness to the profanity, belligerence, and intoxication that sometimes erupt into confrontations. Such instances of poor behavior are embarrassing to the university, and they detract not only from enjoyment of the games but also from all the good things about Virginia Tech that make us proud to be Hokies. Concerns over fan behavior demand our attention now before the situation worsens, and I ask for your help.

We are launching several efforts to address the problem. I appointed our vice president for student affairs to chair a campus-wide Alcohol Abuse Prevention Task Force to examine the extent of high-risk drinking behavior among Virginia Tech students, conduct a review of "best practices" at other U.S. universities, and propose to me next spring a plan of action to address the problem of student drinking, which is a significant factor in the behavior we often see at sporting events.Hokies Respect logo

Because the problem is certainly not confined to the student population, we are exploring ways to reach all of our fans. The Alumni Association, the Student Government Association, and the Department of Athletics are ramping up the Hokies Respect campaign to focus attention on good sportsmanship. These groups will work together to support the association's goal of encouraging fans to "display the highest levels of sportsmanship and respect for each other."

You may have seen the logo: "Hokies respect the moment, the opponent, the game, themselves, and the competition." If you think about it, good sportsmanship is actually an extension of the Principles of Community (see "A principled approach to transforming Tech") that the university adopted last year. At its core, sportsmanship is about respect.

Help us get the message out: set an example of good sportsmanship by modeling the respect and courtesy that we want others to reciprocate and by not turning a blind eye to bad behavior. If you encounter problematic behaviors, inform event staff. As well, be aware that additional plainclothes police will be roaming the stadium this year. Offenders will be ejected and those who repeat this behavior will have their attendance privileges revoked.

At Virginia Tech, we talk about inventing the future, so let's lead the effort to reverse the national trend and be a model of good sportsmanship. If we could meet the challenge to build the fastest terascale supercomputer in academe in record time and at minimal cost, I am confident that by working together we can overcome this challenge as well.

I sincerely appreciate your help. Go, Hokies!

Editor's note: For more on the updated Hokies Respect campaign, go to "Give a heapin'helpin' of Hokie hospitality."

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