MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WV News) — OK, it’s time to get around to the most pressing question of the West Virginia-Virginia Tech Black Diamond Trophy game that will be played at 7:30 p.m. Thursday night and shown on ESPN:
What’s a Hokie?
Bet you’ve wondered about that. I know I did.
It turns out it goes back to the 1890s, when the Blacksburg, Virginia, school less than 20 years old. One of the students was named O.M. Still. He was from the class of 1896, and he became a whole $5 richer for his original spirit cheer, which has become to be known as “Old Hokie.”
According to the school’s website, the cheer went like this:
Hoki, Hoki, Hoki, Hy.
Techs, Techs, V.P.I.
Rae, Ri, V.P.I.
It was sort of rap before rap ... and it caught on.
As time went by, an ‘e’ was added to “Hoki,” and they closed the cheer out with “Team! Team! Team!”
But wait, there’s more. It seems that Hokies were once called “Gobblers,” although no one knows for sure why?
The website offers up one story that said it came from the way the student-athletes would “gobble” up their food.
Good thing at West Virginia University they didn’t watch their student-athletes eat, or perhaps instead of Mountaineers they may have become the WVU “Pepperoni Rolls.”
That would not be good PR, so to speak.
Now, everyone knows that the Mountaineer has come to be one of the most popular mascots in all of college football.
When the Hokies were known as “The Gobblers,” Floyd Meade, a Blacksburg resident, trained a large turkey to pull a cart at a football game. The year was 1913, and they didn’t have TV, social media or much of anything to do, so this was found to be entertaining.
Today, it probably would be viewed as cruel by some animal rights activists, but this was only part of the “Gobbler” identity. During the years, trained turkeys would gobble on command and perform stunts.
This was so successful that it was only a matter of time until the people got involved, and in 1962 a student raised $200 — yes, inflation after paying $5 for a cheer — for a costume.
What he put together was a rare bird, indeed, a turkey with a cardinal-like head.
It came to be known as the “Gobbler,” then “the Fighting Gobbler.”
Meanwhile, WVU’s Mountaineer mascot was the perfect representative for the school. Decked out not in turkey body and cardinal head but in coonskin cap, buckskin and carrying a musket — in case he wanted to go turkey hunting — the Mountaineer tradition goes back to Clay Crouse in 1927.
The Gobbler nickname eventually fell out of favor, and a student named George Wills used a class project to sketch a new mascot who first appeared at a football game in September 1981 and became a fixture at games beginning in September 1987.
They added a little intrigue to HokieBird by keeping the student who wore the costume anonymous until commencement, when the identity is revealed as they march through the procession wearing HokieBird feet.
At WVU, the student Mountaineer mascots wore their buckskins openly and proudly under his or her own name, promoting the university and the state and doing charity work across West Virginia.
You know them not by their feet but by their feats, and this year, at Homecoming Weekend on Oct. 27, 28 and 29, they will hold their reunion with some events open to the public, according to former Mountaineer Matt Zervos.