Media days are over and camp is about to start. College football is in the air! We aren’t there yet but we have the last top 5 mascots we haven’t covered in Mascot Monday from Phil Steele’s Preseason Top 40 list. This week, we have #13 Virginia Tech and it’s lovable little Hokie Bird. We’re going to answer just what the heck is a Hokie as why and turkey is the mascot for a college sports team. If we ever had this feature run through the football season, Hokiebird’s feature would absolutely fall before Thanksgiving. It’s not November and the Hokies are projected to be tough so let’s see what the bird has to offer.
The idea of the Hokiebird didn’t hatch way back when. In fact, it took until the 1986 for the famed mascot to show its face. It all started in 1896 when a young man named Floyd “Hard Times” Meade entertained the crowds with various antics. The crowd liked him so much that the school named him the official mascot in 1907. During his run, Virginia Tech went from the Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College to the Virginia Polytechnic Institute. Because of the change, the school needed a new cheer. The winning cheer had “Hoki” in the lyrics. But it was in 1908 when the mascot tradition really began to take hold.
That year, the nickname “Gobblers” cropped up to refer to the athletic teams. From the many different origin theories, the one that stuck was that of the way the athletes “gobbled” down their food. From the somewhat notorious name, “Hard Times” Meade began to bring a turkey onto the field. A live bird continued to parade the sideline until 1962 when Mercer MacPherson led the charge to bring a costumed mascot for Virginia Tech. In 1981, then head football coach Bill Dooley, didn’t like the negative connotation from the word gobbler so he removed the Gobbler from the scoreboard and changed the name to Hokie, in reference to the earlier “Hoki” cheer. Frank Beamer took over as head coach in 1987 and brought back the gobbler on the scoreboard as well as renamed the mascot to the Hokiebird.
The Hokiebird suit itself is a turkey. Except instead of turkey colors it has Virginia Tech’s school colors. The big feet and huge head mark that of a traditional mascot. The white trim on the feathers in the back make a nice touch. For some reason the turkey part that hangs from the beak is hypnotizing. Hokiebird has yet to win any mascot titles, but he does have a series of children’s book so he’s go that going for him.
Frankly, the story of the Hokiebird is more tasty than the mascot itself. There’s nothing wrong with Hokiebird. It just doesn’t have that kick to put it over the top. The football team will be really tough this year, but the best thing going for the Hokies in terms of mascotdom this year is the bench presses Hokiebird does if the football team scores. Knowing that, if Hokiebird somehow finds his way on our Thanksgiving Day table, we know that the meat will be nice and juicy. We also know that, along with mascot, the meat will need a little salt.