What, Exactly, is a Virginia Tech Hokie?

Virginia Tech's mascot is really just a turkey, but they call it a HokieBird.
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The Virginia Tech Hokie is a thing of mystery. For fans unfamiliar with Tech's mascot, the much-beloved bird is an orange and maroon turkey—but it's called a HokieBird, hence the nickname "Hokies."

The nickname originated in the 1896 when the Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College (VAMC) changed its name Virginia Polytechnic Institute, now known commonly as Virginia Tech. Then abbreviated as "V.P.I," school administrators held a contest to find a new cheer to go with the University's new name.

Senior O.M. Stull won the contest with his cheer, "Hoki, Hoki, Hoki, Hy; Techs! Techs! V.P.I." While Stull later admitted that the word 'hoki' had no real meaning, it worked as an attention-getter. The term stuck.

Athletes became known as "Hokies," and "Techs," across campus at the same time that the nickname "Gobblers" surfaced. Stories swirled about the origins of the nickname, but most said it came from how Virginia Tech's athletes "gobbled" their food faster than anyone else. While the origins of Gobblers is more folklore than fact, all terms became fair game at the turn of the century.

The Gobbler nickname, however, resulted in the arrival of Virginia Tech's first feathered mascot in 1913: a turkey, real gobbler and all.

The live turkey was eventually replaced by a mascot in a Tech-themed turkey costume, complete with maroon and orange feathers. "Hokies" fell out of fashion and the mascot maintained the name "Gobbler" until the arrival of Virginia Tech football coach and athletic director Bill Dooley in 1978. Dooley heard the stories about the nickname's origins and was unhappy about the image it conveyed about his team's eating habits. Dooley immediately removed the gobbling sound from the scoreboard and reinstated the original nickname, "the Hokies."

The mascot remained, although renamed, and HokieBird was born. Despite several changes to its appearance since, the mascot's name has stayed the same since 1978. Students, fans and athletes are known simply as 'hokies,' all the result of a 1896 name change.