Blacksburg, Virginia is easily one of the nation’s top spots for elite college football action, and if you don’t believe it, then you clearly haven’t been paying attention. Over the course of the last 30 years or so, the Virginia Tech Hokies have emerged as one of the most consistently competitive programs in the country, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Maroon and Orange supporters have also received much-deserved acclaim for their commitment to cheering on such a wildly resilient club.
The first VT gridiron squad debuted in 1892, but triumphs were few and far between in those early days. That’s actually putting it generously, as the Hokies registered just six bowl appearances between 1892 and 1986. However, the short list of postseason showings isn’t meant to imply that there weren’t any moments worth celebrating. Coach Jerry Claiborne patrolled the sidelines from ‘61 to ‘70 and orchestrated trips to the Liberty Bowl in both ‘66 and ‘68. Field general Bill Dooley arrived in time for the ‘78 campaign, and during his tenure, he led the Hokies to three bowl appearances, including the program’s first postseason victory in ‘86.
As a defensive back on those bowl-bound teams of the ‘60s, Frank Beamer keenly understood just how hungry Hokie Nation was for a string of steady successes, but even he couldn’t predict just how excellent VT would become once he assumed the head coaching reins in ‘87. After taking over, Beamer guided Tech to more than 20 bowl showings, as well as conference titles in both the Big East and ACC. With such a staggering resume, it could be difficult to identify Beamer’s finest hour, but his ‘99 team is arguably the most deserving. Led by quarterback Michael Vick, the Hokies went 11-0 during the regular season and were invited to battle for the national championship at the Sugar Bowl. Florida State would emerge victorious, but Vick was absolutely sensational and is widely considered to be the greatest player ever to wear the Maroon and Orange to date.
While the football program has improved by leaps and bounds, VT fans also know a thing or two about sudden jumps. At Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, supporters have developed a penchant for bouncing up and down as their team takes the field. The pregame ritual comes to a head once Metallica’s thunderous anthem, “Enter Sandman,” begins to ring throughout the coliseum. More than 60,000 supporters get in on the act, while foes quake in their boots over the prospect of having to play in front of such a passionate crowd.
An electric atmosphere and sky-high expectations have been the Hokies’ calling card for the last three decades. Sure, supporters have been known to put their right foot in, take it back out, and then shake it all about, but gridiron contests are serious business on campus. Diehards are eager to seize a national championship, and not just because they want to be the envy of the college sports world. Really, they just want another accomplishment to hang over the head of those dreaded Virginia Cavaliers.