September 24, 2009
Response from Nebraska fans has Tech administration happy with Hokies Respect campaign
By Jimmy Robertson

As every Tech fan knows, the Virginia Tech football team knocked off Nebraska in the waning moments this past Saturday at Lane Stadium in arguably one of the most thrilling games in the stadium’s history.

But there was another big winner on Saturday – Virginia Tech’s “Hokies Respect” campaign.

The Tech athletics department has been flooded with phone calls and e-mails from Nebraska fans who came to Blacksburg for the game, saying how well they were treated by the maroon and orange faithful. Also, The Roanoke Times ran three Letters to the Editor from Nebraska fans in the Wednesday edition of the paper.

Some of the samples received by the department include the following:

Just wanted to convey to the Virginia Tech Athletics Department some feedback that many of us have received from our Husker Brethren who attended the game this past Saturday. While I was unable to make it, I have a bunch of friends who did get to Blacksburg. To a man/woman, every person who attended raved about the graciousness, friendliness and quality of the Hokies’ fan base, the reception they received from the university and the overall positive experience it was to attend the game and to visit the great city of Blacksburg. “Virginia Tech ‘gets’ what college sports is all about” is a common theme I heard from everyone. If I heard it once, I heard it at least 20 times. “The single best experience at an away football game EVER” – this coming from people who have attended away Husker games for at least 25-30 years! Just thought you should all know.

Hopefully, there will be another series that we can set up against each other … and I can tell you that I will be sure to attend the next time we come to Blacksburg. Hoping it is sooner rather than later.

PS: Absolutely HATED the outcome of the game, but it doesn’t diminish the reception that Tech provided to the Husker fan base!

Speaking of Tech fans, I cannot give them enough credit for being some of the most gracious opposing team hosts I have ever met. I did an interview with a local sports radio station and complimented them on the hospitality of the Tech fans. Walking into the game, I enjoyed the dialogue of a Husker fan telling a Tech fan in jest “Don’t give me any more beer! I can’t handle another Tech fan inviting me to their tailgate.” I would love to get another home-and-home series with them. I can’t tell you how many Tech fans came up to me after the game saying they felt lucky to win and were happy to get the win against Nebraska.

Lane Stadium is a great place to experience a college football game. I would put it on my “Bucket List” of college football locales – definitely a “must see/experience.”

I’ve never been treated better or made to feel more welcome by a town, a school and its fan base than what I encountered at Tech. What a wonderful experience.

Virginia Tech is a beautiful school and campus. I enjoyed a lazy Friday evening with my boys at the Drillfield followed by a stroll to PK’s on Main Street, where we wolfed down some GREAT pizza.

I have been to quite a few away football games for Nebraska and other destinations. After undergrad in the Big 12 and professional school in the Big 10, ACC and SEC, I have traveled to a fair share of the FBS/BCS stadiums. In all my travels, and all the experiences … the Virginia Tech fans were the most hospitable of any – bar none. It is the closest experience to Lincoln in terms of fan friendliness that I have seen. Their fans were gracious and were as helpful as any.

I, too, would say their fans were amazingly gracious. We parked in a guy’s yard and my wife asked where the nearest restroom could be found. He said, “Oh, just go in the house. Top of the stairs.” And then he just walked away. Several fans told us how excited they were to have Nebraska come to Blacksburg. After the game, no razzing. Just “Thanks for coming,” and several “You outplayed us,” etc.

I am a Nebraskan currently living in Somerset, Pa. I attended the VT-Nebraska game on the 19th. Actually, we were in Blacksburg Friday night at the Sidetrack show at Awful Arthur’s, and arrived at the stadium to tailgate at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday. I have never been treated so well at an away game. Hokie fans are a class act. Nebraska fans are also well known for treating visiting fans well in Lincoln. Many Hokie fans mentioned their experience in Lincoln last year, and hoped that we would be treated the same way in Blacksburg. We were.

At the game, I noticed Virginia Tech’s campaign to promote respect for visiting fans, teams and coaches. I cannot begin to tell you how impressed I was.

Thank you Virginia Tech, for this experience.

Okay, there was one little problem … the final score!

I hope the two teams can meet again soon.

Of course, a lot of this goes back to the reception given to Virginia Tech fans by the Nebraska faithful when the Hokies traveled out to Lincoln, Neb., for the game last season. Numerous Tech fans commented about the friendliness of the Husker faithful. In fact, Wes Worsham, the man whom Worsham Field is named after and one of the Hokies’ biggest supporters, struck up a conversation with a Nebraska fan, and by the end of the evening, had invited him to attend this year’s game at Lane Stadium as a guest in his luxury suite.

But some of the credit must also go to the Hokies Respect campaign, an initiative launched by Tech AD Jim Weaver and his administrative staff in 2003 to promote sportsmanship and first-class fan conduct at sporting events. The marketing staff came up with a logo promoting the campaign, with the theme being for fans, players and coaches to respect the moment, the opponent, the game, the competition and themselves.

“We want to have our fans be the very best in the United States,” Tech AD Jim Weaver said at the time. “That also means being the best behaved and showing the most sportsmanship. We want to treat our guests, our opponents and the officials with utmost respect.”

Weaver and his staff, along with head coach Frank Beamer, promoted the campaign every chance they got. A former player or prominent university official speaks about sportsmanship before every home kickoff. Beamer himself worked with the ACC on a sportsmanship spot that runs at games, and Weaver himself constantly speaks about it.

“This is an opportunity for everyone to compete,” he said. “And when we talk about the 12th person concept, which is the fan as a collective group, we want everyone to compete and cheer and support the team. But we want them to do it with respect. We don’t want them to do anything that is derogatory toward the opponent.”

The response continues to be overwhelmingly positive. Following a Tech victory over Florida State in 2007, Bobby Bowden had this to say about the Tech faithful: “The crowd at Virginia Tech is exemplary of what you want crowds to be. That was the most sportsmanlike group I’ve been around in 30 years. I’ve never been into a visiting stadium where the crowd was nicer to us. I didn’t hear any boos. I didn't hear any catcalls. I didn’t hear any negative stuff. I did want to turn around and thank them all, but I couldn’t do that.”

Then there was an Ohio newspaper columnist whose daughter was in the band at Ohio University when that school made the trip to Blacksburg for a game in 2007. He wrote about the Hokie faithful in his newspaper following the game.

“After parking our car, we started for the football stadium,” the columnist wrote. “We were walking up some steps when we passed some students. One of the young men turned and said, ‘Welcome to Blacksburg.’ We responded with, ‘Thank you.’

“I had no idea that I was going to utter those words all day long. Here is a sampling of the comments we heard from total strangers who observed that we were wearing Ohio University shirts:

‘Welcome to Virginia Tech. We hope you enjoy your stay. We’re glad you came. Welcome to Blacksburg. Thanks for coming. Good luck to you.’ Over and over again, we heard these comments, and all we could do was shake our heads in amazement and say, ‘Thank you.’”

Comments like these only serve to reaffirm what the Hokies Respect campaign is all about – and why Weaver wants to continue it.

“We want to be the model for good sportsmanship and we’re committed to that,” he said. “I want to thank our fans for being committed to it. I’m not naïve enough to think that all 66,000 are on their best behavior every Saturday afternoon, but I think an overwhelming majority of them share our goals.

“I think we’re all proving something here. We can be respectful as fans and still make our stadium a pretty tough place to play. I think Nebraska’s team and fans would attest to that.”

Weaver acknowledges there is still work to be done. Fan behavior and sportsmanship will always be a point of emphasis as long as he remains the AD.

But there’s also a time to say ‘thank you’ to the Hokie Nation. Following Saturday’s victory over Nebraska, there never seemed like a more perfect moment.

For updates on Virginia Tech football, follow the Hokies on Twitter (@VT_Football).

For updates on the Hokies, follow Jimmy Robertson on Twitter (@jrobIHS).

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