Go Tech Go: The Inside Story Behind the Rise of VT Football, Part 5

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Part 4

Chapter Five: A Change of Culture-Style Situation

When Bill Dooley arrived in Blacksburg in 1978, he was intent on changing Virginia Tech’s football culture. He got rid of the orange trim on the football uniforms, opting for maroon and white (the only orange was the faintest of trims around the “VT” on the helmets). He removed the flashing-eye gobbling turkey from the scoreboard and replaced it with a more streamlined Fighting Gobbler logo (a move for which I still have not forgiven him). He added a soft-serve ice cream machine in the athlete’s dining hall, because he said he once lost a recruit because there wasn’t one.

He also cut out parties between players and coaches. That’s right: In an effort to build togetherness, Bill Dooley’s predecessor, Jimmy Sharpe, had thrown dinner parties at the Red Lion Inn for the coaches and players together.

“Oh, man, those parties were fun,” said former Virginia Tech wide receiver Ellis “Blade” Savage. “They were great for a young kid, 18, 19, 20 years old. The coaches would be there with their wives. Players could bring dates. They were all there, dancing, and Coach Sharpe would be right there with us. He was enthusiastic and young – coach Bear Bryant’s chosen one. He was an excellent coach, but he just liked to have too much fun.

“Ultimately, it was part of his downfall. When you create that kind of environment, it makes an impression on young people. I