Virginia Tech received nods of solidarity from peer institutions, as well as its own athletic department.
In the aftermath of April's massacre at Virginia Tech, where a gun-wielding student killed 32 fellow students and faculty members before killing himself, football coach Frank Beamer cancelled the remainder of spring practice and his team's annual intrasquad scrimmage. After all, who needed to see Hokies taking their aggression out on other Hokies, even if that relatively benign violence was to be confined to a football field?
Instead, solidarity ruled the Blacksburg campus - and well beyond. According to Virginia Tech licensing director Locke White, "dozens" of peer institutions requested permission to use VT marks in tribute to the fallen. During the annual spring football game at Penn State University, for example, maroon and orange T-shirts were donned by the Nittany Lion mascot, members of the marching band and those seated in the PSU student section, which spelled out "VT." The Hokies' "VT" decal graced the helmets of football players at Ohio State University and the University of Kentucky during their respective spring games, as well. "We had a moment of silence before the game," says Tony Neely, director of media relations for Kentucky football. "We take a lot of our common privileges and pleasures for granted, I think, and that was a great reminder of how fortunate we were to be out on the field playing or just sitting in the stands watching."
The diversion that is intercollegiate athletics returned to Virginia Tech only five days after the shooting, when an English Field record crowd of 3,132 spectators watched as Hokie baseball players - wearing a patch embroidered with the phrase "VT Remembers 4-16-07" on their uniforms - took the field against the University of Miami. "That night, you could just sense that all those people needed a change from five days of mourning the loss of so many bright young students and faculty members of our great university," says VT athletic director Jim Weaver, who adds that his department had a small but significant role to play in the healing process. "We gave the community a diversion for a couple of hours."