What Is A Wahoo?

From time to time someone will ask on one of the message boards, particularly near the time we are scheduled to play the University of Virginia in some athletic contest, "What Is A Wahoo?" Even though I was employed by the University of Virginia for over five years, I never knew how UVA came about this nickname, so I decided to, once and for all, determine the origin of this moniker.

While there will probably never be an official version of how the nickname came about, the following is more than likely as close as we are going to get and it seems plausible to me. So for all you Tar Heel fans who have ever wondered why the University of Virginia is referred to as the "Wahoos", here goes.

What Is A Wahoo?

The most prominent and widely accepted nicknames of Virginia athletic teams are "Cavaliers", "Wahoos", and "Hoos".

Legend has it that Washington and Lee baseball fans dubbed the Virginia players "Wahoos" during the fiercely contested rivalry that existed between the two in-state schools in the 1890's. No doubt this was a reference to the carp of the same name found in the waters of Virginia which is capable of retaining a prodigious amount of liquid to increase its size and fend off enemies. By 1940 "Wahoos" was in general use around the grounds (campus).

Today the University faithful or "Hoos" for short, embrace and celebrate the "Wahoos" spirited capacity to prevail as their athletic teams continue the proud tradition of success and achievement at UVA.

Now for the rest of the story. Where and how did I get this explanation for the origin of the nickname "Wahoo".

Right before Christmas I revisited "The Corner" near the University of Virginia which is UNC's equivalent of East Franklin St. This was the first time I had returned since leaving Charlottesville in May of 1965 to join the staff of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. "The Corner" while similar to E. Franklin St. is somewhat different in that it comprises a little village within the confines of Charlottesville. Strangely, city limits of Charlottesville stop where the University of Virginia itself begins and the University is located in Albemarle County and not Charlottesville.

While looking for my old haunts on "The Corner" where I spent many a day having lunch, browsing and occasionally after work downing a few cool ones, I found that only three businesses remain from the ones that were there in 1965. The buildings are pretty much the same but the businesses are different. It was sort of sad but it was to be expected. 37 years is a pretty good spell of time and I shouldn't have been surprised to see the changes.

While browsing in the Student Book Store (privately owned) I saw the above explanation of Wahoos taped to the check out counter. I asked the cashier if they had the explanation for sale like on a card or something similar. She said it was printed on the back of a drinking glass with a big orange "V" emblazoned on the front and the price was $6.95. Well, the old fashioned North Carolina frugality came out in me and I declined to purchase the glass. Part of the reason was pure and simply I didn't want to pay $6.95 for a drinking glass with an orange "V" on it and the other part was that I couldn't bear the thought of adding it to my collection of Carolina stuff since it wasn't Carolina stuff. I don't think my Carolina glasses would ever forgive me. I didn't have writing materials with me so I made no effort to copy the explanation that was taped to the counter assuming they would have allowed me to do so.

I left the store a little dejected because I really did want a copy of the "Wahoo" explanation and half way back to Richmond I started to wish I had bought the "V" glass. I continued to think about how I had probably made too much about the price of the glass and finally reached the conclusion that I should have bought it. I can't help thinking what ole Andy could do with this material.

Anyhow, yesterday I went back to Charlottesville and bought that glass. I have copied the explanation down and now I plan to give the glass to the son of a friend of mine who attends UVA. Turns out it is not just an ordinary drinking glass, it is heavy glass and quite nice if you ignore the orange "V". They wrapped it in orange tissue paper and put it in a nice gift box with a UVA sticker to seal the lid. The more I thought about it, the less $6.95 seemed.

My problem is not that I don't have some money, it's that I can't seem to shake the values and experiences that were drilled into me when I was growing up. All this over $6.95. Unreal.

So now you have it. Yesterday was a good day to be a Tar Heel after a short dry spell. Later I will relate my Carolina encounters yesterday, three of them in one day and all of them extremely pleasant. I got home and watched us beat Clemson and to top the day off, I learned that the UNC women's team had defeated the Wahoos or is it Lady Wahoos? Couldn't ask for anything more.