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June 29, 2010

25 years ago - May 28, 1985

By: Jimmy Robertson

The May 28, 1985 cover marked the end of the first year of the Hokie Huddler. With our last issue of the magazine for this year, we decided to talk with Doug Waters, the man who put this publication together 25 years ago, to get his perspective on the history of the publication.

In the spring of 1984, Doug Waters started the Hokie Huddler, a publication devoted to the coverage of Virginia Tech athletics. The publication has changed names and formats over the course of 25 years, and this year, we want to celebrate the silver anniversary of the publication by taking a look back at what transpired at Virginia Tech in 1984-85

The May 28, 1985 cover marked the end of the first year of the Hokie Huddler. With our last issue of the magazine for this year, we decided to talk with Waters, the man who put this publication together 25 years ago, to get his perspective on the history of the publication.


Twenty-five years ago, Bill Dooley hired a recent graduate named Doug Waters to start the Hokie Huddler

Bill Dooley persuaded many people to join him in Blacksburg during his days as the Tech football coach and athletics director.

Some took a little longer to persuade than others.

Many terrific players joined Dooley during his reign from 1978-86. But we’re referring to the recruit who helped him start the athletics department’s in-house publication, as we wrap up a look back at 25 years worth of coverage of Tech athletics.

Doug Waters, who graduated from Tech in 1980 with a degree in communications and who also had served as the editor of the Collegiate Times, laid the foundation for the publication. But only after Dooley convinced him to take the job as editor – which turned out to be a nearly yearlong process.

“I had gotten to know Dooley from my days as the sports editor of the CT,” said Waters, who now works in the insurance industry and lives in Cincinnati. “When I graduated, I worked for The Roanoke Times for a couple of years and then went to work for The Winchester Star [in Winchester, Virginia] as the city editor.

“In 1983, he called me around mid-summer. He had seen The Cat’s Pause, which covers Kentucky [and still does] and thought it was a boon for recruiting. He wanted to do something similar at Tech. I’m not sure he had a clue on what it would take to put something like that together. But at the time, I wasn’t interested.”

Doug Waters

But Dooley remained undaunted – and going 9-2 the following fall and being snubbed for a bowl bid only furthered his resolve. He called Waters again in the spring of 1984 and wanted to try forming a departmental publication. This time, he convinced Waters.

“I got a reasonable amount of money, so I decided to take him up on it,” Waters said. “I started in March of 1984 and got the inaugural edition out by the end of the school year.”

His first task was to come up with a name. At the time, the marketing and promotions people at Tech were encouraging fans to attend events, and they came up with the slogan, “Get in the Hokie Huddle.” Playing off of that, Waters came up with the name, the Hokie Huddler, which he pitched to Dooley, who, while not wild about it, ultimately signed off on it.

The inaugural edition, dated May 22, 1984, consisted of 24 pages and fittingly featured Bruce Smith, arguably Tech’s most famous football alum, on the cover. Most of the coverage in that issue centered on football, with a column by Waters on Tech’s in-state football dominance, a Q&A with Dooley, a look back at the ’83 season, and of course, a feature on Smith – an All-American who had recorded 22 sacks the previous season.

“We really wanted to highlight Bruce,” Waters said. “Jack Williams [former Tech sports information director] was making a big push to get Bruce the Outland Trophy. So I hired a Roanoke Times photographer and we posed the picture for the cover.”

That first issue served as an introduction of the newspaper to Tech fans, while also wrapping up the 1983-84 school year. In the fall, the newspaper would run weekly from September through March and then every other week through the first of June, thus encompassing 32 issues.

Waters’ role went well beyond simply writing for the newspaper. He handled the layout, hired the photographers, hired contributing writers, sold the ads and traveled around to local convenience stores delivering the newspapers for sale. Every Sunday, he drove to Galax, Virginia, a small community a little over an hour away. The town had a newspaper called The Gazette, and the folks there printed the Hokie Huddler.

Behind Waters, the newspaper quickly became a popular item among the Tech constituency, as more than 3,000 folks subscribed. Waters kept a chart tacked up on his wall to keep track of subscriptions, and each week, the numbers grew.

But one incident sort of changed all that – an overtime loss to UVa that fall.

“We’ve got 3,000 quickly, and then we lost to UVa and ‘Boom,’ it all stopped,” Waters said. “People were storming out of the stadium and saying, ‘Same ol’ Tech.’ Then later in the year, there was the whole Bruce Smith episode at the Independence Bowl [Smith was ruled ineligible for the bowl game by the NCAA after his family received a load of firewood from a Tech supporter and got a court order to play in the game].

“I really think that, had we beaten UVa and had a controversy-free season, then we’d have done twice as well. But we had a core group of subscribers and I felt good about that.”

Waters’ tenure as the editor of the Hokie Huddler only lasted a year. He had gotten married in June of 1984 and the 60- to 80-hour weeks during the sports season put a strain on his new marriage. He left in the summer of 1985 and returned to The Winchester Star, resuming his duties as the city editor. He worked there for three years before his wife, Amanda, got him in the insurance business. She worked for an agency in Winchester, and he got to see the operation, so he made the career jump. Today, he serves as a vice president at Union Central Life and lives in Cincinnati.

“I wanted to try and scale back and be more of a husband,” Waters said. “It [leaving as the editor] was a hard decision for me because I had put so much into it. I really enjoyed my experience there.”

Waters, though, helped keep the publication going when he hired Chris Colston, who was working at the New Castle Record in New Castle, Virginia, a small town about an hour northwest of Blacksburg. Colston was a huge Tech fan and had a big collection of stories and photos that he had written and took on his own – “He was perfect and there was nothing he wanted to do more,” Waters said.

The publication has changed over the past 25 years. The name has changed four times and the format changed two years ago when the athletics department decided to switch to a magazine format. The Hokie Club sends it to all of its members and the total circulation now runs over 12,000. Of course, as the editors of the publication would agree, a lot of the interest stems from the overwhelming success of Tech’s sports and not necessarily the writing.

“I’m glad you guys have kept it going,” Waters said. “I thought it would keep going. The fans are so passionate about Hokie sports.

“I’m just sorry I didn’t do it for more than one year.”