No organized sports program existed at Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College in its early days. Baseball was popular, but students generally organized games on the spur of the moment. The May 1876 issue of the Gray Jacket reported a baseball game between “Dutch Alley” and the “College Nine,” but VAMC students comprised both teams. The first known game against an off-campus team occurred in 1877 when VAMC, whose team probably included townspeople, played Roanoke College and won by a record score of 53-13. The first real effort to organize college sports on a formal basis came in the fall 1891 when the VAMC Athletic Association was established. James A. Massie was chosen president, and black and cadet gray were adopted as the college colors. A spirit yell was also chosen: “Rip, Rah, Ree! Va, Va, Vee! Virginia! Virginia! A. M. C.” The following year, a football team and tennis association were added to the sports program.
As the program grew, the college administration decided that more faculty supervision was necessary, and President McBryde appointed a faculty committee to administer athletic affairs in 1901. James H. Gibboney, class of 1901, was asked to draft a reorganization plan that entrusted athletics to three committees: an advisory council; executive committee; and faculty committee on athletics, which was concerned primarily with eligibility. This plan was cumbersome, however, so another reorganization occurred in 1904 with Gibboney in the newly created post of graduate manager. Gibboney’s new plan called for an Athletic Council entrusted with complete control over college athletics; he also specified that every student be enrolled as a member of the Athletic Association upon matriculation. The association founded the student weekly newspaper, The Virginia Tech (now Collegiate Times), in October 1903 and operated it as the official organ of the Athletic Association until the student body assumed control in April 1931. The association owned and operated the College Bookstore (now University Bookstore) from March 1911 until VPI Facilities Inc. (now Virginia Tech Services, Inc.) assumed control in July 1968.
In 1988, after President William E. Lavery developed a reorganization plan for the Athletic Association, the board of visitors voted to dissolve the Athletic Association, and athletics officially became an auxiliary enterprise of the university on July 1, 1988.
From the time of their arrival on campus in 1921 until 1967, women students were excluded from official college sports. Nonetheless, one of the first five women to enroll at Virginia Tech—Ruth Louise Terrett—formed a basketball team in 1923, and the players called their team the “Sextettes” and later the “Turkey Hens.” The Sextettes had seven members and won three of five games during the team’s first year.
In the 1960s women students voiced complaints about the lack of recreational facilities for their use, and the college responded by appointing in 1967 its first full-time female health and physical education instructor, Shirley Ann Mell. One of Mell’s responsibilities was to organize a women’s intramural program. Coeds fielded their first official intramural teams—12 basketball teams—that same year.
It was 1970, however, before Virginia Tech provided women with an officially sanctioned intercollegiate competitive sport: swimming. Women began playing varsity basketball in 1972 but did not play any games at home until January 23, 1973, because they lacked the money to pay the costs of opening the Coliseum. John H. Ristroph, a graduate student in industrial engineering and operations research, coached the team. In 1976 the university initiated a search for its first director of women’s intercollegiate athletics and hired Jo Kafer, who was expected to direct the women’s intercollegiate program, coach, and lead the development of women’s sports. By then, the university fielded women’s teams in basketball, swimming, tennis, and track and field. Women also participated with men in karate, gymnastics, fencing, bowling, archery, and volleyball. The board of visitors authorized the addition of volleyball and field hockey to the women’s intercollegiate athletic program in 1977. In the late 1970s, twin sisters Anne and Lynne Jones became the first recipients of athletic scholarships for women, and in 1978 the Frank Loria Memorial Award was presented to the first woman recipient: Joyce Y. Griffin, co-captain of the women’s field hockey team.
In 1993 members of the women’s swimming team, faced with the elimination of their sport, threatened to file a discrimination suit under Title IX. Soon afterward, the university rescinded the decision to cut the men’s and women’s swim teams pending further review and formed the Non-Revenue and Women’s Sports Committee to look at issues of fairness and equity. The commission found that “the percentage of female athletes and of female scholarship athletes in relation to male athletes and male scholarship athletes at Virginia Tech [constitutes] one of the worst comparisons in Division I athletics.” At the time, females comprised 41 percent of the undergraduate student body but only 18 percent of the participants in varsity sports and 19 percent of athletic scholarship aid recipients. The committee issued 19 recommendations to achieve gender equity in athletics.
The study resulted in the development of a plan to expand women’s intercollegiate athletics over a four-year period. By the time the plan was released on May 16, 1994, soccer, which was part of the plan, had been added for women. The plan also called for increasing scholarships for women’s cross country and track, soccer, swimming, and lacrosse and adding women’s lacrosse and softball to the sports offerings. Women athletes fielded their first lacrosse team in the spring 1995 and their first softball team in the spring 1996.