All the Hoos in Hooville Hit With a Sign of the Times

University of Virginia fans who attend games at Scott Stadium and other school venues will have to cheer without signs.
University of Virginia fans who attend games at Scott Stadium and other school venues will have to cheer without signs. (By John Mcdonnell -- Washington Post)
By Theresa Vargas
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 21, 2008

Gone are the days when athletes at the University of Virginia could look up at cheering fans and see signs asking, "Hoos your daddy?"

The Charlottesville school, whose students are often called the Wahoos or Hoos, has banned all signs at home games. The new athletic department policy was tucked into an e-mail to students Tuesday: "Beginning this year, signs are not permitted inside athletics facilities. Thank you for your cooperation."

Rich Murray, an athletic department spokesman, said yesterday that the policy is "intended to support and promote sportsmanship and positive game day environment for all fans in attendance at athletic events."

Among students, the announcement is causing some hoo-pla.

"This was the first that we've heard about it," said student council President Matt Schrimper, 20. "It's something that caught a lot of students' eyes."

He said that when school begins, the student council plans to ask athletic department officials why they felt the need to formalize a ban.

"The overwhelming amount of signs you will see are in overwhelming support of our athletic department and our sports teams, and it helps create an exciting environment for the students, the athletes and for all the fans," Schrimper said. "I've never seen a sign that offended me in any way."

Murray would not say what spurred the policy, only that discussion about it began last fall.

About that time, student David Becker's sign was confiscated at Scott Stadium during a football game. It read "Fire Groh," in reference to head football Coach Al Groh. Becker said he displayed it for most of the game, before a security worker took it without explanation. Becker then wrote the same message on another sign, which was also taken away, along with a third he scribbled on a piece of paper.

"When I asked him why he was taking it, he said, 'Word from the athletic department,' " Becker said.

The rising senior added that he immediately regretted the incident. Becker describes himself as a fan who arrives at the arena gate hours before games to get a front-row seat and who makes signs encouraging basketball recruits to attend the school.

"The sign was just out of frustration," he said. "I am a huge fan. I love Virginia athletics."

When he saw the e-mail about the policy change, he said he couldn't help feeling responsible.

"The first thing I thought was, 'Oh my God, I can't believe this. I probably had something to do with this,' " Becker said. "I don't want to be known as the guy whose sign caused all signs to go away. . . . I think when the players look up into the crowd, and they see signs rooting them on, it's just another show of support."

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