Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University officially opened on Oct. 1, 1872, as Virginia’s white land-grant institution. From that date until 1964, a key feature of the school was military training for just about all undergraduate males. The Corps of Cadets was a deciding influence on many of the traditions still practiced at Virginia Tech. Other activities engaged in by the growing civilian student body in recent years have found their place among those long-standing activities that many alumni remember with fondness.
A number of traditions started after March 5, 1896, when the name of the school was changed by the Virginia General Assembly. The switch from "Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College" (VAMC) to the even-longer "Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College and Polytechnic Institute" brought about an immediate shortening by the general populace to "Virginia Polytechnic Institute," "VPI," and "Virginia Tech." The name change started the establishment of nicknames and mascots, along with a change in colors.
The first school colors, black and cadet gray, were picked in 1891 by the new student-run Athletic Association to reflect the principal colors of the cadet uniforms worn by the all-male, military student body. But when the black and gray appeared on athletic uniforms in the striped style popular in the late 19th century, athletes complained that the stripes made them look like convicts. The corps of cadets and a few other people from the college then banded together to examine the question of colors. They discovered that no other college or university in the country had orange and maroon as its school colors, so burnt orange and Chicago maroon were adopted in 1896 as the official colors.