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A Word on the White Out

Driving to campus, there were plenty of people wearing white T-shirts. A white out has been declared for No. 14 Virginia Tech's game against Marshall.

Virginia Tech asked its fans to wear white and to bring a book to support "Herma's Readers," a non-profit organization named for Coach Frank Beamer's late mother, to promote literacy across the state from kindergarten through high school.

But all the white-wearing fans around Lane Stadium reminded me of the many white outs I saw while covering the Penn State football team.

College and professional teams have done many monochromatic promotions for their fans. But Penn State has created one of the most distinct atmospheres with its white out.

Guido D'Elia, Penn State's director for football communications and branding, got Nittany Lions fans to embrace the white out in recent seasons as the brains behind the program's marketing operation.

In the week before one or two home games each season, D'Elia would have a team of students promoting the white out on campus with fliers and campaigning to get out the word. It worked. Beaver Stadium has been swathed in white for many games over the years, ofter for nationally televised night games against opponents like Ohio State, Notre Dame or Illinois.

The Hokies hosted a white out against Furman last season, the first year of such a promotion in at Lane Stadium. While Virginia Tech's white out is not just about drumming up spirit -- as I noted earlier, it is also about supporting "Herma's Readers" -- it seems to be doing the white out at an inopportune time. The game against the Thundering Herd is being broadcast with relatively little exposure, on ESPN360, and the kickoff is at 1:30 p.m.

The white out can create such a spirited atmosphere, it actually turns into quite a recruiting tool for programs. Given that, I wonder if, in future seasons, the Hokies will host a white out against conference opponents or during night games. It will be interesting to see how successful this year's white out is, and whether it starts to catch on in Blacksburg like it has in State College and other campuses across the country.

By Mark Viera  |  September 12, 2009; 11:09 AM ET
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