It’s that time of year again! College football is back and there will be a whole lot of shaking going on in Blacksburg, Virginia when the Virginia Tech Hokies return to the field with one of college football’s greatest ongoing musical traditions – the use of Metallica‘s “Enter Sandman” as a deafening and imposing theme as the team enters Lane Stadium to start each home game. It’s one of college football’s most well known musical ties, but how did Virginia Tech and Metallica end up intertwined for over two decades now?
How Did Virginia Tech’s Use of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” Start?
As with many great sports and music ties, there was a desire to pump fans up! And back in 2000, Virginia Tech added a new scoreboard to Lane Stadium complete with video capability, so what better time to employ some new strategies for getting the crowd involved.
Per Sports Illustrated, Guns N’ Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle” and the Alan Parsons Project’s “Sirius” (which had almost become synonymous with the Chicago Bulls) had been considered as possible options, but ultimately the school decided to try out Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” to soundtrack their pregame hype video.
What Is the Tradition?
There’s more than just the team running onto the field to the roar of a Metallica-fueled crowd going on. As part of the tradition, the Virginia Tech players walk from the team’s practice facility through a narrow tunnel into Lane Stadium. Before entering the field, each player touches the “Hokie Stone,” which is a piece of limestone with the words “For those who have passed, for those to come … reach for excellence” inscribed upon it.
Add in the fevered pitch of a 60,000+ strong crowd jumping up and down to Metallica as the final piece of motivation before entering the field and it’s hard not to be feeling an extra spark of energy going into a game.
Virginia Tech Enters to “Enter Sandman” Against West Virginia in 2022
It Started With a Lightning Strike
Yes, Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” impacts with some power, but the first time the team used it, it was mostly overshadowed. Why? Because severe weather in the area impacted the game, which was ultimately postponed due to violent thunderstorms and lightning. In fact, ESPN analyst Lee Corso’s rental car was struck by lightning as the announcer was preparing for the game.
ESPN actually aired video of the lightning strike with video of a red car in the lot at the end of the stadium being struck. Corso later figured out the car was his when he tried to drive back to his hotel and the car briefly worked before dying. He hitched a ride back to the hotel and got a new rental car. The strike came after Corso had predicted a Virginia Tech victory.
“Enter Sandman” Gets a “Jump” Start
The “Enter Sandman” open still needed a little juice, which came almost a year after the team had started using the song as their entrance theme. Virginia Tech reveals in a website dedicated to their traditions that what’s now become commonplace with the entire stadium jumping up and down to the song actually started with a member of the school’s marching band in 2001.
As told by the Marching Virginian’s director David McKee to the Washington Post back in 2009, the band member that started jumping was doing so because it was a chilly night and they were trying to warm up. Soon, they were joined by several other band members.
“The next thing you know, the whole band is jumping up and down, and then the next thing you know, the whole stadium is jumping up and down. It was one of those accidental traditions.”
Sure, a band jumping up and down is bound to get the bleachers rocking. But what about a full crowd? Lane Stadium currently holds 66,233 seats and as we’ve seen in recent years, when it goes off, it goes off! By that we mean, it actually registers on seismographs in the area that detect shaking and ground noises usually caused by earthquakes.
But in 2011, against major rival Miami, the seismograph detected noticeable activity centered around when the team entered the stadium to Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.” Similar situations occurred in 2015 during a game against Ohio State and again in 2021 during the home opener against the nationally ranked North Carolina Tarheels.
That latter one made the music media rounds and found its way back to Metallica’s James Hetfield, who told SiriusXM’s Shaun the Butcher, “Even talking about it, I’ve got goosebumps. It was spectacular.”
“To be a part of their lives, be a part of their team and to pump people up with that, there’s no way. We could sit and try to write something that, ‘Oh, we need a song to pump the crowd up.’ You can try to do that, but it’s not gonna work, it’s just not,” reflected Hetfield. “All of these things happen for a reason. It was out of our hands, out of our control. But I mean those fans of Virginia Tech, they’re the ones that made that. I mean, they needed that. So they found our song and we got chosen for that so we’re grateful.” Check out footage from that North Carolina game with Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” theme and the crowd going off below.
How Has Metallica Been Involved With Virginia Tech?
While Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” has been used since the early 2000s, the band’s involvement with the team is a little more recent, but once the association was made, they’ve been active with the Virginia Tech community.
Per the Washington Post, prior to the 2011 Miami game, local wine distributor Bruce Gearheart, who had previously been a Vice President for EMI, had worked to get in contact with the band after his son, a Virginia Tech student, had shared with his father the excitement generated at games over the band’s song. Through contacts, he eventually got a signed football from the band that was signed, “Coach Beamer and Hokie Nation, Keep Jumping.”
That led to the band eventually recording a video that was placed alongside the entrance hype video and music. The clip debuted at the beginning of the Miami game. “I saw people looking at the screen and I was wondering, ‘What are they looking at? Is this something they always do?,” recalled cornerback Kyle Fuller, noting something was different as he was preparing to enter the stadium. Coach Beamer added, “The stadium was … probably as loud as it has ever been. I appreciate that part.”
Metallica’s Intro for Virginia Tech Football
But, as stated, Metallica’s participation with Virginia Tech didn’t end there. In 2015, when Coach Frank Beamer finally retired after 29 seasons, the band recorded and sent along a video message sharing their congratulations on a legendary career.
Plus, they’ve been supportive of the college through times of tragedy as well. In 2012, the band signed off on the OK for the school to print “Enter Sandman” shirts with the idea that the money raised would go to the Morgan Harrington Scholarship Fund. Harrington was a Virginia Tech student who went missing after last being seen attending one of the band’s shows.
Metallica also got personally involved in the search, filming a PSA to spread the word while Morgan was still missing and donating money for information leading to her being found. Morgan’s mother, Gil Harrington, said of the band’s involvement, “It has been very humbling from the very beginning. Two days after Morgan was abducted, they could have distanced themselves from an ugly occurrence. But James Hetfield called this house to speak to Dan [Harrington], as a father, and asked, ‘What can we do?’ Three years out, and they are still doing things.”
Harrington says Hetfield spoke to the FBI and also generated the first “missing person” poster that went up on their website in hopes of locating her daughter. “It’s a visceral response as fathers. They were not liability driven or self-protecting,” she adds of their involvement.
The Virginia Tech “Enter Sandman” Tradition Expands Beyond Football
Can you get too much of a good thing? There is no such thing as too much Metallica at Virginia Tech. The “Enter Sandman” theme eventually carried over to both the men’s and women’s basketball teams.
But in 2023, an interesting conundrum came up as the Hokies hosted the first round of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament at Cassell Coliseum. Even though the Hokies were the home team and playing host to other games as well, the NCAA tournament was viewed as a neutral site game, so “Enter Sandman” was banned by the NCAA at the event to keep the game as neutral as possible. But that didn’t stop the fans, who decided to just sing the songs themselves to welcome their team to the floor.
“After @NCAA banned ‘Enter Sandman’ from being played at tip-off, this is how Hokie Nation responded,” TV anchor Riley Wyant tweeted alongside the video. “Let me clarify here — Virginia Tech hosted this Women’s NCAA Tournament game as a ‘neutral site,'” the NBC 12 News Virginia reporter continued. “So, the NCAA said the Hokies would be fined if they played their traditional ‘Enter Sandman’ entrance,” she added in the tweet. “So yes, the song was banned for this instance but not for usual home games.”
And Virginia Tech has also carried “Enter Sandman” over to another college activity as well – graduation. As new classes of Virginia Tech grads leave the school, they’ve been treated to one last jump around to “Enter Sandman” before bidding adieu to their alma mater. Check out videos from the classes of 2015 and 2017 below.
Virginia Tech Class of 2015 Graduates to “Enter Sandman”
Virginia Tech Class of 2017 Graduates to “Enter Sandman”
Virginia Tech will fire up Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” again this weekend, as the Hokies play host to Old Dominion on Saturday (Sept. 2) at 5PM ET.
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