December 20, 2011 — The tens of thousands of University of Virginia football fans headed to Atlanta to cheer on the Cavaliers in the Chick-fil-A Bowl should find plenty of opportunities to connect with fellow Wahoos before the New Year's Eve game.
In addition to the official bowl-sponsored events, the University has put together its own lineup of gatherings, including a "Wahoo Welcome" on Dec. 30; a chance on Dec. 31 to hear from – and question – University President Teresa A. Sullivan, Dean of Admission Gregory Roberts and many of U.Va.'s top academic leaders; and the "Cavalier Countdown Tailgate" just before the game against Auburn University.
"One of the most important aspects of the University of Virginia community is its support for both academics and athletics," said Elizabeth Muse, U.Va.'s director of alumni and parent engagement, who organized the events in cooperation with the Office of Major Events and U.Va. athletics and bowl officials.
The early response to the offerings has been "fantastic," she said. "We can count on U.Va. fans and alumni to come out to support these events."
Friday's "Wahoo Welcome," scheduled for 9 p.m. to midnight at STATS Restaurant and Bar in downtown Atlanta, will be a family-friendly event, with the $15 per person ($20 at the door) admission covering light appetizers (until 11 p.m.) and one beverage. Between 500 and 1,000 Cavalier fans are expected to show up, said Pam Higgins, director of major events.
Saturday morning will bring back-to-back, one-hour panel discussions with academic leaders, to be held at the official U.Va. hotel, the Atlanta Marriott Marquis. Admission is free to both programs.
At 9 a.m., Sullivan will be joined by Michael Strine, executive vice president and chief operating officer; John Simon, executive vice president and provost; and Craig Littlepage, director of athletics, to discuss "U.Va.'s Future."
At 10, Roberts will be joined by four deans: James Aylor (School of Engineering and Applied Science), Billy Cannaday (School of Continuing and Professional Studies), Dorrie Fontaine (School of Nursing) and Meredith Jung-En Woo (College of Arts & Sciences). They will highlight new developments in their schools, and Roberts will discuss the ins and outs of the admission process.
Vice Provost J. Milton Adams will moderate both discussions.
The Cavalier Countdown Tailgate runs from 3:30 p.m. to game time in the Thomas B. Murphy Ballroom in the World Congress Center, Building B, virtually in the shadow of the Georgia Dome. Admission ($35 for adults, $15 for ages 12 and under) includes food, one drink, DJ and cash bar.
The game kicks off at 6:30 p.m. If you can't be at the Georgia Dome, you can watch the nationwide broadcast on ESPN; several UVaClubs are hosting viewing parties.
(For even more information about the game, visit the U.Va. Bowl Central website.)
Preparations for the events surrounding the game began almost instantly after the bowl invitation was issued Dec. 4. An advance team gathered that evening at the Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport, ready to fly to U.Va.'s bowl destination to scout out the stadium and team hotels, Higgins said.
"Until we got to the airport, we didn't know where we were going," Higgins said. "We thought we were going to Nashville" – site of the Music City Bowl, which had been U.Va.'s rumored destination before the bowl bids were announced. The Cavs had played there in 2005.
Instead, the plane headed southwest to Atlanta, also a familiar city. U.Va. participated in the Peach Bowl there in 1984, 1995 and 1998.
The "official" U.Va. hotel, the Atlanta Marriott Marquis, was also the host hotel for the 1998 game. It has since undergone a $140 million renovation, Higgins said.
Since her return, Higgins has been busy making travel arrangements for the Board of Visitors, U.Va. administrators and several deans, she said. The preparations have been a contrast to the quiet following the past three football seasons, when the Cavaliers failed to reach a bowl game.
Though the sudden busy-ness coincides with the holiday season, Higgins said she doesn’t mind a bit.
"That's OK," she said. "It's fun!"