That energy was evident Friday as UVA’s gameday deejay, DJ Ron Manila, cued up music through the booming stadium speakers and Scott Stadium gameday host Jamar Hicks led the crowd in several cheers.
Mendenhall, taking in the newest group of student fans packing the stands, told them they are an important part of the UVA program.
“We absolutely invite you, want you and need you to help us win the ACC championship,” Mendenhall said, to loud cheers. He noted that, over the past three years, UVA teams have an impressive 17-2 record in home games at Scott Stadium.
“We don’t expect you to know anything different here other than winning,” he said. “For that to happen, we expect you to be tired at the end of the game. We are going to be tired at the end of the game … The 4th Side, we want your effort, we want your support, we want your friendship and we promise to do the exact same thing for you.”
First-year student Jaiwen Davis, of Northern Virginia, was excited to see the school spirit on display.
“My [high] school did not have that much school spirit, so I kind of hope to find that here,” she said. “Obviously, there is a lot of school spirit already among the first-years.”
Her friend Dani Medhin agreed. “I am so excited to come to all the games,” she said. “A big reason why I chose UVA is because I love the school spirit here.”
Some students, like Will Hammer, were familiar with UVA football and grew up cheering for the team.
“I’m planning to come to every game I can,” he said, noting that he was excited to see players who might play in the NFL one day and, on Friday, “to meet new people and get immersed in the school spirit.”
Others, like first-year student Gabrielle Guido of San Francisco, were not very familiar with UVA’s sports teams, but were eager to get started.
“I really wanted to come tonight to get a good idea of the school spirit here and the community, and to meet new people,” she said. “I want to get more into football and represent my school.”
That’s exactly what Mendenhall was hoping for.
“Our program is family, first, last, always,” he told the students. “We can’t wait to see you at the opening game.”
The event concluded with fireworks and “The Good Old Song” – a familiar sound that felt even sweeter this year.
Check out more photos from the night.