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Behind the history of 'The Good Old Song'

Exploring the origins of the University’s most iconic tune

<p>Against William &amp; Mary, Virginia fans got to sing “The Good Old Song” eight times en route to the team’s 43-0 victory.</p>

Against William & Mary, Virginia fans got to sing “The Good Old Song” eight times en route to the team’s 43-0 victory.

Just under three minutes into Virginia football’s season opener against William & Mary, sophomore kicker Justin Duenkel was given the opportunity to score the first three-pointer of his college career and put the Cavaliers on the board. After a solid snap, Duenkel sent the pigskin straight between the posts — giving Virginia a 3-0 advantage against the Tribe. A sea of Cavalier fans dressed in orange erupted, shooting their hands into the air with glee. Excited, elated and electrified, their arms quickly fell around one another’s shoulders as a familiar tune echoed from the speakers — “The Good Old Song.”

Written 128 years ago, “The Good Old Song” is Virginia’s unofficial fight song. Fight songs are an older tradition within college sports in the United States, and they are used as ways for fans to unite with one another and cheer on their team in unison.

“The Good Old Song,” though not as notorious as Oklahoma’s “Boomer Sooner” or Notre Dame’s “Victory March,” is well-appreciated by Cavalier fans. It is sung to the tune of “Auld Lang Syne,” a popular song typically sung at farewell occasions such as graduations, funerals and on New Year’s Eve, and it’s performed by Virginia fans after every score at a home football game, as well as at other athletic and University events. Note that it is performed, not just sung — Virginia fans can be found with their arms around each other, swaying in unison as they echo the following lyrics.

“That good old song of

Wah-hoo-wa

We’ll sing it o’er and o’er

It cheers our hearts and

warms our blood

To hear them shout and roar.

We come from Old Virginia,

Where all is bright and gay.

Let’s all join hands and give a yell

For the dear old UVA.”

Once this part of the song concludes, a chant follows. Everyone drops their arms from their neighbor’s shoulders, and their right hand rises up in the air for a fast-paced recitation of the final words:

“Wah-hoo-wa,

Wah-hoo-wa.

Uni-v, Virginia,

Hoo-rah-ray,

Hoo-rah-ray

Ray! Ray! U-V-A!”

The late Edward H. Craighill Jr. is credited as the songwriter of the first part of “The Good Old Song,” but he once wrote that “no one man should be credited with the authorship” — admitting several students besides himself were involved in the process.

As for the “Wah-hoo-wa” chant — it was actually used by Cavalier fans before “The Good Old Song” was written, but its exact roots are uncertain. Some say that it was borrowed from Dartmouth College, while others attribute the chant to singer Natalie Floyd Otey. In 1893, Otey performed “Wher’er You Are, There Shall My Love Be” in front of a largely student audience at a Charlottesville music venue. According to legend, she mumbled the words “Where’er You Are,” and as students began to join her, those lyrics morphed into “Wah-hoo-wa.” After that, the word supposedly became known amongst the student body, and eventually became incorporated into the performance of “The Good Old Song.”

Students have also made some unfavorable additions to the lyrics of “The Good Old Song” over the years. Following the line “where all is bright and gay,” fans have been known to yell homophobic and non-sportsmanlike epithets — going directly against the intention of the song. This began in the 1970s when fans would shout “Not gay!” and, after student intervention decades later, transformed to “F—k Tech,” a profane dig against Virginia’s in-state foe Virginia Tech.

In 2019, the University made a valiant effort to curb this practice — to “Keep ‘The Good Old Song’ Good.” This video aired at football games throughout the season and has accumulated nearly 100,000 views to this day, but fans at Scott Stadium still do not hesitate to chant “F—k Tech” whenever they get the chance.

Alumni, students, faculty and other fans will all congregate at Scott Stadium this weekend as the Virginia football team faces its next test — the Homecomings game against Duke. Kickoff is set for 12:30 p.m. Saturday, and more likely than not, everyone will have the opportunity to perform “The Good Old Song” at least once throughout the ACC matchup. Now, as you join in on this long-standing University tradition this weekend, you’ll understand the history of it a bit better.


CORRECTION: This article previously incorrectly stated that the Cavalier Marching Band began to play “The Good Old Song" after the first score against the Tribe. It has been updated to reflect the fact that this song was played over the speakers at Scott Stadium, not by the Cavalier Marching Band.

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