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Virginia Athletics emcee Jamar Hicks is all about the students

Hicks keeps the energy high at Virginia sporting events with a blend of engaging promotions and impeccable style

<p>Hicks interviews a contestant during a halftime event at John Paul Jones Arena.</p>

Hicks interviews a contestant during a halftime event at John Paul Jones Arena.

Virginia Athletics emcee Jamar Hicks has become a staple at sporting events in Charlottesville over the past few years. Hicks is easily recognized at Scott Stadium and John Paul Jones Arena by his enthusiastic announcer’s voice and bright orange pants, and thanks to him, students and fans alike can expect to be thoroughly entertained throughout their gameday experience. While every Virginia men’s basketball and football game is played alongside Hicks’ booming voice, sometimes the most difficult moments on the court or the field are when Hicks shines brightest.

One such moment happened Feb. 24, when the situation was dire in the student section of JPJ. After dedicated students had camped out in the rain for most of a dreary Saturday just to get a spot in the student section, Virginia men’s basketball was falling behind a North Carolina squad that simply outmatched them. The frustration among die-hard Cavalier fans — built up over the course of a lackluster season — was palpable. With energy and enthusiasm waning, it was hard not to think about making an early break for the exits and attempting to salvage the weekend.

“It felt like the students had a hard time convincing themselves that we ever had a chance in the game,” fourth-year College student Quentin Benz said. “I can’t really blame them after what the previous few games had held.”

Then, something remarkable happened to lift the morale of every Cavaliers fan in attendance. Virginia’s dance team, performing the “Cupid Shuffle” during a break in the game, split down the middle to pave the way for a special guest — Jamar Hicks, emcee for Virginia Athletics. In a departure from his patented orange gameday outfits, Hicks was adorned with a cowboy hat, large belt buckle, cowboy boots and the trademark smile of a showman at work.

“The atmosphere completely shifted, at least with me and my friends,” Benz said. “We were ecstatic to see a familiar face.”

Hicks proceeded to tear up the court to the surprise and delight of the student section and fans at large. After a rousing routine choreographed by members of the Virginia Dance Team, Hicks pumped up the crowd before dropping into a full split to cap off the electric moment. Though the routine failed to inspire a comeback effort on the court, Virginia students and fans’ spirits were undoubtedly renewed. 

“When he jumped and did a full split, I vividly remember jumping and screaming louder than any other point during the game,” Benz said. “Which is partially sad but also shows the energy that Jamar has the ability to inject into the crowd.”

Win or lose, Hicks makes sure fans get their money’s worth by providing the best gameday presentation he can offer — even if it comes at the cost of a sore hamstring. 

“I actually received a lot of text messages and feedback from people that they really enjoyed that because it was different,” Hicks said. “But I commend the dance team. They are some talented people … that split was not easy.”

While a full split is not something Hicks can promise to Virginia fans on a regular basis, he brings the same smile and enthusiasm to address the crowd at all men’s basketball and football games. Hicks also appears with a microphone in hand to host major matchups for women’s basketball, baseball and volleyball. 

Fans know Hicks best for his ability to rally the crowd and oversee riveting interactive promotions during breaks in play. Those promotions include the Harris Teeter Shooting Challenge, when two students compete to make layups on the court at JPJ and subsequently sprint back to half court to place Harris Teeter items in grocery carts, and the Papa John’s Delivery of the Game, when cheerleaders hand out free pizza to a random section of fans.

“When it comes to promotions, they’re all different,” Hicks said. “But I like to do … promotions where the crowd can always help you out. Because I always want all the students to be a winner.”

Hicks — a Chesterfield, Va. native — got his start working sporting events at his alma mater, Liberty University, to fulfill a service requirement while studying communications. Though he currently holds a full-time position auditing hotels and resorts, he has extensive sports broadcasting and public address experience. Hicks’ resume includes stints hosting games at American University, University of Maryland, University of Denver and University of Washington. However, his talent on the microphone extends beyond the world of sports.

“I've been … public address announcing, emceeing, hosting games [and] stuff like that since college,” Hicks said. “It opened up a lot of doors, really, because I also emcee weddings, corporate parties … and it all just started from an internship — or really community service — in college.”

Since joining Virginia Athletics in 2019 to co-emcee football games, Hicks has become the voice and face of marquee athletic events for the Cavaliers in an ever-expanding role. In addition to regular gameday responsibilities, Hicks hosts the annual football awards banquet and plays an active role in “Paint The Town Orange” Pep Rally Friday nights before football games. 

“The one I probably enjoy the most is when all of the first-years get to come in for their orientation week,” Hicks said. “We teach them the fight song, they get to meet the coaches … so that's really good.”

Hicks’ passionate care for Virginia students from the moment they step on Grounds is felt and reciprocated by many.

“I love his enthusiasm, he always has the best energy and the biggest smile no matter the occasion,” fourth-year Engineering student Rebecca Dollahite said. “He genuinely just seems to love what he does and it’s infectious.”

Hicks has seen the community embrace him as a result of his growing stature at Virginia athletic events. Adults, students and especially children take time to ask for pictures — or request prizes — in restaurants, grocery stores and even in airports across the country.

“It's really humbling because I'm just Jamar,” Hicks said. 

While off-Grounds fan interactions are a welcomed part of the job for Hicks, ultimately, connecting with Virginia students is what keeps him coming back year after year.

“The reason I do this and enjoy this the most are the students I've connected with,” Hicks said. “I really do this for them. Like I remember being a student in college, the energy, the fun, all that stuff that happened at all our games. To see … how I can impact them during a game experience or get them on the field or let all their friends see them on the big screen is really why I do it.”

While the basketball season has ended, Hicks will still be around at Disharoon Park for baseball games this spring, and he shared a few ideas on how he would like to further improve Cavalier fans’ experiences by getting students even more engaged — from battling in hamster balls to joining Virginia cheerleaders and dancers in a soul train line. He also shared his desire to host games for more sports going forward, including men’s and women’s lacrosse. There’s little doubt these ideas would be big hits among fans of Virginia’s spring sports, but no matter what Hicks comes up with in the future, he would be a welcome addition wherever he brings his microphone next.


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