Everything You Need to Know About the Homecoming Football Tradition

Levi Strauss & Co.
October 21, 2014

There’s no place like home. And nothing reminds us more of this fact than the great autumnal tradition of homecoming. For the last century, students and alumni have gathered together for one very special weekend to celebrate their alma mater with a spirited game, parade, pep rally and countless other events. There’s no better time to sport Game Day Dockers® — available for a whopping 44 schools this season — and proclaim your college allegiance loud and clear.

How Did it Start? (Answer: It depends who you ask)

The debate over which college initiated the first homecoming is hotly contested. University of Missouri is most often credited with hosting the original event in 1911. Prior to that, the match between the Missouri Tigers and their intense rivals, the Kansas Jayhawks, had always gone down on neutral turf. But when a regulation was passed that required schools to battle it out on their own college campuses, University of Missouri’s athletic director Chester Brewer came up with the idea to reinvigorate the enthusiasm for the rivalry by inviting alumni to “come home” for the game. And thus, homecoming came to be.

Many other schools also claim credit for originating the concept of homecoming, including Baylor University, Southwestern University and Northern Illinois University. And all of the schools that hosted the first generation of homecomings originated the key events that define the weekend.

Football, Floats and … Fires

The Homecoming Parade, led by a Grand Marshal (often an alumni of note), kicks off the festivities. The Homecoming Court, including King, Queen and other royalty, was initially elected by the student body based on the Parade float the Court would be riding on: with one famous exception. In 1926, Ohio State University elected Maudine Ormsby, a Holstein cow nominated by the OSU College of Agriculture, to hold the title of Homecoming Queen.

The Court plays a major role in the pep rally part of the event, which often includes their coronation, skits, and speeches from football players and coaches. The Florida Gators kick off homecoming with what is known to be the largest student-run pep rally in the world, titled the Gator Growl. The event includes pyrotechnics and professional comedy shows — Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno, and Bob Hope are just a few of the greats who have performed there.

Speaking of pyrotechnics, a homecoming rally often ends with another common component of the weekend — fire. Baylor claims one of the earliest instances of a homecoming fire, when 1909’s freshman class maintained overnight fires to safeguard the Baylor campus from the encroachment of rivals at Texas Christian University. But Dartmouth College’s bonfire on the Green predated Baylor’s, with a tradition that goes back to 1904 in which Ivy leaguers run circles around the bonfire a set number of times based on their graduation year.

A Game for Giving Back

At many schools homecoming is more than just a raging party — it’s a way to encourage students and alumni to give back. Missouri (yes, the same Missouri credited with hosting the original homecoming) today hosts a Homecoming Blood Drive. In 1999, they broke the Guinness world record for blood donations given in a single day. Other schools have since adopted this idea as a way to incorporate a philanthropic component into their homecoming festivities.

No matter what traditions your school has planned this October, homecoming is a time to connect with memories and old friends and take pride in your college. And you can be sure that nothing suits this glorious occasion better than a pair of Game Day Dockers.


Photo credit: Breezy Baldwin via FlickrCC