The History of Homecoming

Liana Whitehead

Liana Whitehead

As the smoldering heat and lengthy summer days fade, fall slowly takes its seasonal place. Our tank tops and flip-flops are set aside as we throw on our Fresno State hoodies and boots, without any reluctance.

This time of year, rural towns and bustling cities alike are preparing for an age-old event: homecoming.

On Saturday, Fresnans will wear their Bulldog spirit on their sleeves as Fresno State battles San Diego State on the green.

The origin of our football-centered celebrations is still in debate. While universities – two of which include Missouri (or “Mizzou”) and Illinois – still vie for the title of homecoming initiator, the rest of us are simply happy for the 100-year-old tradition.

Some of the nation’s most timeless coming home traditions still exist today. These include the crowning of a king and queen (which started in the 1930s) and the “party in the parking lot,” which developed into the community tailgate – even those without game tickets attend.

In the start of the 20th century, American football needed fundamental changing. With 18 game-related deaths in 1910, and a foreclosure threat from President Theodore Roosevelt, the sport was in severe need of modifications.

Throughout football’s reconstruction, colleges across the United States declared the sport the center of their hometown gatherings, and many American traditions, at that.

The result? Modern-day homecoming festivities.

The University of Missouri’s version of homecoming was held around 1910, during the “Border Wars” between Missouri and Kansas.

Because of the tension between the two states, competitive football games were held in neutral domains, such as campus football fields, according to Mizzou.

The university’s director of athletics, Chester Brewer, saw an opportunity for more excitement and hometown patriotism. In 1911, Brewer invited Mizzou alumni to “come home” for the game. Its festivities included a parade and, of course, football.

As the story goes in Illinois, two university seniors brought its first homecoming game to life. On that notorious night, the student body and faculty were part of a game-changing experience.

The celebration needed an additional 5,000 seats in order to seat the entire crowd – 12,000 alumni alone were present. Illinois won their first homecoming game, setting the stage for years to come.

Although our homecoming parade “virtually died out in the 1960s,” according to the Fresno Bee, other traditions have not. Fresno State’s homecoming schedule remains full and diverse with a theme for each day.

Friday is reserved for honor alumni who have “distinguished themselves in their careers and service,” according to Fresno State News.

Saturday is dedicated to the “Golden Grads” of 1962 at the Smittcamp Alumni House, which commenced construction during homecoming weekend of 1998.

The parent-alumni weekend tailgate and the Bulldog’s fight for victory against San Diego State also fall on Saturday.

Sunday, for those who are awake, the university is holding a breakfast presented by the Fresno State Alumni and Parents Associations.

As the Bulldog’s homecoming weekend approaches, we will slap on our red and blue, affix a foam finger to our hand and cross our fingers – we just might make some history of our own.

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