COLUMBIA — Watching the home team earn a victory on Homecoming weekend is an unwritten expectation at many schools. In front of thousands of alumni returning to MU for the weekend, however, the Missouri football team's performance Saturday was less than inspiring.
In the Tigers' game against Texas, the Longhorns raced to an early lead on their way to an easy 41-7 win. Most fans familiar with the college football landscape probably weren't surprised by the performance of undefeated Texas, which is ranked No. 3 nationally this week.
So why would Missouri schedule Homecoming for the weekend the Tigers play Texas?
"Believe me, I've answered that question a couple times this fall," said Todd McCubbin, executive director of the Mizzou Alumni Association.
The Mizzou Alumni Association chooses the date for Homecoming several years in advance. Carrie Bien, the association's coordinator of student programs, said there usually aren't many choices available that will work for Homecoming.
"We base it completely on date and not opponent," she said. "It has to be in October. (By November) the weather's too cold at that point."
The temperature was 56 degrees for kickoff of the Texas game, despite the fact it was played at night. It was the largest crowd of the season so far for Missouri.
In 2006, the circumstances were very different. Kansas State was the Homecoming opponent, and the Tigers won 41-21 on a chilly, cloudy Oct. 21. Much of the second half was played in a steady rain.
That game attracted the largest crowd of the season anyway.
It didn't seem to matter that the weather was lousy, or that a ranked Oklahoma team was coming to town the following week. It was Homecoming, and people showed up.
Which makes a game against 0-3 Baylor on Nov. 7, even if the weather isn't ideal, seem like a better pick for this year's Homecoming. But if weather is a concern, what about a game in September?
That would present a planning concern, Bien said. Students spend weeks in advance of Homecoming building floats, decorating businesses and organizing service projects.
"It would give them too few weeks to get that started," she said. The Alumni Association discusses the date with the athletic department, but "they allow us to make that decision."
McCubbin said the options for Homecoming were limited this year.
"Traditionally, we look at the last three weekends in October," he said. "This year, we really only had one game that was scheduled in that period. We were kind of pigeonholed."
Still, other schools have allowed a bigger window for planning Homecoming. Kansas' 2007 Homecoming game against Nebraska was Nov. 3.
McCubbin acknowledged other drawbacks to choosing an opponent like Texas for Homecoming when a less popular program is next up on the Tigers' schedule. The Texas game sold out weeks in advance, and McCubbin knows some alumni were left out.
"I'm more interested in ticket accessibility," he said. "There were some people this year that were upset."
McCubbin said the Alumni Association will choose a home game less likely to sell out if there are more than one in late October. For 2011, the Homecoming game will be Oct. 15 against Texas A&M instead of Oct. 29 against Nebraska.
"Nebraska traditionally sells well," he said. "I think that's where the opponent comes into it."
Missouri will face several good teams on Homecoming weekend in the near future. In the next five years, three of Missouri's Homecoming games will be against either Oklahoma or Texas, two programs the Tigers haven't beaten in this decade.
"Next year, we have a similar situation," McCubbin said. Missouri plays Colorado Oct. 9. "We went with the Oct. 23 game even though it's Oklahoma."
Homecoming festivities extend far beyond Faurot Field and the football game. But it seems like some of the appeal of Homecoming for alumni is drained when they see their Tigers down 21-0 in the first quarter, overmatched by a team considered one of the nation's best.
"There's not a perfect way to do it," McCubbin said.
Still, this year, it would have been nice to see Missouri football in a more favorable position when alumni returned. In the future, taking a chance on chilly weather might be worthwhile to let more visiting graduates see the game, and to give everybody a better chance to see Missouri win and remember the trip the way they'd like.