MU's claim to crown of first homecoming contested

Wednesday, September 28, 2011 | 5:41 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Thousands of spirit-filled students and reminiscing alumni will descend on Missouri in two weeks to celebrate the 100th anniversary of what many consider the first collegiate homecoming.

There's just one problem, or maybe two.

Illinois already had its centennial homecoming celebration last year, having started its annual alumni event in 1910. And Baylor held its first homecoming in 1909, though it would take six years for the event's return and several more decades for the more-common moniker to take hold after an earlier incarnation as "Good Will Week."

Other schools such as Indiana, Michigan and Northern Illinois held homecoming-like events even earlier but without the traditional football game, bonfires, parades and other hallmarks of modern-day homecoming. When it comes to college football rivalries, none is older than Harvard-Yale and its 1875 origin. But Harvard's first homecoming didn't happen until 2009.

Faithful Tigers have spent decades claiming former Missouri football coach and athletic director Chester Brewer's invitation for graduates to "come home" was the start of the tradition. School leaders know better — and are now more vocal in dispelling a well-worn myth whose adherents included Brewer himself.

"We try to be a little more careful about it," said Missouri Alumni Association executive director Todd McCubbin, whose organization used to promote the school's homecoming as "the first and finest."

The Oct. 15 game versus Iowa State, preceded by a week's worth of activities, is now simply the school's centennial celebration.

"Certainly, our graduates feel like we're the first," he said. "Sometimes perception is reality."

In 2005, university archivists at Illinois attempted to get to the bottom of the historical uncertainty. Their conclusion: "At the very least, Illinois can claim to have had the longest tradition called 'homecoming' and to have self-consciously created the event with the intention of it being a precedent that would be adopted by other institutions."

"Baylor probably had the first homecoming," said Ellen Swain, the school's archivist for student life and culture. "Of course, there could have been a school in Florida somewhere that we don't know about."

As for Missouri's claim?

"We were so surprised to hear that," Swain said. "It was pretty clear that they weren't the first."

Students and alumni in Urbana-Champaign, where No. 24 Illinois (4-0) faces Big Ten rival Northwestern (2-1) in Saturday's homecoming game, were disappointed about the archivists' findings but accepted their conclusion, Swain said.

In Waco, the 1909 celebration convened over Thanksgiving weekend included class reunions, a parade, a band concert and an "old-time soiree," according to an online school history. The university makes no claims to have been the first, going only as far as noting that "few were as early as Baylor's."

"We don't say it's the oldest homecoming," said Baylor senior Zach Sartor, a chemistry major from Abilene who leads its homecoming committee. "We hang our hat on having the oldest and largest collegiate parade in the nation."

Settling the debate on the football field would seem to be an obvious solution, though Illinois chose not to renew what had been an annual season-opening game against Missouri in St. Louis after four consecutive losses. Sartor, however, noted that No. 15 Baylor hosts Missouri as its homecoming opponent on Nov. 5.

"That's a great storyline, huh?" he said.

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Ellis Smith September 29, 2011 | 7:50 a.m.

1- If Baylor University held the first homecoming it's probably the case that homecoming events didn't include a dance. Southern Baptists seriously frowned on dancing.

2- "Good Will Week"? Is that where you bring all of your unwanted clothing and furniture to the football stadium, where it is picked up by Good Will? :)

3- Parades are always nice. One University of Missouri System campus has had more than 100 consecutive annual parades, but the event to which those parades are attached is not homecoming.

(Report Comment)
Rainee Sinroll October 7, 2011 | 7:31 a.m.

God I hate this "reporter" more than I hate Kansas.Why would this paper use such a hack with an obvious agenda?

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire October 7, 2011 | 9:33 a.m.

I feel the need to momentarily pretend this is somehow important. By following the implied connotation of the above ranter I discover that it is more important to have several groups of people presenting conflicting claims of history supported by their bloated egos rather than to have the same people actually knowing any actual facts regarding a situation.

One of the leading things that I dislike about Missouri is that it is so much like Kansas.

(Report Comment)
Rainee Sinroll October 7, 2011 | 1:28 p.m.

@Paul-really couldn't give a crap if this is factual reporting in this instance.It has more to do with this particual reporter and his constant negative slant toward Mizzou.How is that impartial or for that matter journalism?To assume that ONE institution could always be in the wrong or needing their "bloated egos" deflated is in and of itself highly narcissistic. Thanks so much for taking time out of your amazingly superior life to comment. It has changed my life.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire October 7, 2011 | 2:27 p.m.

"@Paul-really couldn't give a crap if this is factual reporting in this instance."

That much was apparent. I'm glad that you came right out and said that. It saved me so much argument.

I've read some children's educational textbooks where the south didn't lose the civil war. I'm supposing at this point that you would have someone chide the author for not including the amazing history of Santa Claus in the same volume.

Would you expect the author to behave differently if he were writing for the newspaper of another institution? Is the purpose of a good newspaper not to look behind that which appears to be obvious? I don't recall reading much of anything written by the individual in question, but do you believe that there would be a purpose in his attempts to revise history at any other institution than the one he is reporting on? What makes a reporter a reporter?

(Report Comment)
mike mentor October 7, 2011 | 2:29 p.m.

Sounds to me like we coined the term Homecoming thus we have the first Homecoming. Baylor has the first good will week. Good for them. The reporter failed to explain where the "more common moniker" that Baylor and others started using, Homecoming, originated from. This is actually the heart of the matter. Guess agenda takes precedent over facts. Whoever coined the term certainly has the right to claim they were first. Because others copied the name from the original doesn't mean that their fall activities can retractively claim to be the first Homecoming.

as the kids say these days...
Epic Fail !

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire October 7, 2011 | 2:47 p.m.

Read it for yourselves. It is fairly like the article. But as a bonus you are able to participate and encouraged to do so.

Why does everything have to be an "us vs them?" Why cannot we study the history of this event just for the sake of studying the history of the event? From what I can gather this is something that came about due to the visions of several people in several locations over several years and could be of interest to anyone regardless of where or whether the person plans to attend school.

(Report Comment)

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