Chester Brewer had a dilemma. As the new director of MU athletics, he had to relocate the annual game against the rival KU Jayhawks. Before 1911, the game was played in Kansas City. New regulations required all intercollegiate football games to be played on college campuses. Brewer wanted to bring some more excitement to the upcoming home game. He began to send out invitations to MU alumni, asking them to "come home."
When game day arrived Nov. 25, the campus surged with MU and KU supporters. Hotels crammed six people into rooms, and Brewer hosted at least 10 alumni in his own home. Fans wore tailored suits and dresses, adorned with fresh yellow mums. More than 9,000 fans filled the bleachers at Rollins Field, now Stankowski, to watch the game.
The next day, the Columbia Missourian read, “It seemed as if all the beauty and all the wealth of two states had congregated in Columbia.”
MU can brag about Homecoming now, but this title wasn’t earned immediately. In 1918, Homecoming was cancelled due to an influenza outbreak on campus. During the 1926 Homecoming, the dedication of the new Memorial Tower honored MU soldiers who lost their lives in World War I. That year also marked the first Homecoming game in the larger Memorial Stadium.
Homecoming grew into a community event with the introduction of house decorations for sororities and fraternities in the 1930s.
With the beloved Don Faurot coaching the Tigers, football games attracted some of the largest crowds Memorial Stadium would ever see. In the 1956 Homecoming game, his players carried him off the field after winning his last game as head coach. The playing field at Memorial Stadium was renamed Faurot Field in 1972 to honor his achievements.
Other changes in the 1970s included increased focus on service projects and social change. Parade floats had themes centered on peace efforts. In 1971, Jill Young Menears was elected as the first black Homecoming Queen. And MU’s Homecoming blood drive, first held in 1985, is now one of the largest in the nation.
Recent milestones — such as the award from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education for having a model Homecoming, and the record-breaking College Game Day attendance last year — have cemented Homecoming as a treasured tradition. Although many claim the invention of the event, the NCAA, Jeopardy! and Trivial Pursuit all recognize MU as the originator.
The definition of Homecoming has changed for MU over the years. Yellow mums have been traded out for tiger tails. But even with changing traditions, MU’s Homecoming has kept its place at the top. The spirit behind this year’s centennial celebrations will be as fervent as that of Chester Brewer and his first group of homecomers.