Homecoming traditions at NIU have changed over the years

By Juliana Leprich

NIU homecoming is a tradition that is over a century old.

Homecoming was first recorded in 1903 for the university, with NIU’s football team playing NIU alumni. At that point, however, NIU was not yet NIU, but the Northern Illinois State Normal School, according to Regional History Center archives.

Homecoming was made official in 1907, when it was added to NIU’s alumni association’s constitution, which states: “There shall be a social meeting of the alumni and guests, annually following the annual football game, on the evening of the second Saturday of October.” This followed the 1906 homecoming game.

“We have the oldest Division 1 homecoming observance in the state,” said Mike Korcek, former NIU sports information director.

This year marks NIU’s 105th homecoming and students, staff and faculty should be proud, Korcek said.

Since homecoming began, some things have changed. NIU stopped playing its alumni in the mid-1910s and began playing other colleges, and NIU’s colors were white and yellow, not red and black, according to the archives.

NIU’s first Homecoming Queen was elected in 1947 and the first Homecoming King was elected in 1950, according to the archives.

Today, many events carry over from year to year, like the powder-puff football game and the recycled boat race. Some traditions have not stood the test of time, however.

For example, residence halls could once elect candidates for homecoming court, a privilege now given only to groups and organizations.

“It seems like there were a lot more events that happened way back,” said Anne-Marie Oelschlager, archives assistant at Founders Memorial Library. “It seemed like there was more of a spirit around here. There was even a softball team from the library. There were also more dances during homecoming.”