NIU looks back on history of Homecoming traditions

By Thomas Owens

The heritage of NIU’s Homecoming goes back almost a century and has some interesting stories to tell.

Homecoming’s beginnings go back approximately to 1900 when it was merely called “The Alumni Association”. The job of the Association was to greet the old graduates of Illinois State Normal School (NIU’s name at the time).

The alumni would then attend meetings, receptions, a football game and a banquet. Originally the football games were between alumni and the students, however, this later stopped because of the physical condition of the alumni.

The event was officially named “Homecoming” in 1906 and the date was set as the second Saturday in October.

In 1923 it was considered a crime if you weren’t involved in Homecoming, and you were blacklisted if you weren’t hoarse after the game. These attitudes began to change around 1960.

In 1931 the “Norther” yearbook contained a recipe for “Homecoming Melange”. The recipe included the ingredients “three November days, pep meeting, one alumni reception, football game flavor Normal.”

A Homecoming parade was initiated in the 1920’s which went through campus and town. The tradition of the parade ceased in the 1970’s.

In 1947 the first Homecoming queen was chosen. For the next three years she ruled alone until a king was elected in 1950.

The year 1950 was the first time students ran Homecoming. Before this time the event was planned by the faculty and the Alumni association. The 1950’s also witnessed Northern Illinois State College becoming a university by an act of Illinois state legislature.

In 1964 the theme for the Homecoming was “Gone with the Wind” and the campus was transformed into antebellum grandeur. That year NIU beat Eastern, 35-14.

In 1970 NIU witnessed a controversy when student Larry Bloom tried to run for Homecoming queen. Bloom took the queen walk wearing a Burger King crown throwing roses to the people present. He only became an honorary queen however.

In 1979 the University Homecoming Committee voted to keep the gender of Homecoming kings male and queens female.

In 1984 the NIU fraternities and sororities almost boycotted Homecoming due to disagreements of funding and feelings that they were being treated unfairly by NIU. This boycott was after a fight which occurred between fraternity members and football players.

In 1986 the Huskies played Miami Ohio and lost 20-0. Players on the opposing team included future NFL players. These players were Vinny Testeverde, Michael Irvin, Winston Moss, Jerome Brown and Benne Blades.

In 1991 the Thursday before Homecoming game, a fish bowl of condoms was stolen from the Wellness Center of the Holmes Student Center. The thief reportedly said to the person working behind the counter “I’m going to take the whole thing, OK?”

Some of the entertainment of the past Homecomings included, the Smothers Brothers, the Four Lads, Sergio Mendez, The Vogues, Stevie Wonder, Steppenwolf and Roberta Flack.