Building Community through Shared History - A KU Memorial Union Program

The First Homecoming

1912kumuThe alumni were all invited back for today's first Homecoming at the University.  The Jayhawk football team met Missouri on the gridiron of McCook Field and defeated the Tigers 12-3.






The KU Alumni Association's website, contains the following additional information:

On November 23, 1912, KU played its first Homecoming football game against well-established rivals the Missouri Tigers. At a bonfire in front of Fraser Hall the Friday before the game, the ceremonial burning of a wooden tiger riled KU students and the next day, in front of 9,000 cheering fans, the Jayhawks defeated Missouri 12-3. For years, it was custom to play Missouri for every other Homecoming game.

In 1925, the first Homecoming Queen was crowned at KU, but the ceremony did not become tradition until 1933. A new queen was crowned each year until 1969, when anti-war demonstrations and stormy race relations led to the committee’s decision that it was “more appropriate to recognize those who embody the academic spirit for which this community was established.” The Ex.C.E.L. Award now recognizes two students with outstanding leadership, involvement and academics. Two more awards have since been created: the Spirit of 1912 Award honors KU graduates for lifelong commitment to the University; and the Jennifer Alderdice Homecoming Award recognizes current students who demonstrate outstanding loyalty and dedication.

In 1956 KU introduced Homecoming themes. The first official theme was “Songs of Victory.” At the time, the theme was incorporated into lawn decorations created by fraternities, sororities and residence halls. Today, the theme provides a basis for Homecoming Week celebrations and guides the week’s events.

Nearly a century after the first game, some traditions and events remain while others have become Homecoming lore. Hobo Day was an integral part of celebrations in the 1920s, complete with costumes, pep rallies and street theatre. A student talent show called Jayhawk Follies has evolved into today’s Jayhawk Jingles. The 1971 game against Kansas State unveiled a second KU mascot when Baby Jay hatched during halftime. Today, students spend Homecoming Week participating in campus activities that build spirit and benefit the Lawrence community. By Saturday, they are ready to showcase their floats in the annual parade down Jayhawk Boulevard and cheer the Jayhawks to another Homecoming victory.

The KU Alumni Association serves as the primary host of the Steering Committee with the vital support of the entire KU campus and Lawrence community. The HSC currently consists of 10 students and two advisers from the KU Alumni Association.

Homecoming Fun Facts

Here are some fun facts about Homecoming through the years.

  • Leon Flint, KU journalism professor, pitched the idea of Homecoming as a way to entertain alumni.

  • 1921: first Homecoming parade

  • 1929: first flying Homecoming with an airship of flying Jayhawks

  • 1941: Dandelion Day was introduced as part of Homecoming. Students and faculty formed teams to see who could pick the most dandelions. This tradition ended in 1949 when the University started spraying weeds.

  • 1971: 13 pranksters drove to Manhattan to change the 100-foot high KSU letters to spell KU — a three-hour project in honor of Homecoming. They also wrote “Go Big Blue” on the road from the turnpike to the stadium and dropped 150 pairs of red and blue underwear from an airplane onto the K-State campus.

  • 1972: first KU Alumni Band performance

  • 1973: Sonny and Cher performed on campus

  • 1976: students had a window-painting contest downtown with businesses willing to pay $10 to participate.

  • It was suggested in 1977 that students be let out of class early for a TGIH (Thank God It’s Homecoming) pep rally, keg party and dance at Potter Lake.

  • 1977: Beach Boys performed on campus

  • Living groups decorated their own front lawns for Homecoming until 1978. Due to the oil embargo, the vote was to move back to a parade with floats.

  • Homecoming pep rallies used to be held in front of Strong Hall during classes. Each class was shortened by five minutes to allow time for a 15-minute rally the Friday before the Homecoming game.

  • 1991: The parade moved to Jayhawk Boulevard.

  • 1993: The Homecoming parade ended with the rededication of the Union, marking the end of a six-year, $11.5 million renovation. During the ceremony, a time capsule was placed behind the 1993 cornerstone. It contains a copy of the University’s new non-smoking policy and the “secret recipe” for Joe’s Bakery, among a few other items, and will be reopened in 2050.

  • 1996: The first year parade floats were judged in three different categories: moving parts, non-moving parts and decorated vehicle.

  • 1997: Budig Hall was dedicated during Homecoming week. Dignitaries in attendance included Chancellor Robert Hemenway, Governor Bill Graves and former Chancellor Gene Budig.

  • 2001: The parade’s route was changed to begin at the Kansas Union and end at Allen Fieldhouse, and floats were left on the AFH lawn so Late Night in the Phog attendees could see them.

  • 2006: KU welcomed comedian and actress Kathy Griffin to the Lied Center for a Homecoming week performance.

  • 2008: The Ambler Student Recreation Center was dedicated during Homecoming week, and David Ambler, the rec center’s namesake, served as the parade’s Grand Marshal.

  • 2013: The Homecoming parade moved back to downtown Lawrence and was held on Thursday night. Jayhawks and zombies peacefully co-existed on Massachusetts Street, as the annual Lawrence Zombie Walk was scheduled for the same evening.

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