By Lindsay Cash
In the fall of 1909, Baylor alumni received a surprising invitation from their alma mater. A postcard signed by three professors asked the graduates to return to campus to “renew former associations and friendships, and catch the Baylor spirit again.” With that postcard, Baylor Homecoming was born.
Dating back to 1909, Baylor’s homecoming is the oldest of such traditions in collegiate history.
A few highlights of homecoming weekend festivities include: the Friday night pep rally and bonfire, football game, parade, Pigskin Revue and the queen and her court.
Homecoming chair and Abilene junior Zach Sartor began planning for homecoming 2011, scheduled for Nov. 4-5, a year in advance to create something for everyone who attends.
“Everyone has a place in homecoming,” Sartor said. “The freshmen build the bonfire, the alumni rekindle at Fountain Mall and there are tours for prospective students. My favorite part of homecoming is seeing 20,000 people gathered in Fountain Mall.”
Senior linebacker Elliot Coffey from Sugar Land has played in four homecoming football games at Baylor. Coffey said he cherishes the pride and support of former teammates and the student body during this particular weekend.
“The most exciting part of being at the rally is seeing my former teammates. They’re familiar faces – it’s like they never even left,” Coffey said. “At the rally on Friday night, I’ve got every person in Baylor nation before me – even freshman are a part of homecoming like the next person who was here 30 years ago.”
Head football coach Art Briles said he appreciates his team’s opportunity to be involved in the Friday night rally. “It surely makes the team inspired and proud to be a part of Baylor tradition,” Briles said.
The parade floats make their way down Fifth Street in extravagant fashion Saturday morning prior to the football game. Student athletes, campus clubs and Greek life build floats in the theme of crushing the opponent for the football game. Believed to be the largest in the nation, the parade is a spectacle and a custom that incoming freshmen are sure to remember.
Boerne freshman Spirit Squad member Meagan Mahaffey said she takes pride in participating in the homecoming parade.
“It’s as close to the Macy’s [Thanksgiving] Day Parade I could get. I’ve been to other major university homecomings, and they are nothing compared to Baylor’s,” Mahaffey said. “It really is a tradition that keeps the Baylor student body unique and involved.”
Football in Texas is well known, but at Baylor homecoming, it’s the centerpiece for the celebration.
Each year, the team carries the weight of the Baylor tradition on its shoulders with the support of alumni, friends and fans.
During halftime of the Homecoming game, the queen, who is selected by three Baylor Chamber of Commerce judges, is crowned.
Pigskin, the second-largest off-Broadway production in the nation, is hosted in Waco Hall each homecoming. The top eight acts from All-University Sing, hosted in the spring, perform for returning alumni and current students. Pigskin provides a relaxing atmosphere of Saturday night entertainment.
“I feel nostalgia for my memory as a student experiencing homecoming, and connectedness to the university as an alumnus,” said Keith Frazee, head of Student Activities.
Orlando, Fla., junior Clare Berlinsky, a member of the Student Productions committee, said Pigskin gives students an opportunity to be deeply involved in Baylor tradition.
“Every year that students get to participate in Pigskin is an opportunity for them to show parents and alumni that we as Baylor students continue to treasure the university traditions,” Berlinsky said. “It allows alumni to relive their memories, and us as students to make our own.”