According to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the first game of college football was played on Nov. 6, 1869 by Rutgers and Princeton University, which was also 23 years before professional football made its debut. While the first homecoming football game is under question, according to Active.com, the NCAA sanctioned the Nov. 25, 1911 University of Missouri vs. Kansas as the first ever homecoming game.
Eight years later in 1919, Albion College had their first homecoming game, and ever since, Albion College has had a football game to commemorate their homecoming celebrations. This was also the year the Albion College community voted to change their school colors from pink and green to purple and gold.
Homecoming at Albion has changed over the years. In years past, floats were created by the fraternities, and sometimes sororities, on campus and presented in a downtown homecoming parade. The homecoming queen was also given a ride in the parade.
“My junior year the parade got dumped, because we’d spend three nights making these,” said Jim Whitehouse,’69. “Eventually we got tired of it.”
Before the games, the fraternities would build door decorations based on who the football team was playing against as well. They were centered in front of the old fraternity houses, and could be up to two stories high.
“They would be these elaborate decorations,” said Jim Whitehouse, ‘69, “Like a dragon, or the mouth of the big Tiki god, or something you’d have to walk through to get to the house.”
Another homecoming tradition from earlier years is centered around the men’s cross country team. Their race would start before kick off, and was usually spaced out enough to where by the time the football game reached half-time, the race would be concluding, with the men finishing at the 50-yard-line on the field.
“It was so cool, because everybody would be on their feet,” said Whitehouse. “Cheering, and yelling, and you don’t get that kind of crowd in cross country normally.”
The marching band has also become an integral part of homecoming football tradition. According to Halftime Magazine, the first halftime show was performed Oct. 19, 1907, by the University of Illinois band during their game against University of Chicago. The tradition took hold at homecomings across the country, including Albion.
“It was always a lot of fun for homecoming because alumni would come back and play with us,” said Elizabeth Palmer, ‘10. “Friends of mine that had graduated and also my sister, who is an alumnae, and we’re five years apart, so this was the first time we got to be in an ensemble together.”
Alumni classes were also awarded each year at halftime based on the highest percentage of money donated to the college that year.
“Our class was presented with the highest percentage of giving,” said Marsha Whitehouse ’70. “I had to walk out onto the field and accept what I assume was some form of plaque. That was quite an honor.”
Football has become a sport of American tradition, and attending football games has become a bonding activity for many. To those that enjoy it, it makes sense that the focal point of each homecoming would be an experience both alumni and current students can share in.
“Just sitting there, talking and cheering for the football team,” said Palmer. “Those are some of my favorite memories.”
Whitehouse also recalls how football reconnected him with an alumnus fraternity member Jim Pastor, who he became friends with and stayed in contact with even after graduation. After giving him a tour of the house, they walked to the game together.
“We sat together and we became friends,” said Whitehouse. “Long after I graduated, I would come to homecoming games and the first thing I’d do is see if I could find Jim Pastor, and I always did.”
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