Autumn is making an appearance here in Texas, which means football is front and center in everyone’s mind. For high school and college football fans alike, that means the annual Homecoming game and all that goes with it. At some schools though, it’s just a bigger deal and being the biggest and best is the American way. Everyone wants to be Homecoming King, right?
Well, two universities in the nation’s heartland are in a marketing war over who can claim the title. One of them is right here in our hometown of Waco, Texas and the other is a Big 12 Conference school one state to the north. That’s right, the two schools are Baylor University and Oklahoma State University. In doing some research the University of Missouri used to make the claim as America’s first Homecoming, but has been rebuffed by a couple of schools on that. They have since toned down their involvement in the Homecoming marketing war. Let’s take a look at each university’s homecoming to see which comes out on top.
Oklahoma State University
Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma is a public, land-grant institution of higher learning with the student population of 26,000. Often overshadowed by its in-state rival Oklahoma, the Cowboys proudly state they are “America’s brightest orange”. This is a clever positioning for the school combining their primary school color with the brightness of its students. The slogan is effective, even if not provable. On the Homecoming front, they have taken a similar approach and started using the tag line “America’s Greatest Homecoming” in 2008. Looking back, OSU’s Homecoming was first held in conjunction with a football game in 1920. It has grown over the years to include many activities including a parade, game, Walkaround, Harvest Carnival and chili cook-off, basketball kickoff and much more.
According to the OSU Alumni Association’s website the Homecoming event is a week-long celebration where tens of thousands of proud alumni return to Stillwater during the fall to partake in the festivities and reconnect with their alma mater. And, they claim it is “nationally recognized as America’s Greatest Homecoming Celebration”.
South a few hundred miles, the folks in green and gold at Baylor University see it a different way. In fact, when the University of Missouri said they were America’s oldest Homecoming it was Baylor who piped up and said ‘not so fast!’ You see, among major American universities, not one can top Baylor’s first homecoming celebration in 1909. If you’re counting at home, that’s 11 years before Oklahoma State’s first such event. Further, for decades now, Baylor has laid claim to hosting the nation’s largest Homecoming parade with no competition.
Baylor’s Homecoming celebration is also a week long event which is kicked off by the building of the Homecoming Bonfire by the freshman class. Although the size and shape of the Bonfire has changed over the years, the tens of thousands who return to Baylor’s campus each year gather to hear from University leadership, football players and coaches and revel in the Homecoming Pep Rally. Once the Bonfire is lit by the Eternal Flame, it’s time for a good ol’ Homecoming Dance, which at Baylor is called Extravaganza. A fireworks show and carnival rides also increase the excitement on Friday night.
What is the Eternal Flame you ask? Well, Mass Meeting is perhaps Baylor Homecoming’s most reverent event. Here the story of the Immortal Ten is told. In a bus-train accident involving the Baylor Men’s Basketball team in Round Rock, Texas in 1927, ten men lost their lives. One of them, Abe Kelley, pushed his teammate Weir Washam out of a window of the bus just before the train hit, saving his life. The retelling of the story of the Immortal Ten serves as a reminder, a testimony, of the life of service Christians and Baylor students are called to. For they are the we of us.
Learn more about the Eternal Flame in this video: https://youtu.be/_EvJqygWUQM
Baylor Homecoming wouldn’t be complete without Pigskin Revue. Another Baylor original, Pigskin Revue is the culmination of All University Sing, a broadway style musical show put on 100% by students. They sing, dance, act, develop themes, make costumes, choreograph, build sets, set up and tear down. Started in 1953, Sing and Pigskin are, to this day, one of the nation’s only university student produced shows of its kind. Although, imitated by a few, only the original remains as the greatest showcase of college student talent in America. It is a one-of-a-kind event, and a Homecoming mainstay.
The weekend is capped off with the Homecoming football game and the immense tailgating scene at McLane Stadium. Waco is flooded with Baylor alumni and their families, all back to heed the call of President Samuel Palmer Brooks who initiated the first Homecoming in 1909. He implored Baylor graduates to return, to catch the Baylor spirit again. And that they do, over 100 years later, it is an annual weekend that exemplifies the Baylor Family. So many return home to share time and memories with dear friends who were once classmates. The video below is long, but if you want to learn about the history and grandeur of Baylor Homecoming, it’s well worth the watch.I’ve been to Stillwater and encountered many OSU alumni and fans. They are as great a people as you will ever meet. However, in this marketing war over Homecoming superiority, clearly they are short on substance. Baylor’s Homecoming Celebration is the oldest, the largest, the hottest and home to original events unrivaled anywhere in America.
But, really, every school’s Homecoming is their greatest Homecoming. So, carry on Cowboys, Tigers and everyone else. And Happy Homecoming from Baylor. Sic’em!