Alumni of Mercer University will soon begin making the journey home as homecoming week and weekend kick off on campus.
Homecoming is Nov. 4-6, with the homecoming football game taking place Nov. 5.
The first documented homecoming by The Cluster was November 14, 1924. The article was written by M.C. Townsend and was titled “Mercer Alumni have Returned to Alma Mater.”
The day was called “Homecoming day,” and over 3,000 Mercer alumni were expected to make their journeys back to Mercer.
The Bears played against the University of Florida. A week later in the Nov. 21 edition of The Cluster that Mercer had won the game 10-0. The game was said to have been “one of the greatest games ever witnessed on a local gridiron.”
However, football was not always a part of the homecoming tradition, because the university didn’t even have a football team for over 70 years.
After the 1941 season and at the height of World War II, the Mercer football team was disbanded.
Almost a year later, an article from Oct. 30, 1942 said the “Pan-Hellenic Council, in cooperation with the Greek Letter Association of Macon, decided to continue the tradition of homecoming this year, even though there is not football team on the campus.”
The Nov. 13 edition of The Cluster from 1942 featured an editorial on the front page about complaints given about the celebration still being called “Homecoming.”
It said, “The main objection seems to be in calling it homecoming, when there is no football game, and little chance for any old grads to come ‘home’.”
The editorial went on to say how homecoming in the past had been about more than just a football game. There were parades, dances, and fraternity parties in the past, but most of those events had been canceled as well.
Homecoming 1942 was then asked to be “dedicated to those who can’t come.” The editorial read, “[the alumni] are doing something far more important, and many of us who are now here will be helping them before long.”
The next homecoming in 1943 saw a series of homecoming dances as the spotlight of celebration.
Fast forward to 1949, homecoming day was held on Jan. 29 — as opposed to in the fall in previous years. Festivities included a parade, bonfire and a basketball game against the University of Georgia. This was one of the first years (if not the first) that homecoming at Mercer was highlighted by a basketball game instead of football.
The first homecoming football game was finally held after 72 years on Nov. 23, 2013.
John Russ, who started the homecoming game as a redshirt freshman quarterback in 2013, is now a senior this year. Russ said that homecoming “absolutely” changes the atmosphere of the game.
“It’s changed in the first half especially. I enjoy having students there, and I’m sure the other guys do too.”
Russ pointed out that after halftime and the crowning of homecoming queen and king, the crowd dwindles down. “I wish they’d stay,” he said.
This year’s game is set for 3 p.m. on Nov. 5 against East Tennessee State in Five Star Stadium.
Many students, like senior Victoria Yrizarry, are preparing to experience their last homecoming before they become alumni. Yrizarry took the time to look back on her favorite homecoming memory. Yrizarry is a member of the Mercer Singers, along with a long list of other positions held during her time at Mercer.
During last year’s homecoming, past and current student members of Mercer Singers performed the national anthem at the football game.
“There were people who sang in the choir decades ago and we had the unique chance to make music with them. I remember walking onto the football field as one massive choir and it really made me realize that we are all a part of this amazing Mercer legacy and our love for Mercer will always be something that we have in common,” Yrizarry said.