Homecoming past and present: Looking back on UA's steadfast tradition

Homecoming past and present: Looking back on UA's steadfast tradition

Homecoming at UA, often defined by the colorful parade, elaborate pomp displays and, more often than not, a win for the Crimson Tide, is a steadfast tradition. Saturday was no different as alumni, parents and students alike joined in the festivities. 

Organizations registered to compete in homecoming participated in events such as the dodgeball competition, basketball tournaments and the parade on gameday. Friday evening brought the bonfire to the Quad. At halftime, the crowds in Bryant-Denny looked on as the new homecoming queen was crowned, following a week of campaigning. However, these activities weren’t always the defining characteristics of a typical UA homecoming. 

“We didn’t have the pomping craze like there is now,” said Patrick O’Kane, class of 1981. “There were floats and my fraternity even had a limousine in the parade my senior year.”

O’Kane was a Sigma Nu at UA and majored in finance. 

During homecoming week in years past, there were not events such as the basketball and dodge ball tournaments. However, the choreography competition was still a popular event.

“We used to go watch the sorority girls compete in the dance competitions,” O’Kane said.  

The choreography competition is a popular event years in the making that students still attend. O'Kane said gamedays, however, haven't changed much.

“Gamedays were similar to what goes on now,” O’Kane said. “We used to tailgate at the fraternity house or the quad and watch the sororities pass by with their floats and I think there’s even more activities to do now than when I was in school.”

Another alumni, Tony Caroll, who graduated in 1991 and majored in electrical engineering, recalled a homecoming where the game didn't quite pan out.

“We don’t lose the football game, and we are not worried about losing the football game now,” said Caroll. “In the late 1980s we lost to Ole Miss in Homecoming and it was awful and depressing.”

A tradition that has remained over the years is the bonfire on the Quad the Friday night before game day. Students and fans gather around the bonfire, as the Million Dollar Band plays and various campus leaders speak. 

Over the years, events such as the floats in the parade have evolved to the competitive “pomps” outside of each sorority’s house that match a theme. Similar to pomping (the term given to the creation of lawn decorations, which use thousands of crinkled tissue paper "pomps"), the floats were front and center in the 1980s. Each was themed and sororities and fraternities were partnered together to prepare for the parade.   

“I remember the homecoming queen being crowned my senior year,” said O’Kane. 

The 1981 queen was Carla Burton Gale who graduated in 1982.  

Similar to present day, students look forward to the homecoming activities the big gameday weekend has to offer. Students show pride for their organizations through the parades and events that members attend throughout the week.

This year’s theme was "Sweet Home Capstone," aimed at encompassing the Sweet Home Alabama feeling that students know and love all too well.  

Regardless of the game itself, homecoming week has never failed to bring excitement and attention to the campus. Alumni attend gameday weekend to relive their college days and experience the evolution of homecoming. 

“Homecoming week was always crazy,” said O’Kane. “Everyone would skip class on Friday to prepare for the weekend.” 

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