On November 11, 1916—a date that hadn’t yet become Veterans Day—the undefeated Vols beat Vanderbilt 10–6 and “gladdened the hearts of hundreds of alumni who had journeyed back to the Old Hill for the first home-coming,” in the words of the Volunteer yearbook. Homecoming took a hiatus until 1926, but since then it’s been an annual occurrence—with the exception of 1943, when students chose to spend the funds on war bonds and donations to the Red Cross.
Over its first century, Homecoming has changed with the era. For decades the Ag Club’s Barnwarmin’ dance was part of the celebration. Election of a homecoming queen began in 1950, was dropped in the early ’70s, and reappeared briefly in the ’80s. Other elements—from bonfires and freshman foot races to academic lectures and a soapbox derby—have come and gone. In 1960, among the class reunion brunches was a Milk Hour for dairy alumni, and in 1974, the chancellor was kidnapped for charity. The first banners were hung on Neyland Stadium in 1975.
Some years were marred by bad weather, and sometimes things went wrong, like the 1994 parade float that ran into a tree. In 1964 we lost to Ole Miss but were consoled by a James Brown concert, and in 1982 the Memphis State band played so long at halftime that even a hasty crowning of the queen and singing of the alma mater cost us two penalties. Win or lose, rain or shine, Homecoming is a glorious tradition that brings together alumni, students, and the campus community to celebrate being a Vol.