Aerial View of the 1962 BGSU Football Stadium

Aerial View of the 1962 BGSU Football Stadium from the BGSU Archives. The picture can be found in the Doyt Perry Collection, Box 8, folder 2. 

Nicholas Bowers | Sports Reporter

This year, Bowling Green State University is celebrating its annual homecoming weekend. Between Sept. 15 and 17, former students will be returning to town to reminisce on their time here, reconnect with friends they made and take in all the community has to offer. This year is a special occasion; the 100th homecoming celebration. Since the first celebration in 1922, the festivities have grown and evolved substantially. It is important to take a look back to see how far we as a university and the Falcon community has come.

BGSU was relatively late to jump on the trend of homecoming celebrations. Modern celebrations are widely credited to have been first pioneered by the University of Illinois in 1910, holding the first widely publicized football game to draw home alumni. There is evidence to suggest other universities held annual alumni football games dating back to the turn of the twentieth century.

Homecoming celebrations were first brought to the university by the Bowling Green Alumni Association. According to the 1924 BGSU Key yearbook, the alumni organization was, “organized [on] June 15 1921, to foster and maintain the interest of the graduates for their Alma Mater.” 

The initial primary responsibility of this organization was to foster school spirit among alumni. The primary organizers of the first homecoming game were Ivan E. Lake and Dr. Clayton C. Kohl. They were both heads of the “Win-One Club,” an organization that was meant to promote the institution in any way possible. The date was set for Nov. 4, the final conference game of the season for the Falcons, who would be playing the rival Toledo Rockets at home.

The contest was highly anticipated by students and alumni alike. The campus newspaper, then known as the Bee-Gee News, published on Oct. 20 1922 that the upcoming event, “appears at present to be one of the big dates on the local college calendar; for it is then that many of the former students and graduates will return to their Alma Mater for a day of pleasure.” 

The event was widely advertised, particularly at the Northwest Ohio Teacher’s Institute in Toledo, a professional organization to which thousands of BG alumni belonged.

The day itself was packed with activities, where festivities started at 9 a.m. with a mass welcome meeting in the university auditorium, followed up by a parade to the county fairgrounds at 1 p.m. The game itself began at 2:30 p.m. It would prove to be a hard-fought contest, ending in a 6-6 tie. BG would win their final game against Kent State the following week, ending the 1922 campaign 4-2-1. 

Other noteworthy opponents that season included the University of Findlay, Adrian College and Defiance University. Following the game, alumni would snake dance to uptown, led by a 1902 Cadillac, referred to as “ancient” by the student paper. Snake dance is a 1920s slang term for an informal, celebratory parade of people. 

Downtown, there would be group meetings for former students of various organizations or schools, allowing alumni to reconnect and chat. The day would be finished with a reception at the university gymnasium at 8:00. 

Approximately two thousand people attended the football game and an estimated five hundred of them were alumni. The student paper published a glowing review of the day, two weeks later. 

According to the Nov. 20 edition of the Bee-Gee News, “A great deal of credit for the success of the day should be given to Ivan Lake, president of the Win-One Club. It was Lake who planned this day and engineered it to success.” 

Homecoming games would continue to evolve, change and grow every year. As you celebrate homecoming this weekend, think back to those who came before you. The world they lived in was substantially different than our own, but perhaps we as people are more similar to them than we realize.

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