Homecoming history: a look at campus homecoming now and then

Gopher homecoming is back on campus and ready to pick up where Memorial Stadium left off.

by Cody Vanasse

In autumn of 1981, students at the University of Minnesota celebrated their last Gopher homecoming football game on campus. Now, 28 years later, homecoming is finally back. With homecoming returning to campus, there has been an extra push to make this yearâÄôs homecoming particularly spirited. âÄúThereâÄôs a lot more going on,âÄù Vice Provost for Student Affairs Jerry Rinehart said in a previous interview. âÄúWe are really working to make this a world-class event.âÄù Among the âÄúultimate homecoming celebrationâÄù festivities is the University library archivesâÄô interactive online exhibit on Memorial Stadium, touring in the St. Paul student center and Coffman Union , The exhibit gives insight to the past, more specifically, to the last time the UniversityâÄôs stadium was on campus. Memorial Stadium, built using funds raised for the stadium and Northrop Memorial Auditorium , was erected in 1924 to honor those who served in World War I. Although the stadium was not demolished until 1992, the Gophers saw their last Memorial homecoming football game in 1981. Gopher football was moved the following year to the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome . The move from Memorial Stadium created controversy among Gopher fans and University students. While some were excited by the stadium that âÄúhad everything,âÄù others had a difficult time leaving campus football behind. âÄúThe dome is doom for tradition,âÄù a 1981 article in The Minnesota Daily read, echoing the concern that, with the move of football off campus, college football traditions, such as tailgating, would dissipate. These sorts of articles and letters to the editor ran alongside other articles and opinions supporting the move. âÄúIts days are numbered,âÄù Mark Grossman, a Minneapolis resident, wrote into The Minnesota Daily regarding Memorial Stadium. Grossman attributed the stadium with mediocre attendance and some of the lowest student ticket sales in the Big Ten. A report conducted by a University student in 1981 found that most students and faculty wanted football games to stay on campus, whereas most community ticket-holders preferred the Metrodome. However, in spite of the mixed feelings regarding the football move, Gopher nation stayed alive and is heading home to campus. So, how different will this yearâÄôs âÄúUltimate Homecoming ExperienceâÄù be from back in the day before homecoming had ever left? Highlights of this yearâÄôs homecoming include a research and engagement expo at TCF Bank Stadium , an âÄúultimate volunteer experience,âÄù and, of course, the game. Big events in 1981 included a homecoming jazz festival, a dance in Coffman Union, a Budweiser can sculpture contest, a fall wheel race and a Beach Boys concert. Both homecomings included events like the Pep Fest , a cheer competition, royalty events, concerts at the Whole, and midnight movies.