Homecoming has little to do with football

The Gophers football team is playing spectacularly, at least relative to recent years. It actually has a legitimate chance of winning its first Homecoming game since 1993, when it defeated Wisconsin 28-21. Yet even with the prospect of a rare victory, it is still difficult to get excited, let alone medieval, about this weekend’s festivities.
It starts with the dominance of the greek system in Homecoming events. Despite more participation from the residence halls this years, the parade will still be centered around the greek houses on University Avenue, the places where students will find the best parties Friday and Saturday night. Greeks held a clear majority at the cheering competition and will likely dominate the royal court. But with only 5 percent of undergraduates belonging to fraternities or sororities, most students cannot find a reason to get wound up about Homecoming events.
Not that the greeks are wholly to blame. Their seeming ownership of Homecoming weekend is no surprise. They represent a sizeable percentage of the student body that actually lives close to campus and are certainly the most vocal. Students who live in St. Paul, Uptown or the Loring Park area understandably have difficulty finding motivation to get on the bus headed to campus on a Saturday morning. Largely commuter campuses like ours have a hard time generating campus spirit during the week, let alone on the weekend.
The real question is for whom Homecoming is intended. Who is actually coming home? The football team is coming back and are certainly the nominal focus of events. The band is coming back, too, and often provides more entertainment than the team. But the real homecomers are University alumni. This weekend is a chance for graduates to visit their old stomping grounds, pretending they are college students again. They will get stupid drunk. They will remember what college was not like, focusing on all the good things and suppressing the bad. Current students will only be the backdrop onto which alumni can project their memories.
And students will not object as they get stupid drunk alongside alumni at crowded bars and parties. Homecoming, if it is anything, is an unnecessary excuse for everyone to have a good time.
The unfortunate news this year has been the rescheduling of events. Since the University is accommodating ESPN by moving the game ahead a few hours, everything else will get going earlier. The 9 a.m. parade should prove a particularly interesting challenge to revellers. Will the parties keep going all of Friday night and straight into Saturday morning to assure that everyone’s buzz is maintained? Perhaps they will pause for a couple hours, allowing everyone to sleep awhile and then resume excessive consumption at around 7 a.m.
It is an excuse to drink. It is a chance for our predecessors to relive their youth. It is a greek-centered display of excess. It is loud and annoying. It is also, for most students, a waste of time and merely an explanation for the mess around campus come Monday morning. It is Homecoming weekend. Go Gophers, we guess.