By Lut Williams
HBCU Game Day
HBCU homecomings are often the most important date on the football schedule. When fans inquire about the upcoming football season, their first question is often, when is homecoming?
The question is not, when do we play our rivals, though that usually follows right behind. But when is homecoming? That takes precedence.
That’s because HBCU homecomings are special and unique to the Black experience.
Homecoming is a time to celebrate the institution that birthed and nurtured you into adulthood. It is an opportunity to recognize a place that helped make you the person you are today, helped you recognize and pursue your possibilities. The school helped you set priorities and goals and put in the work to achieve them.
Homecoming is a way to say, “thank you.”
I had the good fortune, I would say, of going to all-black schools as I was growing up in Danville, Virginia. John M. Langston was my high school. The experience attending that school was unbelievable.
The teachers and administrators – all HBCU graduates, every one of them – nurtured our growth and development. They sincerely set you on course to make a difference in the world. They instilled pride and confidence that you could tackle anything, overcome all odds, in a world (America) where the odds were stacked against you. It didn’t matter.
“Proudly we sing of halls where our swift feet have trod.
Singing to bring to life the wondrous gifts of God.
Where in thy chambers we have sought success to gain.
Langston, dear Langston may the spirit ever reign.”
That was our alma mater.
Every two years we have a reunion that nearly 1,000 people attend. Graduates dating back to the first graduating classes from the 1950s are in attendance though they are increasingly fewer. Even more flood back to attend the James. B. Dudley High School reunion in Greensboro, N. C. where I now live, that has a similar history.
They come back to thank the teachers and administrators, to recognize the important role the institution played in their young lives.
HBCU HOMECOMINGS: A CONTINUATION
In the past and even today, HBCUs and their homecomings represent the next rung of that development and next level of celebration.
Interestingly, no such celebration takes place at the high school (or college for that matter) which exists or existed on the other side of town, if you know what I mean.
Perhaps for others, high schools and colleges don’t carry the same weight. There are a plethora of institutions, outside the educational environment, that facilitate their matriculation into society. It is perhaps part of that thing that is often called ‘privilege’ (def., n. – a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people.)
Not so for us. We cherish the institutions and their spirit. In fact, in many ways, attending an HBCU is a spiritual (def., adj. – relating to or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things) experience.
HBCU HOMECOMING ATMOSPHERE
HBCU homecomings are like a family reunion, sometimes with and many times without, the family. Or with a different family.
This is the one time of the year where former friends and classmates get to see each other, reminisce about the old times and talk about where they are in their lives. It’s a time to further cement the bonds of brotherhood, sisterhood and loyalty to the school that follows them throughout their lives.
Particularly for those who have to travel significant distances to attend games, homecomings are the one date they circle to make sure they are present.
Thus, for the school, it’s a great time for fundraising. Alumni associations from all over the country meet to turn in money, explore best practices and chart their futures.
Other than fierce backyard rivalries (like Clark Atlanta vs. Morehouse, NC A&T vs. NC Central, Southern vs. Grambling, etc.), homecoming is the best-attended game of the season, most times a guaranteed sellout for the home team, perhaps the only one of the season.
The week-long activities surrounding homecomings, both before and after the game, are numerous. There are parades, coronations of the homecoming courts, sorority and fraternity step shows and meet-ups, comedy shows, gospel concerts, new and old skool concerts, day and night parties, fanfests, class reunions, breakfast meetings and church services.
There’s tailgating before, after and during the game with a fashion show throughout. Alumni bands and cheerleaders get to perform and then there’s the dazzling halftime shows of the bands.
There is plenty to enjoy!
OH YEAH, THE GAMES
It’s funny, but fans don’t come to homecoming to see a competitive game. A blowout is preferred. It makes the revelry merrier. But don’t get it twisted, the revelry goes on win over lose.
What are likely to be the most competitive or compelling homecoming games this year?
Monmouth at North Carolina A&T homecoming (Oct. 30) – The Hawks are the two-time defending Big South champion while the Aggies, in their first year in the conference, are trying to end their reign and show they are the new power in the league. Monmouth head coach Kevin Callahan said he assigned someone to do special research on A&T’s GHOE (Greatest Homecoming on Earth) to prepare his team for the game.
Jackson State at Alabama A&M homecoming (Oct. 9) – In the spring, Connell Maynor’s squad defeated Deion “Coach Prime” Sanders’ first team 52-43 en route to winning the SWAC East and later the SWAC title. Prime Time would like nothing better than to turn the tables.
Southern at Arkansas-Pine Bluff homecoming (Oct. 16) – First-year head coach Doc Gamble and UAPB beat the Jaguars in Baton Rouge in the spring 33-30 to open the season en route to dethroning Southern as SWAC West champion. New Southern coach Jason Rollins will try to do the same at Pine Bluff.
Alabama State at Jackson State homecoming (Oct. 16) – Jackson State has likely not forgotten ASU head coach Donald Hill-Eley’s comment about a shoe lodged in the rear of (allegedly) a JSU fan after the Hornets handed the Tigers their first loss under Sanders, 35-28 in the spring. Payback again may heighten the tension at this contest.
HOMECOMINGS BY SCHOOL
ALABAMA A&M vs. Jackson State Oct. 9, 2:00 p.m. CT ALABAMA STATE vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff Oct. 9, 2:00 p.m. CT ALBANY STATE vs. Edward Waters Oct. 9, 2:00 p.m. ET ALCORN STATE vs. Grambling State Oct. 9, 1:00 p.m. CT ALLEN vs. Columbus State Oct. 30, 2:00 p.m. ET ARKANSAS-PINE BLUFF vs. Southern Oct. 16, 2:00 p.m. CT BENEDICT vs. Morehouse Oct. 23, 2:00 p.m. ET BETHUNE-COOKMAN vs. Miss. Valley State Oct. 9, 1:00 p.m. ET BOWIE STATE vs. Johnson C. Smith Oct. 2, 2:00 p.m. ET CENTRAL STATE vs. Allen Oct. 2, 1:00 p.m. ET CHOWAN vs. Lincoln (PA) Oct. 23, 1:30 p.m. ET CLARK ATLANTA vs. Allen Oct. 9, 2:00 p.m. ET DELAWARE STATE vs. SC State Oct. 23, 2:00 p.m. ET EDWARD WATERS vs. Central State Oct. 23, 2:00 p.m. ET ELIZABETH CITY STATE vs. Chowan Oct. 23, 1:30 p.m. ET FAYETTEVILLE STATE vs. Johnson C. Smith Oct. 16, 2:00 p.m. ET FLORIDA A&M vs. Grambling State Oct. 30, 4:00 p.m. ET FLORIDA MEMORIAL vs. Webber International Nov. 6, 1:30 p.m. ET FORT VALLEY STATE vs. Clark Atlanta Oct. 23, TBD GRAMBLING STATE vs. Texas Southern Oct. 16, 2:00 p.m. CT HAMPTON vs. Kennesaw State Oct. 9, 2:00 p.m. ET HOWARD vs. Norfolk State Oct. 23, 1:00 p.m. ET JACKSON STATE vs. Alabama State Oct. 16, 2:00 p.m. CT JOHNSON C. SMITH vs. Saint Augustine’s Oct. 30, 1:00 p.m. ET KENTUCKY STATE vs. Lane Oct. 9, 1:00 p.m. CT LANE vs. Texas College Oct. 2, 2:00 p.m. ET LANGSTON vs. Texas Wesleyan Oct. 16, 2:00 p.m. CT LINCOLN (MO) vs. Missouri Southern Oct. 9, 2:00 p.m. CT LINCOLN (PA) vs. Elizabeth City State Oct. 16, 1:00 p.m. ET LIVINGSTONE vs. Saint Augustine’s Oct. 9, 1:30 p.m. ET MILES vs. Benedict Oct. 9, 4:00 p.m. CT MISSISSIPPI VALLEY STATE vs. NC Central Oct. 2, 1:00 p.m. CT MOREHOUSE vs. Fort Valley State Oct. 16, 2:00 p.m. ET MORGAN STATE vs. North Carolina Central Oct. 23, 1:00 p.m. ET NC A&T vs. Monmouth Oct. 30, 1:00 p.m. ET NC CENTRAL vs. Norfolk State Nov. 6, 2:00 p.m. ET NORFOLK STATE vs. Virginia-Lynchburg Oct. 16, 2:00 p.m. ET PRAIRIE VIEW A&M vs. Alabama State Nov. 6, 2:00 p.m. CT SAINT AUGUSTINE’S vs. Chowan Sept. 25, 1:00 p.m. ET SAVANNAH STATE vs. Clark Atlanta Oct. 16, 3:00 p.m. ET SC STATE vs. Morgan State Oct. 16, 1:30 p.m. ET SHAW vs. Johnson C. Smith Oct. 23, 1:00 p.m. ET SOUTHERN vs. Prairie View A&M Oct. 23, 6:00 p.m. CT TENNESSEE STATE vs. Murray State Oct. 30, 5:00 p.m. ET TEXAS SOUTHERN vs. North American Oct. 2, 2:00 p.m. CT TUSKEGEE vs. Lane Oct. 23, 1:00 p.m. CT VIRGINIA STATE vs. Lincoln (PA) Oct. 23, 2:00 p.m. ET VIRGINIA UNION vs. Lincoln (PA) Oct. 9, 1:00 p.m. ET VA. UNIV. OF LYNCHBURG vs. Univ. of Ft. Lauderdale Oct. 30, TBD WEST VIRGINIA STATE vs. UNC Pembroke Oct. 16, 1:30 p.m. ET WINSTON-SALEM STATE vs. Livingstone Oct. 23, 1:00 p.m. ET
HBCU HOMECOMING 2021: WHO WILL HAVE THE LARGEST ATTENDANCE.
In 2019, it was the same Alabama State at Jackson State homecoming on tap this year that drew the biggest crowd (35,013). With all that’s at stake as we mentioned above, the attendance could certainly be bigger.
Benedict at the Morehouse homecoming in 2019 had the second largest crowd at 25,911. Fort Valley State is the homecoming opponent for the Maroon Tigers this season. The Morehouse homecoming is always among the top three each year.
Florida A&M was third with 25,649 at its homecoming vs. N. C. Central in 2019. The Rattlers have a big date hosting Grambling this year at homecoming on Oct. 30.
NC A&T was fourth with a capacity crowd of 21,500 for its 2019 homecoming vs. Howard. Expect the same because cops won’t allow more than that for its big date this year vs. Monmouth.
WHAT HOMECOMING GAMES ARE NOT EXPECTED TO BE COMPETITIVE?
1) North American at Texas Southern homecoming (Oct. 2) – All you need to know is that NAU is a school started in 2007. Its first graduating class in 2013 had 12 students. It made its football debut in September of 2020.
2) Virginia University-Lynchburg at Norfolk State homecoming (Oct. 16) – The Spartans are the only HBCU to schedule VUL for homecoming this season. The Dragons, usually welcomed in for HBCU homecomings, have 10 away games on their 11-game schedule.
Find your team’s 2021 Homecomings listed alphabetically by school and date below.
And make your plans now. If tickets are on sale, they will go fast.