Could Northern Illinois University have the distinction
of holding the earliest homecoming of any university in Illinois,
and one of the first in the nation?
Retired NIU Sports Information Director Mike Korcek has
done extensive research on the subject and talked about it earlier
this week at the Founders Library. He found proof that NIUs
first homecoming was in 1903, when the football team and the
alumni played the first game. The football team skunked the alums,
6-0. Korcek knows how to collect and tally stats something
he did for all of his 37-year career at NIU.
He got interested in accumulating all this information
when he found out the University of Illinois was claiming it
had invented homecoming, but was actually six years behind NIU.
He became more worked up when he visited the NCAA Hall of
From 60 years ago: These 1957 NIU football players
looked dejected for a reason; they lost their homecoming game
that year to Western Illinois University, 33-13. (Photo courtesy
of Regional History Center at NIU)
Champions in Indianapolis, where a large display in the
lobby claimed the University of Missouri held the record when
its first homecoming occurred in 1911.
Mike shared an article with me from the October 1906 Northern
Illinois, the student newspaper, which used the word homecoming
for the first time. That next year, the Alumni Association was
formed, and its constitution stated that an alumni homecoming
would be observed the second Saturday of October each year.
But during World War I, when most of the young male population
was in the military, football was canceled for three seasons
(1917 to 19), so this is the 111th NIU homecoming, not
Korcek was not content just to set the record straight
with the U of I and Missouri, so went about contacting other
Big Ten schools, plus some of the oldest institutions of higher
education in the country. He found out that some small southern
college Southwestern Texas held one in 1900, so
it could be first. But then he discovered Michigan played a homecoming
game in 1897, so now he says, In short, I dont think
anyone really knows who invented homecoming but NIU is
way up there near the top.
Continuing his research, Korcek can also tell you when
the first homecoming queen was crowned: 1947. She was Lois Goetz,
a sophomore from Chicago; but for some reason, he didnt
tell me who the king was that year. Maybe I just forgot to ask.
Being the ultimate jock statistician, he found out that
two of the early homecoming kings were inducted into the Northern
Athletics Hall of Fame George Acker, a junior from Dixon,
and a guard on the Huskies team, was crowned in 1950, and Bob
Heimerdinger, a senior quarterback from Riverside in 1951.
I had more trivia questions, but was afraid to ask
this column needs to end at 500 words. So if you ever run into
Korcek, ask him how many homecoming games the Huskies have won,
and what is their overall win-loss record since the school opened
in 1899. OK, I reached 500 words now, or is it only 499, Mike?