Column: Thoughts on the new homecoming schedule


Bama State Homecoming

Kendal Manns, Senior Staff Reporter/Writer

Since the student body received the announcement that Alabama State University is separating homecoming from the Turkey Day Classic and the first homecoming week of activities is scheduled for Oct. 3-9, I have had some time to think about this major decision by the university.

The tradition in the past has been that homecoming and the Turkey Day Classic were intertwined with each other. The homecoming activities and events started in mid-November with a Student Spirit Week, transitioned into Homecoming Week, and culminated in the Turkey Day Classic football game.  The football game featured Alabama State University versus its longtime rival Tuskegee University on Thanksgiving Day, making it the oldest HBCU football classic in the nation. 

Due to scheduling conflicts with Tuskegee University in the past couple of years, the Hornets have played different opponents like Edward Waters College, Stillman College, Miles College, and Mississippi Valley State University. 

Thousands of people came from all over the nation to Montgomery to enjoy all of the festivities, which included a televised three-and-a-half-hour parade, homecoming concert, bonfire, and much more. Hotels were full, restaurants were packed, and it brought a lot of revenue and attention to the city as a whole. 

So what sparked the change? 

From what I understand, in the late 1990s, instead of students remaining in Montgomery for the Turkey Day Classic, students began leaving to enjoy Thanksgiving with their families. As the years passed, more and more students began leaving.  One can only imagine with a large number of students going home every year before the Classic, thousands were missing out on a full homecoming experience.  Twenty years later, those students who never remained for homecoming did not feel the need to return to Montgomery around the Thanksgiving holidays to observe their university’s homecoming. This led to university officials deciding to make a change.  For the 2021 school year, President Quinton T. Ross, Jr., Ed.D., and the Board of Trustees decided to separate the two, scheduling homecoming week for the first full week of October with the game scheduled on the 9th. 

This decision, of course, did not come without controversy as some alumni are upset because this changes a big tradition in the university’s history. With many alumni taking off work in that week leading up to Thanksgiving, it was much easier to come back for homecoming, and subsequently the Classic. With the change to Oct. 9, fewer of them will be able to come. 

Having this two and half week “homecoming” celebration set our university apart. It made us stand out. Now we are similar to everybody else and I personally do not have enough confidence as a whole that this new date and the activities scheduled around it will have the same impact as the ones in the past with less time, fewer festivities, and less communication. 

I think all of the festivities would have gone well with the event itself. They are building up to so much in those two and half weeks that just having homecoming stand-alone does not feel the same. All of that time allowed the Turkey Day Classic to garner so many people for an extended period to watch parades, the game, sit at bonfires and so much more. That leaves me to wonder if the Turkey Day Classic will suffer and if it does, will we lose the distinction of hosting the longest-running HBCU classic in the nation? 

In my opinion, the University should not have changed the way homecoming is done. Now, we will have to wait and see, but I believe many of the festivities from the Classic will not be a part of the homecoming experience. Therefore, instead of having a week of festivities for the students and another week for the alumni all leading up to the big game, it is just one week for the students and then a regular game. I feel like a little bit of the awe and grandeur in the time leading up to homecoming is gone. 

Being an out-of-state student and knowing I would want to go home for the Thanksgiving holidays helps me to understand the decision.  However, to ensure that students here can say they had a homecoming experience, possibly moving the homecoming date makes sense. Since I have never experienced the old way of having homecoming and the Classic simultaneously, I do not have a lot to compare this year to. I do think that if festivities were as good as they sound, that intrigue would make students at least want to try remaining in Montgomery to experience it at least once in their time at ASU. 

Having homecoming be in October also makes things a little bit harder for students. With a whole week of events going on as we are in classes, the week is definitely going to be more cluttered and maybe even overwhelming at times. We still have to deal with our classes, work, other extracurriculars, and so on and homecoming just feels like another thing on top of that. 

Another point that should be made is that homecoming is not just about the current students, but it is designed for former students to return home. As I mentioned before, the alumni were given a whole week to enjoy themselves, and now that homecoming has been moved the Classic might not seem as special for them.
I think that both sides have valid arguments for the homecoming celebration. After doing  some research on how students felt in the past, the decision is a little more clear in my mind. I do not think I am swayed too far either way as to what is right or wrong. The alumni make a great point about losing a storied tradition in return for something that may not be as enjoyable. Sometimes breaking tradition can be good as fresh ideas can improve things, and sometimes they can blow up in your face. Let us just hope homecoming follows the former.