According to Madison Kuhn’s Michigan State: the first hundred years, 1855-1955 (MSU Press, 1955), MAC’s first actual homecoming game took place on October 17, 1914, when 400 alumni returned to M.A.C. and gathered for lunch in the basement of Peoples Church prior to the Michigan game. The alumni office obtained 635 tickets – most of them good seats in the center of the field – and sold them for $2 apiece to alumni.
“I did some digging and am convinced the 1914 game vs. Michigan was our first Homecoming,” says Ed Busch, archivist at the MSU Archives. Busch, incidentally, is the grand nephew of Oscar Rudolf “Dutch” Miller, MAC’s quarterback in 1914.
If one reviews MAC media guides, the 1915 game against Oregon State was hiped as the “Alumni Game”, and the 1916 game against Notre Dame was the first one officially identified as “Homecoming”.
More About the History of Homecomings:
There is something special about Homecoming that every Spartan should know (besides the next date).
The whole concept of Homecoming, by some accounts, was established and popularized nationally a century ago by a former Spartan!
Several schools claim to have invented Homecoming, including Illinois in 1910, and Baylor and Northern Illinois before then. The idea of alumni returning to campus for a football game was not novel; as far back as the 1870s, alums returned to the annual Harvard-Yale game. Around 1910 the idea of staging a special celebration for alums was brewing on many campuses. But the NCAA (and Jeopardy! and Trivial Pursuit) credits Missouri with inventing the modern Homecoming model – an event for returning alumni centered around a football game, complete with such trappings as a parade, a spirit bonfire and a gathering of alumni, perhaps around a meal of some kind.
The driving force behind this first Homecoming was an MSU Hall of Famer, one after whom a major MSU annual award is named.
The name is Chester Brewer.
Chester Brewer was MSU’s football coach from 1903 until 1910, and then in 1917 and 1919. He also served as our basketball and baseball coach, and as our first full-time athletics director. A native of Owosso, he was considered a defensive genius. Of the 88 football games he coached at MSU, 49 were shutouts – including a shutout of Fielding Yost’s 1908 team and a 17-0 drubbing of Notre Dame in 1910.
Brewer moved to Missouri as both football coach and athletic director in 1910. In 1911, he staged the first college homecoming in the United States, creating the model for what colleges and high schools today celebrate every year.
An entry in Wikipedia tracing the origins of Homecoming notes that in 1911, Missouri hosted rival Kansas at its Columbia campus for the first time. To assure interest in the game, Brewer launched a concerted effort to invite alumni back. Some 10,000 alumni returned to what he called “homecoming.” The effort was clearly a huge success.
This tradition quickly caught on nationwide, and it didn’t take long to reach East Lansing.
Here are some additional facts:
The Chester Brewer Award is given annually by MSU to a senior athlete who excels in athletics and scholarship, and who is deemed most likely to succeed. The 2009 winner was hockey goalie Jeff Lerg. Other winners include former trustee Pat Wilson, Earl Morrall, Shane Bullough, Pat Shurmur, Eric Snow and Kristin Haynie.
The first Homecoming game between Missouri and Kansas ended in a 3-3 tie – a tribute partly to Brewer’s defensive acumen.
Whichever date you designate as our first Homecoming, what remains beyond dispute is that our first Homecoming victory was in 1918 – a 13-7 win over Notre Dame. It was the only loss suffered by the legendary Knute Rockne in his first three seasons as head Irish coach. George Gipp (the Gipper) was Rockne’s star running back on that team. Credit Aggie coach and alumnus George Gauthier for the coup.
Robert Bao, “MSU and the invention of“, Michigan Alumni Association, March 28, 2011.
Madison Kuhn, Michigan State: the first hundred years, 1855-1955 (MSU Press, 1955) via HathiTrust