Whether you’re talking about school spirit or pure celebratory ecstasy, Homecoming (Hoco) is one of the most important dates of the year for the Queen’s community. This year’s iteration, to be held on Oct. 19, is hoping to strike a balance between the two.
Some schools have grown afraid of their own Hoco celebrations. The power of their partying threatens to pull them apart.
It happened at Queen’s. There aren’t any students left to tell you about it, but the borderline rioting of 2008 got Homecoming cancelled until 2013.
Since Hoco’s reinstatement, it’s once again come to take on the drunken feverishness of years past. Schools across the province have banded together in consultation to create measures that prevent things from getting out of hand.
The Council of Ontario Universities asked the OUA to cram all of the major homecoming dates into two weekends to make sure that troublesome students can’t do the grand tour, travelling to a different university each weekend.
Since schools are allowed to make requests for when their homecomings are scheduled, they coordinated their efforts to minimize outsider participation in their festivities.
Western’s “Fauxcoming” (Foco) was on the same weekend as Guelph and Laurier’s homecoming, and Queen’s homecoming is slated for the same weekend as that of McMaster, as well as Western’s real Hoco.
Another part of reducing Homecoming bloodshed, specifically on the clogged Aberdeen artery at the heart of campus, is getting students to truck over to West Campus in the middle of the day to see the football game.
In the past, students would literally camp out in the ARC to be first in line to secure one of the approximately 5,000 free tickets allocated to the student body.
That was in 2013, when Homecoming was a novelty, having just been dusted off after five years on the shelf. That year, Homecoming was split across two weekends, each with their own football game. They were both sold out, with 9,037 in attendance.
Attendance kept steady for a couple of years, averaging nearly 8,500. The new Richardson Stadium’s inaugural Homecoming game in 2016 brought in 8,011 fans. Since then, numbers have dwindled.
7,542 were on hand for the 2017 game against York, and last year’s tight loss to Ottawa only
Curiously, in recent years, Hoco games have generally been scheduled against punching-bag opponents.
Queen’s hasn’t lost to York in decades, and they’re 9-1 in their last 10 meetings against Windsor. These two have been on hand for three of Queen’s last five Homecomings, and York is coming back for more this time around.
The sense that the big day is a foregone conclusion might be a reason why students haven’t been as inclined to come.
It’s not a more general football fatigue—last season’s attendance represented a high-water mark for Queen’s, dating back to 2013.
The school has been making an effort—they provide free shuttle buses from campus to the stadium, and as many students who can fit in the stadium to see the game, not to mention the halftime pageantry, can do so for no cost.
Queen’s has also been making a concerted effort to connect with the community. Their game against Guelph will recognize emergency personnel, and their game against York will raise money for breast cancer research. They’re wholesome ideas, and if they can attract more people, especially when seat prices are ratcheted up for Hoco by as much as $27.50, all the better for the program.
The University is also continuing to spread the Hoco love. In the past, teams not named football were eschewed from campus for Homecoming so as to not steal any thunder.
This year, as in recent years, men’s rugby has a marquee matchup on Nixon Field on the Saturday, and women’s rugby will (pending a win against Brock) play for the OUA Championship on Nixon the night before. The women’s hockey team will also play games on Friday and Saturday night at Memorial Arena.
However you want to slice it, Queen’s has done an admirable job of trying to remedy the ills that caused Hoco to get cut off in 2008. With their renewed and holistic emphasis on sports and coordination with other homecoming-having universities, students and alumni alike are hoping to reclaim the golden years of Homecoming.
Analysis, Homecoming, QJ Sports
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