Once Upon a Homecoming
In October 1964, USF held the biggest event it had seen yet: the first homecoming. Events included a luau picnic pictured, a folk music sing-along, a “stereo dance,” a pool “splash party,” informal athletic events, and a concert by singing group The Platters. In the summer of 1965, intercollegiate athletics began with USF’s soccer team, which faced rival University of Florida in a homecoming match that October. Homecoming 1966 drew larger crowds, with 1,300 attending a concert given by superstar group Tommy James and Shondells, a bonfire whose flames reached 40 feet into the sky, and a triumphant soccer game against the previously undefeated University of Florida Gators.
Beginning in 1971, Student Government played a basketball game against the President’s administrative faculty, a kind of comic relief to open the campus homecoming festivities. Student Government did not win the coveted “President’s Cup” until 1982. In 1976, USF celebrated the 20th anniversary of its founding and the bicentennial of American independence. Founder and Congressman Sam Gibbons, former Governor Leroy Collins, and USF Presidents Cecil Mackey (1971-76), Harris Dean (1970-71), and John Allen (1957-1970) gathered to give speeches about USF’s progress since 1956.
In 1978, the homecoming committee chose a “Beauty and the Beast” theme with a basketball game at its center. Student advocate and future namesake for the Marshall Student Center, Phyllis Marshall played the part of Beauty. The following year, local businessman and philanthropist George Steinbrenner (fourth from right) attended USF’s homecoming banquet with USF President John Lott Brown (second from left).
In the 1980s and early 1990s, attendance at homecoming events disappointed administrators and the staff of the Oracle, prompting a 1993 editorial that read in part, “If you want a quiet, solid education with a smattering of entertainment and are unwilling to commit yourself to the school after classes, this seems to be the place for you.” In 1994, the Faculty Senate agreed to ban all academic testing for homecoming week to boost attendance.