The concept of a weekend to welcome back alumni originated at the University of Illinois in 1910. By the mid-1920's, Georgetown officials saw an opportunity at reuniting alumni around an annual football game. The Alumni Association had gone dormant after World War I and there had not been a large scale alumni reunion since the 1889 centennial. In 1925, the home game with Lehigh was designated as a Homecoming game, with a dinner-dance to follow at the Mayflower Hotel.
"Georgetown University's football team, baptized in mud on a series of Saturdays this year, confirmed itself as a great offensive and defensive gridiron machine yesterday afternoon, when it ran over, under and through the Lehigh eleven for a 40 to 0 victory," read the Washington Post on Nov. 8, 1925. The Post reported that "hundreds of old graduates" returned to what it called "Home-Coming" for the game, as Georgetown had already moved games off campus to Griffith Stadium to accommodate larger crowds. The Engineers carried a heavy heart into the game, however, as quarterback Charlie Prior died a week earlier from injuries suffered in a Oct. 18 game versus West Virginia Wesleyan.
For the early years of Homecoming, fans could count on the big game versus either West Virginia or Maryland--15 games between 1926 and 1941 were against one of these two opponents, with Georgetown usually getting the win. Games with the Terrapins were so popular among alumni that the weekends were routinely designated as "Homecoming" even if the Hoyas were playing in College Park that season.
In 1951, with the sport having been dropped that spring, plans were made for what the Ye Domesday Booke called the "Hoya Bowl" for intramural football, but the event was never held and the Homecoming tradition disappeared. Twelve years later, a Homecoming was announced with the revival of football, but was cancelled at the last minute in the wake of President John Kennedy's death the day before.
Georgetown's 1964 return to football debuted at a revived Homecoming game, where the student committee built a weekend unseen at Georgetown in a a generation: senior-alumni cocktail parties, a pep rally on Old North steps, a 20-float parade complete with a homecoming queen and her court, a varsity-alumni basketball game, a Saturday night dance at $4.00 per couple (the same price as the 1925 dance), and, of course, the game itself. Over 8,000 people attended the 1964 game, over 9,000 a year later.
Homecoming was also popular in this era for the Friday night concert. Contemporary acts such as the Beach Boys, Rare Earth, and Ike and Tina Turner all played at GU the night before the game, but none were as memorable as the 1970 Homecoming, when The Who drew as many as 6,000 inside McDonough's confines. Despite the event's popularity, funding declined in the 1970's to bring in major acts, and the concerts faded away by the mid-1970's, as did the traditional dance.
Facilities also played a role in the decline of Homecoming's importance over the years. The previous configuration of Kehoe Field allowed plenty of mingling room, but when the field was reconstructed atop the Yates Field House, the attendance overwhelmed the facility. According to The HOYA, some fans waited until halftime to be admitted to the 1979 game, and the crowd of 5,000 had no room to stand atop Kehoe Field. To add insult to injury, the new Astroturf field had no landscaping around it, leading most of the grounds to be covered in mud.
Attendance continued to decline in the 1980's. Students dismissed football's Division III status compared to Big East basketball, there was a run of poor weather, and some real mismatches on the field led many to discount the weekend in its entirety: in 1984 and 1985, for example, Georgetown lost its Homecoming games by a combined score of 98-0. Alumni attendance disappeared and so did the students: by the arrival of MAAC football in the 1990's, attendance dipped to under 1,500 a game.
With renewed support by the Alumni Association, Homecoming has returned to its place as one of the major events of the fall calendar, with nearly 6,000 in attendance last year, most of whom could not get to see the game because the unfinished home field holds only 2,500.