This was Wisconsin's homecoming weekend, but many people may not know where the tradition of 'Homecoming' came from. The Big Ten Conference can claim its birth.
The first recorded homecoming game was at the University of Illinois in 1910. Originally the idea was to promote attendance at the last home game, especially by inviting alumni back. Other schools that held homecomings around the same time were the University of Indiana (1910), Wisconsin and the University of Missouri in 1911, and University of Arizona in 1914. Wisconsin's first Homecoming game was a 6-6 tie against the University of Minnesota, played on November 18, 1911.
An open letter to alumni appearing in the 1912 Wisconsin Alumni magazine describes the Homecoming Committee inviting alumni back for the mass meeting Friday night, the Saturday night smoker, and to gather and follow the band from lower campus to Camp Randall for the game. The homecoming game in 1912 was a Nov. 2 meeting with the University of Chicago, a game the Badgers won 30-12.
Many colleges began their own interesting traditions surrounding a homecoming game which included parades. Arizona may have had one of the first parades with floats, but Wisconsin was not to be outdone. UW's first homecoming parade had the students wearing nightshirts as they paraded around campus. Bonfires became a part of Homecoming activities for many years. Homecoming festivities usually also included a mass meeting (pep rally) with speakers and a "State Street parade."
Wisconsin still has an annual parade, but not in nightshirts. The floats line up on Wisconsin Avenue and head down State street to the Memorial Union where they are judged. UW's homecoming traditions lately have also expanded to a charity 5K walk/run and charity golf outing which benefits the Student Crisis Loan fund.
Other noteworthy Wisconsin homecoming traditions include the annual law students' pre-game cane toss during the homecoming game. Tradition has it that if the law student is successful in tossing his/her cane over the goal post, he/she will win his/her first case.
The first human Bucky Badger also debuted at the 1949 homecoming game. Bucky was first introduced at a pep rally on Friday, November 11, 1949, before the next day's Homecoming game against Iowa (Wisconsin 35, Iowa 13). Bucky was officially named Buckingham U. Badger, a name suggested by Bill Sachse, chair of the Pep Committee. Carolyn (Connie) Conrad, a UW art student, designed the original chicken wire and papier mache head. Bill Sagal, then head cheerleader, wore his regular cheerleader trousers and sweater and added boxing gloves to start a tradition that continues today.