This past weekend UMass Amherst celebrated Homecoming, and it was one packed full of events. From open houses and luncheons to the blacklight dance, the MinuteFan Tailgate and the Homecoming Parade, and, of course, the UMass versus Villanova football game and UMass vs. Boston College hockey game, it was a difficult to find time to do it all! But this being my senior year, I did my very best to attend at least some of the activities.
So, what was the highlight of this action-packed weekend? For me, I’d have to say the Homecoming football game and tailgate.
As much as I hate to admit it, this was my first year making it to the UMass Homecoming football game and tailgate. In my defense, I did transfer to the campus last fall, and sadly, my previous university did not have a football team. I had always known that Homecoming was a big deal for schools with a team, but until I came to UMass, I had no clue just how huge of a deal it was.
When I got to McGuirk Stadium this year with a group of my friends, I was astonished by the rows and rows of cars and the overwhelming number of people celebrating on the lawn. Students, faculty, friends, family, and alumni alike were rallied together, enjoying good food and good company, and most importantly, proudly supporting their Minutemen.
This year’s Homecoming marked a lot of positive changes for UMass. For one, UMass football is moving up in the conference. No longer will we be a part of the Colonial Athletic Conference; instead, we can now call ourselves a division 1-A team, since as of next year the Minutemen will be playing for the Mid-American Conference, which includes teams such as Buffalo and Temple. Not only are we moving up in the conference, but the school also needs a new stadium that can meet NCAA eligibility requirements. Starting next season, the Minutemen will be taking on their tough new competitors at Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots. This Homecoming, therefore, marked the last one to be held at McGuirk.
There were some new additions to the tailgate, as well. This year, the University Programming Council brought back the Homecoming Parade, a tradition that faded away in the late 1990’s. And, for the first time in campus history, students got to vote for Homecoming royalty, as UMass had their first Homecoming King and Queen. The pair-- Akshay Kapoor and Brooke Myones--were announced on the field during the game.
It’s not just UMass Athletics that experienced big changes this weekend. On a ceremony held on Saturday, UMass President Robert L. Caret, Chancellor Robert C. Holub, Commonwealth Honors College Dean Priscilla M. Clarkson donned hard hats and wielded shovels for the official commencement of the Honors College Residential Complex that will house Honors students and faculty, provide nine additional classrooms and offices, and hold a 300-seat conference center and cafe. This is quite an addition for the Honors College!
UMass is transforming, for the better, and Homecoming marked many of these transformations. As a senior, I got to witness the beginnings of all that is happening for the University. I got to be a part of UMass history—pretty cool if I do say so myself.