Before last Saturday, I had never gone to a Homecoming event before and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I thought that it was supposed to be a big deal. It sure sounds like it’s supposed to be a big deal. My aunt, who is the alumni director at a private American school, is always busy in the fall as she preps for Homecoming, and from the sound of it, there it’s a BIG DEAL. But when I was at SFU, I never heard anything about it. Did they even have Homecoming events at SFU while I was there? Regardless, I was curious to see what SFU had planned for this year and if any alumni would show up. And given that this was supposed to be a potentially winnable game for the Clan football team, I had high hopes for the event all around!1
I’m such a naïve idiot. In what’s quickly becoming the norm for this team, the Clan got completely stomped, losing 55-6 to the Central Washington Wildcats. Not much went right for SFU, as their passing game sucked (18 completions in 38 attempts for 197 yards) almost as much as their running game sucked (31 attempts for 42 yards, averaging an embarrassing 1.2 yards-per-attempt). If you don’t follow football enough to make heads or tails of those numbers, you can rest assured that they aren’t good. And don’t get me started on the defense, which handed CWU a touchdown on their first play of the game and a 20-0 lead by the end of the 1st Quarter. The game was a disaster all around, and effectively terminated the last shreds of hope that this team would finish the season with a decent record. With a 3-2 overall record, the Wildcats are far from a powerhouse, but you wouldn’t have known it after watching this game. The now 0-5 Clan never had a prayer. The only bright spots emerged in the 4th Quarter when back-up quarterback Mihai Lapuste put up a decent 7-9 for 98 yards and Jalen Jana, the hero from the game against Humboldt State, ran in a late 36-yard rushing touchdown for SFU’s only points in the game. Homecoming might traditionally be a time to remember, but this was definitely a game to forget.
To their credit, SFU did try to put on a memorable event, football suckatude aside. Instead of playing at Swangard Stadium, their usual off-campus home, the Clan invited their fans to watch them play at Terry Fox Field under the SFU lights, just like old times. Members of the ’86 Clan football team greeted the crowd, reminding everyone that yes, SFU had a football team back then too. And alongside the usual entertainment provided by the SFU cheerleaders and local youth football teams, SFU had the Robert Malcolm Memorial Pipe Band play loudly as the SFU Clan took the field to begin the game.2 I have been saying for years that using one of SFU’s world-renowned pipe bands in lieu of the traditional college marching band would give the Clan a fun and unique way of standing out, and it was nice to see how right I was. And the efforts worked, as the game was played in front of the largest crowd I’ve seen yet. In spite of the rain and the cold, the bleachers were filled with students and families. It’s unfortunate that they weren’t given much to cheer about.
I admit that my knowledge about what Homecoming is supposed to be like doesn’t come from firsthand experience. I always imagined a great crowd of students and alumni mingling and celebrating together the beginning of a new school year. Yes, a football game is involved, but I felt it should be about more than that. I wanted it to be a big deal, just like at my aunt’s school, but maybe I need to readjust my expectations. SFU isn’t a prestigious school, nor is it a small, tightly-knit college. It’s mostly thought of as a functional school. A very good school, of course, but one that serves the simple purpose of providing its students with an education and a degree, and nothing more. Even if that isn’t what SFU’s leadership wants the school to be like, I think that it’s how the majority of students still see it. And despite the positive steps SFU has taken to produce a stronger sense of community, it still has a ways to go.
But I still believe Homecoming at SFU has potential. Maybe they just need to tweak it a bit. Have the game start early in the afternoon instead of the evening. That way alumni have time for a nostalgic walk around campus. Offer a discount on tickets for alumni, which would help them feel like this event wants them specifically to be there. Invite some SFU bigwigs to take part in the game’s kick-off and show that this about more about the greater SFU community and less about Clan football. Please, at the very least, invite the pipe band back! Even though the Clan stunk the place up with their dismal play on the field, I enjoyed being back on campus, and I look forward to being at Homecoming again next year.
NEXT WEEK: Tired of watching the Clan lose, I head back to Terry Fox Field to watch SFU’s successful women’s soccer team take on Montana State – Billings.