PHOTOS COURTESY OF K. ROSS TOOLE ARCHIVES, UM-MISSOULA
The first unofficial Homecoming was in 1914, when President Craighead named November 6 as a special day for the return of alumni. The Griz beat the Bobcats in a close match that year, 7-6. This program from that year exhibits the early rivalry, when the Griz eschewed the state agricultural college’s mascot and simply referred to them as farmers.
On Thanksgiving Day in 1915 the Grizzlies held Syracuse to a 6-6 tie during another unofficial Homecoming. There were no gatherings from 1916 to 1918 because of the war in Europe. Thanksgiving 1919 was the first official Homecoming. Letters were sent to former students inviting them to attend and nearly 600 graduates returned to the campus.
Finally, it All Makes Sense?
The Grizzlies’ fight song, Up with Montana Boys, goes way back. Often people have wondered about the origin of the line, “and the squeal of the pig will float on the air from the tummy of the Grizzly bear.” In a program for the 1921 Homecoming, the full text of the original song is printed. The Griz at this point, are still referring to the Bobcats as farmers. And both teams talk about consuming the other. One prominent sign at the 1921 game read "We want bear meat." Could the line about the pig squealing refer to the farmer’s pig? Another interpretation is that the pig is the football pigskin. Take your pick. However you slice it, it’s still strange.
The first Griz team—1897. (photo at right) Football was always a big deal at UM, although in early years, the Griz played a tough schedule and often came out on the losing end—except when they played the school located in Bozeman. The Griz won 17 of 26 games from 1897 to 1923, tying five and losing four, while racking up a total of 357 points to the Cats’ 159.
Our First Homecomings
It may come as a surprise to many alumni that the Singing on the Steps tradition predates the first Homecoming at UM. It began in 1912 when Robert Sibley, head of the University’s engineering department, urged students to gather in front of the science hall and sing to raise school spirit. The Victory Bell also emerged on the scene much earlier—in 1903. It was used to open and close Singing on the Steps and to proclaim victories for UM in academic competitions as well as athletic meets.
Who would have thought the Griz and the Cats would share a drinking fountain, let alone Homecoming. But they did—in 1922 and 1923. In 1922, the State University of Montana and the State College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts (now Montana State University) held a joint Homecoming in Missoula, with the idea of presenting a unified effort to keep the colleges open for Montana students. Railroads granted a special roundtrip rate from any location in Montana to UM and an estimated 900 people flocked to Missoula for the celebrations. The Grizzlies beat the Bobcats 14-7. The game was played at Dornblaser Field (shown here), which had been completed in 1920. The next year Homecoming was held in Bozeman and several new buildings on the MSU campus were open “for inspection”; an estimated 500 fans from Missoula traveled east to see the Griz defeat the Cats 24-13.
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