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Happy homecoming! (for whichever name you choose)
by Harry Spencer
Oct 23, 2009 | 681 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune/ Debra Reid - Wooden pallets and scrape lumber were torched Friday night at the annual Homecoming bonfire near the UNR football stadium.
Tribune/ Debra Reid - Wooden pallets and scrape lumber were torched Friday night at the annual Homecoming bonfire near the UNR football stadium.
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Today is Homecoming Day on the University of Nevada, Reno campus. For those of us who attended the “U” in the middle of last century, the school will always be known as “University of Nevada.” In fact, the football and basketball teams have opted to drop the “Reno” from their uniforms and promotions and prefer to be known simply as “Nevada.”

Adding the “Reno” to the name decades ago prompted all sorts of printings and reprintings as the comma between “Nevada” finally evolved after a slash and a dash had brief appearances as the punctuation of choice. All of that, of course, was because the publicity-minded town of Las Vegas had added “LV” to the southern “UN.” In actuality, the original name of the sister school to the south was quite properly “Nevada Southern.”

Regardless of when you graduated and which school name is on your diploma, it should not, and probably will not, affect the way in which you celebrate today as the beloved Silver and Blue pigskinners take on the University of Idaho.

Currently standing at 3-3 and undefeated in Western Athletic Conference play, the Chris Ault 11 is pretty much where most loyal fans thought it would be at this point in the season. Losses to Notre Dame and Missouri were not unexpected but losing to Colorado State was a surprise. In actuality, the Pack had a decent shot at upsetting Missouri, but for a costly fumble on the Mizzou 1-yard line late in the game. The total dismantling of UNLV lifted many local spirits as did the LaTech win and the nailbiter victory over Utah State.

When the Wolf Pack offense is clicking in high gear, it looks completely unstoppable. In fact, it disported itself well against Notre Dame until it got into the red zone.

As it has been for many seasons, the pass defense of Nevada is still a questionable area. Other teams seem to be able to score almost at will when they take to the air. If this part of the Nevada defense can be corrected it may be possible for the home team to be able to dream of upsetting traditional foes Fresno State and Boise State. That would probably mean more to coach Ault than his 200 victories or his place in the College Football Hall of Fame.

Go Pack!

While the football game is the highlight of Homecoming, the real purpose of the celebration is to return to your alma mater — an easy trip for those who have stayed in the area following graduation — and reconnect with not only the campus but many classmates and friends you made while attending the U.

Each year the number of classmates dwindles for those grads of the years following World War II and the several decades beyond that time. Nonetheless, the sight of a familiar face that you have not encountered for possibly 20 or 30 years immediately rekindles memories of what the school on “The Hill” used to be like.

During the war years, it was a tiny institution at best, with female students near a 10-to-1 ratio over male undergraduates. That ratio changed dramatically after 1945 when ex-GIs showed up in droves and dominated the enrollment. Those were the halcyon days because the ex-servicemen were truly “men” as opposed to the apple-cheeked high school grads that used to dominate the freshman class. Consequently, a lot of traditions of campus life went out the window in the late ’40s. I recall one fraternity house incident where a young sophomore threatened an ex-GI with the house “paddle” because the latter was late showing up for a dinner meal. As the fuzz-faced soph approached the grizzled vet and said, “Bend over and take your five swats for being late,” the ex-soldier glared at him and said, “Swing that paddle once and it will end up where the sun never shines on you!”

Needless to say, no swats were administered.

Even the varsity teams in those days were far different than those that cavort on the greensward and the hardwood today. Many of the players had been at Nevada before their time in the service and then had played two, three, even four years of Army, Navy or Marine Corps ball. They were fully developed, extremely tough individuals and their work as athletes attested to that fact. Some who were on the campus for the first time had put in numerous years at other institutions and were on the shady side of 25. Since the NCAA was not as big a factor then as it is today, those longtime players could suit up as often as they wanted.

At one point in time, during the reign of Jim Aiken as Nevada football coach, the Reno campus was known as a “holding camp” for the Cleveland Browns. Since Browns owner Paul Brown was a former competitor against Aiken in the Midwest and had developed a respect for the toughness of Aiken’s coaching technique, he figured there was no better place to send his future pro stars to be toughened up, the most famous of which was fullback Marion Motley.

Today, root root root for the home team!

Harry Spencer is a freelance writer in Reno. His column about the past and present of northern Nevada appears weekly in the Tribune.

Editor’s note: Harry Spencer’s column is sometimes a mix of reporting and opinion. Opinions expressed in his column are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Tribune.

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