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Purple Reign

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In just a few short days, Evanston will be filled with alumni. Thousands of alumni. All decked out in purple and celebrating "Purple Reign," a 100-year-old tradition that we like to call Homecoming. Already, one of my former teammates has made my couch her home for the week.

So what's all this about Homecoming? When did it start? Why do we celebrate it? To answer these questions I headed over to the library and made my way into the University Archives, a small room lined with bookshelves filled to the top with school history.

University Archivist Kevin Leonard hands me an old black book when I arrive, pages brown with age and tattered at the edges. It's embossed in gold- The Northwestern- and dates back to the 1800s. We tenderly flip open its cover and search through the dilapidated collection of student-written pieces until we stumble across this:

"Next Saturday, we will witness the first alumni game in the history of Northwestern," it reads. "Present students will have an opportunity of seeing former heroes in their old places."

The piece is dated back to November 18, 1897 and marked the unofficial 'beginning' of Homecoming. That Saturday, alumni were defeated by the varsity football squad 25-0 in a game that kick-started the tradition of trekking back to Evanston. Over the next decade Northwestern alumni would continue to return to campus once a year; the event officially being named "Homecoming" in 1911.

Leonard hands me a stack of newspaper articles labeled 'Homecoming', and I delicately finger through tales of pep rallies, dances, mixers, auto parades, and home decorations. I read that by 1936, the festivities had grown to nearly 10,000 alumni gathering in Evanston, and with a chuckle, I find that students were outraged when a 40-year tradition was broken when the decision was made to give funds for the 1937 parade to charity instead.

The articles spoke of Homecoming 1942 as a somber affair due to World War II and detailed Homecoming 1965 as the year in which students pushed to make the event even more grandiose. The stack of black and white photographs that Leonard has left on my table depict Northwestern University Marching Band members from the 1920s and Northwestern cheerleaders in a 1930s parade. The homecoming queen contest was started in 1956 and I flip through pictures of candidates all dolled up in puffy white dresses.

Article after article raves about the 1968 Dionne Warwick performance before a sell-out crowd of 5,000 in honor of the alumni. A newspaper clipping gushes about the 1981 Homecoming parade's grand marshal -- an All-American quarterback who held Northwestern's record for most points in a single game -- Otto Graham. And near the end of the stack I discover a list of past homecoming themes: "Willie's Wonderland" in 1957 and "Get Your Ya-Ya's Out" in 1973, to name a few.

Finally, Leonard brings me an piece by 1972 Daily Northwestern writer Holly Sembrat: "Homecoming parade supporters come in different shapes and sizes," she writes. "Their ages range from 3 to 80 and beyond. But they share the belief that laughing out loud and huddling next to strangers to keep warm will be a good way to spend tomorrow evening." 

Apparently, some things never change.

Because as I look over the mess that I've made in the archives, papers spilling onto the chairs next to me and photos wreaking havoc across my table, I come to the realization that Homecoming is much more than the parades and the concerts and the games. On Saturday when Ryan FIeld is packed with alumni and students alike, it will be more than just a game we commemorate once a year.

Homecoming is a celebration that transcends time; a tribute to those that have gone before, those that are here now and those yet to come. It is a platform and a gateway into the legacy of what it means to wear purple. 

So I close that big black book and pile high the folders. I push in my chair and walk out into Evanston's autumn wind, smiling as I remember all that it truly means to be a Wildcat.

[Note: This piece was re-worked from its original publication in Northwestern's football magazine, The Den.]

Welcome to Northwestern!

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Hello Big Ten Nation, and welcome to Northwestern! 

I'm Kristin Scharkey, and I'll be keeping you updated on all the happenings around Evanston right here on the Mobile Tour blog, YouTube and Twitter

We are so happy to be hosting the Big Ten's Honoring Legends, Building Leaders Mobile Tour this week as we gear up to play Penn State on Saturday. It's Homecoming weekend here in Evanston, so it should make for a great few days filled with thousands of alumni, lots of purple and of course, Wildcat football. What more could you want? 

To celebrate Homecoming, we've got tons of events going on around campus. On Thursday at 8 p.m., The Second City-- the heart and soul of Chicago comedy that includes alumni such as Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert and Tina Fey-- will be performing in our own Cahn Auditorium. The Gridiron Network Football Lunch will take place at 11:30 a.m. Friday morning for those who want to participate in a reunion tradition and eat lunch with Head Football Coach Pat Fitzgerald and our team captains. And later Friday night, the infamous Homecoming Parade and Pep Rally will be celebrated down Sheridan Road and in Deering Meadow. Word on the street is that the Tour's RV and the new Stagg-Paterno Championship Trophy will be making an appearance in the parade!

In the meantime, the Big Ten Mobile Tour will be making its rounds, starting at Norris Student Center on Thursday morning. Here's where the RV and trophy will be throughout the weekend:

Thursday, October 20

11 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. CT

Norris Student Center (outside food court)


4 - 6:30 p.m. CT

Henry Crown Sports Pavilion (SPAC)


Friday, October 21

10 - 10:45 a.m. CT

Norris Student Center (outside food court)


11 a.m. - Noon CT

Norris Student Center (Louis Room)

NGN Luncheon


Noon - 1:30 p.m. CT

Norris Student Center (outside food court)


4:30 - 5:30 p.m. CT

SPAC Parking Lot

Pre-Parade BBQ


6:30 - 7:30 p.m. CT

Homecoming Parade


Saturday, October 22

2 - 6 p.m. ET

Ryan Field

Southeast corner outside of stadium

We're looking forward to seeing you throughout the week! GO CATS!

Now Batting, Kristin Scharkey!

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Northwestern's Kristin Scharkey is taking over the Honoring Legends. Building Leaders. Mobile Tour blog, Twitter account and YouTube page while the tour is in Evanston.

Learn more about Kristin by watching her introductory video HERE and by reading her intro below:

"Hello Big Ten fans, my name is Kristin Scharkey and I will be representing Northwestern University during the Mobile Tour.  I grew up in Yorba Linda, Calif. and am entering my junior year at Northwestern where I major in journalism and also play centerfield for the Wildcat softball team.

"When I was making my decision on where to attend college and play ball, NU's consistently top-ranked Medill School of Journalism made it impossible for a softball player with a passion for writing not to choose Northwestern. Since then, I've had the opportunity to work for ESPN RISE, pen my own Schark Bytes blog for and write for several on-campus publications. I'm a die-hard Lakers fan and a follower of Jesus Christ, and I am incredibly excited about providing an inside look at the Big Ten through a student-athlete's eyes. "

You're up, Kristin!

Moving Right Along

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Iowa's Michele Danno did a great job reporting on the Big Ten's Honoring Legends. Building Leaders. Mobile Tour during its stop in Iowa City!

Remember to follow the tour all season long on this blog and on Twitter @B1GMobileTour and vote for your favorite reporter at the end of the season. The winning student will get a trip to the Big Ten Football Championship Game or a Big Ten bowl game of their choice!

Next stop: Northwestern

Small Towns, Big Fans

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Just like the whole B1G Ten conference, Hawkeye football is teeming with traditions and legacies rooted in our deep college football history dating back to 1889. Iowa - a small state without any professional sports teams to claim our own - has been informally deemed the "Hawkeye State" thanks to the wonderful fan support Iowa football has garnered through generations. Although I'm not an Iowa native, I've witnessed week after week just how contagious Hawkeye pride is, and this weekend I was honored to share some of Iowa's traditions with the B1G Ten Mobile Tour and reassure the conference that they made the right choice naming Iowa to the "Legends" division!

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A night game victory against the big city-dwelling Northwestern Wildcats was the perfect way to prove just how seriously Hawkeye football is taken in this state -- from tailgating to post-game, Iowa fans have made celebrating game weekends an art. The Mobile Tour crew enjoyed a long afternoon setup outside historic Kinnick Stadium meeting and greeting faithful Iowa fans and introducing them to one of the B1G Ten's newest traditions - the Stagg-Paterno championship trophy

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Parked right outside the entrance to Kinnick, the bus and the trophy attracted lots of attention from tailgaters throughout the day. By the time we set up at 1 p.m., we soon realized some of the Hawkeyes' most faithful fans had been relishing in the gameday atmosphere since before 8 a.m. -- and kickoff wasn't even until 6! To stay energized, some members of the crew relied on one of Iowa's longstanding traditional tailgate meals -- a big turkey leg! 

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With just a few traces of Wildcat purple, black and gold flooded the streets of Iowa City, and the B1G Ten crew was impressed by the Hawkeyes' fabulous fan showing!

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Once we wrapped up outside, we followed the masses of black and gold into Kinnick to watch the Hawkeyes battle Northwestern! For a view from the sidelines, click here.

The only thing Iowans might love more than Hawkeye football is their sustainable farmers, without whom we'd all go hungry! To show this homeland pride, it has become a pre-game tradition to honor the America Needs Farmers movement during the National Anthem. 

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Even the Hawkeyes' ex-quarterback Ricky Stanzi and a few other Iowa football veterans came back to cheer on their Alma Mater! 


A 41-31 victory over the Wildcats was the perfect way to end the B1G Ten tour's visit to Iowa City. We were honored to host the B1G Ten Championship Stagg-Paterno trophy, and hopefully we will see it permanently back in Iowa City soon! 

Twas the day before Gameday

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Up before the sun on our 2nd day here in Iowa City to attend one of Iowa's longstanding home game weekend traditions - the I-Club breakfast! That's right, every home game some of the Hawkeyes' most faithful fans and gracious donors gather at 6 a.m. to bid Iowa good luck against whichever team they face that weekend. This week, bring on the Wildcats of Northwestern!

Among other notable guests, head football coach Kirk Ferentz attended the event and gave a compelling speech discussing his squad's preparation for Saturday.

With a little help from Herky the Hawk, Iowa's spirit squad, and the marching band, guests got a little pick-me-up as they rallied together to sing Iowa's favorite tune - the fight song! It's never too early to show your Hawkeye pride.


We showcased the championship trophy, which sparkled next to the main table and attracted a lot of attention. Anxious expressions radiated from the front to the back of the room as wide-eyed Hawkeye faithfuls stared longingly at the hardware that they can hopefully claim as their own in the near future!

Men's basketball coach Fran McCaffery also spoke on behalf of his new and improved 2011 squad and reminded us that Iowa isn't only about football. 


The second-year head coach noted his tight-knit relationship with Coach Ferentz and other Iowa athletic department leaders, and thanked them for graciously welcoming him into the Hawkeye family over the last year. Can't beat that Iowa hospitality!

The sun was just rising over downtown Iowa City as the breakfast concluded and the crowd broke up to begin their busy home game weekends. Luckily tomorrow's game isn't until 6 p.m. so we can sleep in a little bit before the tailgate festivities! 

As for the B1G Ten crew, we finished up day two at Hubbard Park see more students, and then headed downtown to Iowa City's Pedestrian Mall to introduce Mr. Stagg-Paterno (the trophy, not the people!) to the rest of the Iowa City community. Since Hawkeye pride extends well beyond the walls of our university buildings, it's important to include all our loyal supporters in the home game traditions and celebrations.


 Football weekends in Iowa City bring in Hawkeye fans young and old, near and far, and Kinnick stadium, when filled to its 70,585 person-capacity, is Iowa's third most populated place in the state! Hopefully, this means we can meet and greet as many Hawkeyes as possible this weekend, and get them excited about their placement in the LEADERS division! Until tomorrow, GO HAWKS 

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Welcome to Iowa City!

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Mother Nature smiled on Iowa City today to help us welcome the B1G Ten bus to the Hawkeye State. Greeted by sunny skies, smiling faces, and unusually warm temperatures for October, the conference's Chief Commissioner Diane Dietz said this was the best weather she's seen since the tour started six weeks ago! You can always count on Iowa for niceness :)


Diane and her crew's first stop was Carver Hawkeye Arena to introduce the championship trophy to the University of Iowa and surrounding community members. It's hard to say what shined brighter that day - the trophy or the sun! Standing a stunning 30" tall, the trophy was named in honor of College Football Hall of Famers Amos Alonzo Stagg and Joe Paterno, and is a tribute to Big Ten student athletes past and present.

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 Each year it will be awarded to the winner (hopefully the Hawkeyes soon!!!!) of the newly-established Big Ten Championship game, which was added upon the inclusion of Nebraska to the now-12 team conference. Click here to watch Diane explain more !

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After the warm welcome at Carver, it was time to change into some play clothes and hit Hubbard Park to meet the most important members of the University of Iowa - the students! Parked next to the Iowa Memorial Student Union, the B1G blue bus attracted lots of attention. With the help of the lively promotions team, students flocked to the RV for their chance to see the trophy up close, get photos with it, and enter to win tickets to the Big Ten Championship game.

 A blow-up football catching game was an added bonus VID00018.MP4 -- seriously so fun!  As if this day couldn't get any brighter, good spirits kept coming with the news that former Hawkeye defenseman Brett Greenwood came out of his month-long coma and is now on the road to recovery. For more info on this important menmber of the Hawkeye family, read here

 Overall, everyone enjoyed a great afternoon in Iowa City, which I would argue is the best place to be during football season. According to local forecasts, the pleasant weather and friendly atmosphere are set to keep up well into the weekend as we welcome the Wildcats of Northwestern to the historic Kinnick Stadium on Saturday!

The tour will continue bright and early tomorrow at the I-Club breakfast with Kirk Ferentz, and then will head back to the park for more student interaction. To keep up with the crew at all time, follow me on Twitter at @B1GMobileTour ! 

Meet Michele

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Iowa's Michele Danno is taking over the Honoring Legends. Building Leaders. Mobile Tour blog, Twitter account and YouTube page while the tour is in Iowa City.

Learn more about Michele by watching her introductory video HERE and by reading her intro below:

"I have three main passions in life - writing, sports, and traveling. Throughout my college career, I've had the opportunity to do all three. I've traveled to 14 countries, spent summers working in four Midwest states, and studied abroad on two different continents. After all that, there's no place I love more than Iowa City - especially during football season.

"My name is Michele Danno, and I'm reluctant to say I just started my last year (and football season!) as a University of Iowa student. Since my freshman year, I've combined my passions by reporting Iowa sports for The Daily Iowan and Although I'm not an Iowa native, I learned right away there's nothing this state loves more than their Hawkeyes! Now that I'm a senior, I'm honored to be representing the Hawkeye state in the Big Ten Mobile Tour. So c'mon Hawkeye fans, let's show the Big 10 why they call us the "Legends!" Go Hawks!"

It's all yours, Michele!  

This Weekend's Schedule

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The Big Ten's Honoring Legends. Building Leaders. Mobile Tour comes to Iowa on Thursday! View the complete schedule below, and follow on Twitter @B1GMobileTour for more information!

Thursday, October 13
1 - 1:30 p.m. CT
Carver-Hawkeye Arena
Basketball Media Day

2 - 5 p.m. CT
Hubbard Park

Friday, October 14
5:45 - 8 a.m. CT
Sheraton Iowa City
I-Club Breakfast

11 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. CT
Hubbard Park

3:30 - 6 p.m. CT
Ped Mall outside Sheraton Iowa City

Saturday, October 15
1 - 3 p.m. CT
Krause Family Plaza

4:30 - 6 p.m. CT
Krause Family Plaza

Mobile Tour: On The Road Again

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Nebraska's Makayla Hipke did a great job reporting on the Big Ten's Honoring Legends. Building Leaders. Mobile Tour during its stop in Lincoln!

Remember to follow the tour all season long on this blog and on Twitter @B1GMobileTour and vote for your favorite reporter at the end of the season. The winning student will get a trip to the Big Ten Football Championship Game or a Big Ten bowl game of their choice!

Next stop: Iowa