Then: Mowing Down the Competition
Homecoming turned out to be quite a celebration in 1938. In late October the undefeated and 12th-ranked Wildcats, fresh off a 13-0 shutout of Illinois, returned to Evanston to face the No. 2 Minnesota Golden Gophers.
The weekend's festivities included a nearly 2-mile parade, led by the Northwestern and Minnesota bands, along Sheridan Road and through parts of downtown Evanston on the morning of the game. (The Hinman Friars, residents of Hinman House on the Evanston campus, won first place in the 1938 Homecoming parade contest for their “We’ll Mow ’Em Down” theme, photo above. The Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority sisters also won for their float “Keyed Up for Victory.”) A pep rally and bonfire on Roycemore Field (now Long Field) the night before the game attracted a crowd of 10,000, believed to be the largest gathering for a pregame pep rally to that point in University history.
On the gridiron Northwestern upset Minnesota 6-3, one of the Wildcats' biggest wins ever. (Northwestern has never beaten a team ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press poll, but the Wildcats have knocked off the second-ranked team twice since the rankings began in 1936.)
On the Monday morning after the victory, the still-giddy students tried to organize a boycott of classes. By 7:30 a.m.fraternity and sorority pledges guarded the campus gates to prevent other students from attending classes. They distributed handbills announcing ahastily arranged afternoon pep dance. Soon a crowd estimated at 3,000 gathered on Deering Meadow to cheer the football team. Cheerleaders and band members led the crowd in song, and after a few members of the football program spoke, students performed a "snake dance" around the meadow.
The crowd then headed north for Roycemore Field, but University President Walter Dill Scott (WCAS1895), football coach Lynn Waldorf and athletic director Tug Wilson cut them off and urged the students to return to class. Few did.
The crowd dispersed, but the celebration continued at the afternoon pep dance. The football team went on to a 4-2-2 record that season and nearly pulled off an unprecedented win against No. 1 Notre Dame, falling 9-7 in the season finale.