Students at the Friday night bonfire warmed up around the fire and got pumped up for the game against Georgia Tech.
MACON — It was a weekend of reconnecting, reuniting and rediscovering for hundreds of Mercer alumni, as they made their way back to Macon to celebrate with old friends and rekindle their love of Mercer. The new fall homecoming already promises to become an exciting tradition, as plans are under way for next year.
(To visit the photo galleries from this year's events, go>.)
On Friday night, hundreds of alumni, students, faculty and staff packed Bear Hill to cheer on Coach Bob Hoffman and the men’s basketball team ahead of the Homecoming Game against Georgia Tech. The crowd braved the frigid temperatures to show their school spirit, gather warmth from a huge bonfire and follow the Mercer band and cheerleaders in a pep rally, which concluded with a spectacular fireworks display.
“It’s exciting that my last year people are spirited more than ever,” said senior Tiffany McIntosh. “There’s also more of a feeling of community this year. I will definitely come back as an alum.”
Saturday’s festivities began early with a 5K run around campus, with 130 runners braving the sub-freezing temperatures. An orange pancake breakfast and campus tours followed, and around 11 a.m. alumni and students began tailgating for the big game against Tech at a huge outdoor barbeque.
Sandy Sizemore, CLA ’70, helped to organize Homecoming and attended the events with her husband, Judge Lamar Sizemore, CLA ’70, LAW ’74.
“Last night was great, we really enjoyed being out there,” Judge Sizemore said, over a breakfast of orange pancakes.
“We’re thrilled with this event,” Sandy said. “The students are very welcoming to the alumni. They don’t know us at all, but it’s nice to come back and feel connected.”
“I like Homecoming at the beginning of basketball season,” said junior Katie McQueen. “It gets people excited. I would come back for these events as an alum.”
The game itself was electric, with the Bears holding a lead throughout the game before the standing-room-only crowd of nearly 4,000 in the University Center Arena. The roaring crowd took the Bears to the brink, but Tech proved too strong in overtime, winning 82-76. The Tech players looked relieved as they came off the court, glad to have squeaked by a determined opponent that earlier in the week had knocked off Alabama and Auburn
“The place was packed to capacity,” said Todd Smith, BUS ’93, ’97. “The coach has done a great job getting the team ready. It was a great day! I appreciate President Underwood's support of athletics. The best is yet to come.”
Though the game was not the result the thousands of Bear fans wanted, the strong showing, energized atmosphere and hope for a strong season kept the festivities going. The evening featured a cookout and concluded with the Homecoming dance.
“Homecoming weekend has been great – just reconnecting with Mercer, reconnecting with old friends,” said Elizabeth Neeland, CLA ’03, after the game. “I think it makes you really proud of where you came from and makes you really appreciate Mercer. There was just such a huge build-up of excitement and everyone was so energized. I think we’re disappointed right now, but everyone will come away with a good feeling from this weekend.”
Darvin Thurman, CLA ’93, who started the day with the run, spent the day catching up with professors he hadn’t seen in 15 years and came away with a great feeling as well.
“The enthusiasm and school spirit around here has been great,” he said. “It’s a good experience.”
Plans are already in the works for next year, with the Florida State Seminoles tabbed to be Mercer’s Homecoming 2009 opponent.
“I’m glad Mercer has this now,” said Doug Grogan, CLA ’01. “I wish they’d had this when I was here as a student and I hope, now, that more alumni will come back next year, because it’s going to be even bigger.”