This year's Homecoming was different. There were no in-person tailgates and no Jhene Aiko concert — just a few virtual events to connect students, alumni and fans. 

Homecoming is a big deal on college campuses and the University of Memphis typically does it big. Last year there were over 20 events hosted throughout the week, including a Homecoming parade, pep rally and carnival, and multiple UofM "swag" pop-ups. Not to mention the Student Activities Council's Bluff City Bash, which featured artist Jhene Aiko and special guest SMINO. 

This year, with a pandemic that limits in-person interaction, the University came up with multiple virtual events that were hosted throughout the week. "Music Monday," "Trivia Tuesday," "Workout Wednesday," "Bingo Thursday" and "Movie Night Friday," led up to Saturday's Homecoming Game, and its "Virtual Tailgate." 

Freshman Asia Morrow, a photography major, said she went to one of the trivia nights and bought the supplies for the paint and sip event, and even went to the Homecoming game. 

"It was fun. Cold, but it was fun," she said 

Homecoming is a big deal on any campus. Morrow said, with this being her first experience, it was kind of "sad." Morrow said her high school senior year festivities were canceled due to the pandemic, and she was already prepared for an irregular freshman year of college. 

“(Coronavirus) obviously it isn't going anywhere anytime soon,” she said. “It's the effort they made. I guess it's important to kind of lighten the mood, you know, have something to be happy about, you know, even though we can't do most of the things that we would usually do.” 

Although homecoming week festivities were virtual, students could still attend the Homecoming Game, where the Tigers won against Temple University, 41-29. Also, the traditional crowning of Mr. and Ms. University of Memphis took place during the game's half-time. 

Marketing management senior, student leader and Mr. UofM finalist Leodan Rodríguez said it is important to have school spirit and that Homecoming is one of the events that brings us together. 

"Given the circumstances that we were under and just everything that we were kind of going through, I think it was a good release and opportunity for students to have some activities done within the parameters of the guidelines that the University has,” he said. “It was pretty fun for me. I love the Homecoming game and doing Mr. UofM, so that was a lot of fun for me." 

Rodríguez said that in previous years, students were more likely to participate because most of the festivities were hosted conveniently on campus, "so it was a little bit different because now you have to try to get people interested in the (virtual) events instead of just being right then and there." 

“There's absolutely no excuse, when we go back to in-person, that it shouldn't be extraordinary — we should expect a seemingly legendary homecoming for 2021,” Rodríguez said. 

For some students, not being on campus this semester has made it more challenging to be involved. With email newsletters being the primary way of communication for everything going on around campus, some students missed the memo entirely. 

Javaria Williams, a junior nursing student, said she had no idea that last week was homecoming week."Did they send it to our email or something?" she asked. 

Williams said being a nursing student at south campus, they rarely have time outside of studying and schoolwork. She said, given the circumstances, she did not see how this year's homecoming would be "big anyway."

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