By Patrick McCallister
For Hometown News
DELAND - Homecoming's back.
Actually, Stetson University has been doing homecoming all along. Just not many noticed.
"It was usually centered around baseball, so it was around spring," said Amy Dedes, assistant director of alumni engagement.
Homecoming events are planned for Nov. 2-4 this year to welcome back football. Starting in 2013, the Hatters will be hitting the gridiron in the Pioneer League after a 57 year football fast.
On tap for Saturday, Nov. 3, is the Green and White Skirmish. That'll be by the Athletic Training Center, 400 block of East Minnesota Avenue. The public is invited to the 2 p.m. game.
"We'll have bleachers brought in for this game," Ms. Dedes said.
There will be 2013 season tickets to buy along with food trucks lined up with all kinds of goodies.
Stetson University gave up its football and fall homecomings back in the 1950s. The strongly Baptist college had an uneasy relationship with the violent sport going back to the turn of the last century.
Nevertheless, the school has a field full of football bragging rights. Stetson started the whole winning-football-championships thing for the state in 1901. On Nov. 22 that year, Stetson's gridiron gang traveled to Jacksonville to face off against Lake City's Florida Agricultural College in the state's first intercollegiate pigskin toss. The Mad Hatters squashed Florida Ag 6-0, winning the state's first college championship.
The folks back at FAC took the defeat so hard, they moved their campus to Gainesville and changed the school's name to the University of Florida. True story. Didn't do the Florida folks much good: Stetson beat U of F in 1938, too. The score was 16-14.
But football's back and generally Baptists have come to appreciate the sport.
"I think (football is) great for the school," James Dreggors said in a recent interview. "I heard enrollment is up, and I think football has a lot to do with that."
Mr. Dreggors was a guard on Stetson's last football team in 1956. The 79-year-old aims to be at Stetson's inaugural 2013 game. He said Spec Martin Stadium, 260 E. Euclid Ave., will probably become his second home during college football season from now on.
The school has its sights set on football helping it draw 3,000 undergraduate students by 2016, and it seems to be closing in on that goal. Bob Stewart, director of admissions, said about 950 undergrads started their first year at Stetson back in August, 850 freshmen and 100 transfer students. That tops last year's record-setting 850 new undergrad students, about 715 freshmen and around 135 transfers.
Stetson alum and DeLand City Manager Michael Pleus said he's excited to see football and fall homecomings back.
"You know I'll be there," he said. "You know it."
More about homecoming events are at stetson.edu/homecoming.