Homecoming inspires lasting tradition for football

This Saturday at noon on Amherst’s Pratt Field, the 127th football game will be played between Williams and Amherst. The rivalry is the most-played in Div. III and the fourth most-played in all of NCAA football. Such a storied history of competition has bred many traditions for football, some of which have become extinct with time and others that are ongoing and growing.

In the Log on Spring Street, there rests an old wooden goalpost on which the scores of past Amherst-Williams football games are carved. According to Associate Director of Communication for Sports Information Dick Quinn and former Head Football Coach Dick Farley, after big games back in the day, the fans would tear down wooden goalposts. The goalpost in the Log is presumably one such victim from a Williams win. Farley noted that there were always security concerns surrounding this tradition due to the weight of the goalposts. Such concerns were as shortlived as the tradition itself: Farley explained that “the tradition ended when the goalposts became plastic, [as] obviously, you can’t tear those down.”

Some years after that tradition ended, another one started and has continued to this day. The Walk, a tradition that involves the team walking up Spring Street together after a Homecoming victory, began on Nov. 13, 1971. Typically, the team would ride buses from Weston Field to Cole Fieldhouse. However, after a Homecoming win over Amherst in 1971, Dave Shawan ’72 is credited with urging the team to forgo the bus and walk back to the fieldhouse. “There were too many people, and the bus couldn’t move anyway, so they started walking up Spring Street out of necessity,” Farley said.

About 10 years later, the tradition of the Homecoming Walk was expanded to include Wesleyan Homecoming victories, according to Roger St. Pierre. St. Pierre is the owner of St. Pierre’s Barbershop on Spring Street, which has become an integral stop on the team’s walk back to Cole. “It’s something that grew,” St. Pierre said of the Walk. “It was never intended to be anything.” This first spontaneous event has grown into an indispensible part of the football team’s tradition and was evident last weekend, when the men made the Walk after their 19-7 win over Wesleyan.

According to St. Pierre, the tradition of the Walk was actually lost for a few years when the team suffered a stretch of Homecoming losses. However, in 1986, the tradition was reborn when David Montogomery ’89, who grew up in town and remembered the Walk from his younger years, asked St. Pierre if they could come to the shop after the game if they won, which they did. The following year, after the win, “The captain said everyone was coming up – the whole team,” St. Pierre said. And so the tradition of stopping at St. Pierre’s Barbershop on the Walk was born.

Before the drinking age was moved to 21, the Walk and the stop at St. Pierre’s involved minimal alcohol consumption. Now, however, soda, water and Gatorade are served in addition to cheap cigars, and the team sings songs. About 15 years ago, “they started with the haircuts as well,” St. Pierre said, referencing  the strange haircuts the upperclassmen now give the first-year players.

Although Farley claims not to have a favorite Williams football tradition, he noted that all aspects of the Walk are “in good fun.” The Walk follows either the last game of the season against Amherst or second-to-last game of the season against Wesleyan. These last games are so meaningful, according to Farley, both because there is no postseason play and because for most of the seniors, “This is the last game they’ll play: You have 60 minutes to play and a lifetime to remember.”

“The Walk denotes the culmination of the all of the hard work we put in together as a team,” tri-captain Peter Christiani ’13 said. “It is a way for all of us to take a moment and celebrate everything we’ve accomplished together. It also shows us how much bigger Williams Homecoming is than any one team. Between seeing all of the football alumnus lining up across Spring Street and realizing how far back the Walk goes, we get a glimpse at how rich the tradition of Williams football is.”

  • Suzi Gerber

    Fantastic article!! Well-written and informative!