Homecoming shakes things up

This weekend marks the 101st anniversary of the first celebrated homecoming at Illinois. The following are a few ways Saturday’s contest against Northwestern will differ from the average home game.

* The Marching Illini will have a different look Saturday. More than 200 alumni will perform alongside the Marching Illini before the game and during halftime. In the past, the alumni have performed alone, but beginning last year, it’s been a joint effort.

“It kind of left the Marching Illini out of the picture a little bit,” Marching Illini director Barry Houser said. “This way we keep everyone involved.”

In addition to normal routines such as the 3-in-1, the Marching Illini and alumni performance will feature karaoke music.

“I don’t know if it’s the best of or the worst of, but it will be a culmination of karaoke music,” Houser said.

* The Illini will make their first appearance on ESPN2 this season as they take on the Wildcats. The game will also be streamed live on ESPN3.com.

* Off the field, the focus will fall on the University alumni as various guests are recognized throughout the game.

“Obviously, Homecoming is a big deal on our campus,” said Jennifer Larson, assistant director for marketing. “There’s some things during the game that are geared toward the alumni and kind of getting them excited for being back on campus.”

* One of those guests is Alan Puzey, who will be honored during a first quarter timeout as the Lou Liay Spirit Award winner. The annual award is given to the Illinois alum who has “consistently demonstrated extraordinary loyalty, commitment, dedication and service to the Alumni Association and related groups.” Puzey graduated from the University in 1974 and currently serves on the ACES Alumni Board of Directors.

* The 2011 Illini Comeback Guests will be recognized between the first and second quarters. This year’s guests include Ryan Baker (’91 Media), sports anchor and director of CBS 2 in Chicago, Paul Schrage (’59 Media), retired senior executive vice president and chief marketing officer of McDonald’s Corp, and Roy Strom (’54 AHS), retired brigadier general in the U.S. Army and Arizona cattle rancher.

* Another undefeated Illinois squad will take the field Saturday between the third and fourth quarter. Those who purchase a ticket to Saturday’s football game will also get to see the No. 1 Illini volleyball team take on another unbeaten team in No. 12 Purdue on Saturday night. Admission to the game is free with a football voucher.

* Halftime will be busier than usual with the expanded band and honoring of the homecoming court after the band’s performance. Twenty Illini students make up this year’s court.

* The Illini coaching staff will have some extra help this weekend, as 16-year-old Trenton Faullin will serve as an honorary coach for Saturday’s game, made possible through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The Mahomet, Ill., native was diagnosed with leukodystrophy at age 3. Faullin will have a chance to interact with players and coaches beginning Friday evening when he attends the team’s practice at Memorial Stadium.

* University police are not changing their approach for Saturday’s game, but University Police Captain Skip Frost said nearly every officer on staff will work extended hours this weekend. “We’ll have about as many people on the street as we can possibly muster,” Frost said. “We just want to focus on being out, being available, being visible.”

_Sources: Fightingillini.com, JenNifer Larson, Derrick Neal, Captain Skip Frost, Barry Houser, Illinois.edu/homecoming, uiaa.org/Illinois/homecoming_