Homecoming 2021: A change to tradition

Hayden Olberding and Josh Meredith

No king or queen was crowned for homecoming, there were no basketball players present and no fans were cheering on from the stands.

The 2021 Homecoming Court lined up in the Screaming Eagles Arena. Nathan Payne, the program coordinator, directed each member to their place.

“This is their USI. This is their experience. It’s time to celebrate it,” Payne said. 

The arena was empty, besides the essential personnel running the event. 

Jason Honesto (right) helps Alec Kratzer (left) by securing the rose on his jacket before the coronation event Friday. (Josh Meredith)

Homecoming is usually held at half-time of a Screaming Eagles basketball game. This year, the Homecoming Court got the event to themselves.

The homecoming’s audience watched, not from the stands as usual, but on screens through the Office of Student Development Programs’ Youtube page.

Colin McDuffee, university alum, served as master of ceremonies. The event began with announcing the winners of the different homecoming contests.

McDuffee also announced there would be neither a king or queen crowned tonight. 

For the first time in the university’s history, the two winners of homecoming would be given the title of Homecoming Majesties. 

McDuffee explained the new term of Homecoming Majesty, he said it represents the university’s pursuit of gender inclusivity.


Colin McDuffee walks across the court of the Screaming Eagles Arena Friday. McDuffee served as master of ceremonies for the virtual coronation.

“The two winning candidates best represent the University of Southern Indiana, regardless of gender identification, which is awesome,” McDuffee said.


The university isn’t the first to move away from crowning a king and queen. Purdue University, Penn State University and the University of Minnesota all have made such changes.

The new term isn’t ubiquitous, many universities chose to use the term “Royalty”. Northwestern University chose to call their winner “Homecoming Wildcat” in 2017. 

McDuffee continued, he gave an introduction to each homecoming candidate as they carefully walked toward the center of the court, and proceeded to take their place among the ranks. 

Each candidate answered a question from McDuffee about university life, such as their favorite spot on campus, a memory or about their favorite class.

Then it was time for the coronation of two individuals. Javontay Moss, university alum and 2020 Homecoming King, was given the crowns for the coronation. 

Members of the 2021 homecoming court take their place in the nearly empty Screaming Eagles Arena, Friday.

The two crowns ended up on the heads of Marina Blackwell and Daisy Valdez-Perez. 

Moss said the event was different from years past, but it gave homecoming a unique perspective. He contrasted it to how homecoming would usually be held at half-time of a basketball game.

“This was more personal, which was neat,” Moss said. “It was like their own special event to recognize the students.”

Marina Blackwell, one of the Homecoming Majesties and a senior biology major, said homecoming couldn’t take place during the basketball game because of COVID-19 restrictions.

Blackwell said she was hoping to have it during half-time because her sister is on the university’s Women’s Basketball team.

Marina Blackwell and Daisey Valdez are crowned the universities’ first homecoming Majesties. (Josh Meredith)

She said homecoming is important because it highlights students who are committed and involved at the university. 

“It’s kind of nice to get a  little recognition for loving USI so much,” Blackwell said. “I think students should continue to support it.”

Blackwell said she thinks it is important for the university moves to make the campus more gender-inclusive.

“It’s awesome that USI is making those strides to change our community and change the norm,” Blackwell said. “It’s phenomenal that we were able to have two homecoming Majesties that both identify as female.”

Daisy Valdez, Homecoming Majesty and senior Engineering major, expressed her gratitude for being able to participate in the event.

“I feel like these four years of hard work have really paid off,” said Valdez. “I feel humbled and honored just to be on homecoming court, I didn’t expect this at all”

The pandemic caused a shift in the way students celebrated the week preceding coronation.

The Reverse Homecoming Parade was the first major event of the week on Feb. 8, followed by bingo that evening.

Those who celebrated homecoming drove their cars by the homecoming court, hence the name of the celebration. 

COVID-19 inspired this type of event by its distanced nature early in the pandemic with drive-by birthday parties. 

To go along with the roadblocks caused by COVID-19, a winter storm that closed classes on Feb. 10 and 11 also resulted in the cancellation of the remaining events until coronation.