Alumni revel in Saluki spirit

By Gus Bode

The atmosphere in the area between McAndrew Stadium and the SIU Arena was reminiscent of a carnival Saturday, with Saluki Mascots weaving through tents, grills and throngs of SIU fans.

Sweatshirts emblazoned with “SIU Alumni” were abundant.

The homecoming game is one of the few times many former students come back to their alma mater for a day of football, food and fun.


The Salukis being a wrecking ball in football and facing off against Northern Iowa, the team that robbed them of a perfect record last year, only heightened the enthusiasm around the stadium.

Jim Hooker, a graduate of SIU in 1976, was somewhat surprised when he arrived at the tailgating area before 10:00 a.m. and found it already brimming with people. He and his wife had come to watch the parade, but couldn’t find a parking spot. Hooker said he had not seen such a crowd at a Saluki football game in a long time.

“This is just great,” Hooker said. “I was at the University of Michigan the other week and this is just like it, a Division I kind of thing.”

Someone happening to walk into the maze of tents would probably be surprised to find out this was all about a Division I-AA football team.

Entire families formed maroon militias around smoking grills, talking and laughing in the cool October air.

Don Coale of Carterville was soaking up that atmosphere along with a cold drink under one of the many tents. Coale said he had been coming to the football games ever since his days as a student at SIU. The 1966 alumnus said the football team’s dominance has been great for the community and the school.

“We’re finally starting to get attention, even on a national level,” Coale said. “We have a good team again.”


Coale thought the game against the Panthers would go down to the wire, but said the Salukis’ hunger for revenge would carry them through.

To watch Coales’ eerie premonition, Stan Irvin drove three hours from Clinton. Irvin left the SIU campus in 1970 but remained a loyal follower of Saluki football through a subscription to the Daily Egyptian.

Also pleasantly surprised by the crowd, Irvin said he had not seen anything like this since his days as a student and also in 1983, the Salukis’ championship season. He, like Coale, thought the game would be a battle.

“It’s going to be really close,” Irvin said. “The crowd is gonna have to help out.”

If the mass of people milling around the tables lined with food were any indication of the support to be seen in the stadium, the Panthers would have an uphill battle from the time they hit the turf.

As the kickoff loomed closer, throngs of maroon-clad fans began drifting toward McAndrew Stadium in anticipation of the game.

While Hooker may have been a little off in his prediction of a 20-point blowout on the part of the Salukis, he was correct when he said the support of the fans was tremendous.

Anyone who witnessed the narrow 40-36 Saluki victory from the quaking stands of McAndrew can attest the Salukis made countless alumni proud Saturday afternoon.