One of the highlights of Baylor's Homecoming festivities is the announcement of the Homecoming Court. The Court provides an opportunity to recognize the leadership, service and accomplishments of a wide range of students whose involvement crosses organizations, activities and academic interests across the University. All chartered student organizations are invited to nominate one representative to be considered for the Court. Finalists are interviewed by a panel of faculty and alumni judges who determine the five men and five women who will represent the University and name a Homecoming Queen and King.
Beginning in 2021, the Homecoming Court was expanded to include both men and women in order to represent the entire student body and involve even more students in Homecoming activities. Members of the Homecoming Court reflect the Christian mission of the University and live out its call to leadership and service in the world.
The Homecoming Court tradition has evolved over time.
Originally, Baylor selected the Homecoming Queen based on the quality of the float on which she rode. As the tradition continued, Queen candidates of the 1930s and 1940s were also judged on beauty, but the candidate’s personal score counted only 25 percent toward the winning total. The float counted the rest. Separate judging panels rated floats and queens, and their combined scores determined one winner – the winning queen candidate rode the winning float in the parade.
Floats were judged on originality, rather than elaborateness, while queen candidates were judged on qualities like beauty, poise, graciousness, and charm. The queen and winning float were named at halftime of the Homecoming football game.
In 1973, the parade float and queen awards were separated, and young women began to be selected based on four categories: beauty, poise, personality, and campus involvement. In the 2000s, women who were nominated by their organizations for Homecoming Queen were interviewed by a campus panel where they discussed scholarship, philanthropy, spiritual commitment, and poise. Each category could be awarded up to 10 points with an additional 10 points awarded by the judges in a "bonus" category for qualities not specifically named. The candidate coming closest to a perfect score of 50 was named Homecoming Queen.
The Homecoming Queen, King and Court are crowned during the Thursday night presentation of Pigskin Revue and then represent the University as part of the Homecoming festivities throughout the weekend. The Court and all of the nominees are invited to ride in the Homecoming parade and the Queen, King and members of the Homecoming Court are presented at the Homecoming football game.
Baylor's first Homecoming Queen, Elaine Cross Roberts, was chosen in 1934. A queen has been named every year since then except in 1943 and 1944, when Homecoming activities were suspended because of World War II. A University-published Homecoming history claims that the 1952 queen, Pat Barfield Johnson '53, was the most famous queen because she was chosen from a hundred nominees by U.S. soldiers in Korea as "The Homecoming Queen We'd Most Like to Come Home To." The 1962 queen, Janet Pitman Bagby '65, made Baylor history as the first nominee of the Freshman Class to be selected – an honor yet to be repeated. Perhaps the most inspiring Homecoming Queen was 1986 honoree Beth Nance Smith '87, who had overcome bone replacement surgery and eighteen months of chemotherapy for bone cancer to continue her Baylor education.
The Homecoming Court remains an excellent way for Baylor to recognize the students who live out the mission of the University.