News

Boat burning returns to Homecoming Week

Photo from 1964 Ibis Yearbook

Photo from 1964 Ibis Yearbook

Along the shores of Lake Osceola one of UM’s most treasured traditions will burn bright once again this week. This Friday at 9 p.m. the beloved boat burning will bring crowds to the lake at the height of Homecoming festivities.

The boat burning is just one aspect of the Hurricane Howl celebration, which also includes the singing of the Alma Mater, and a spectacular fireworks display.

“The boat burning is a favorite event and kicks off the beginning of Hurricane Howl,” said Laura Stott, director of student activities and organizations. “It’s tradition, and holds great memory for many students.”

Though the event is a favorite memory of many, the history behind it is relatively unknown.

The boat burning began in 1956 as an effort to promote a new fraternity, Theta Chi. Director of the Student Union Norman A. Whitten envisioned a student-run event that would commemorate the 30th anniversary of Homecoming Week. The fraternity lit an old boat to symbolize the spirit and enthusiasm of the Hurricanes before their big game against the Pittsburgh Panthers.

“The university was not very old and the boat burning was an important attempt at trying to build solid traditions,” said Dr. William Butler, former vice president for Student Affairs.

Originally Theta Chi staged a cannon fight by firing the Sigma Chi fraternity’s famed cannon, “Touchdown Tommy,” while simultaneously lighting the boat from the water.

The tradition has become that if the mast of the boat should hit water before the boat sinks, then the Canes will win the Homecoming game.

“I found the tradition to be unique and exciting,” said Richard Walker, associate vice president for Student Affairs. “My favorite boat burning memory was actually the first one I witnessed which was Homecoming 1987. I remember thinking to myself, what an awesome display of UM spirit and tradition.”

After many years of the tradition, several burned boats had settled on the bottom of Lake Osceola, giving cause for environmental concern. During the 1960s the boats were raised and the student-run event was changed to be more environmentally friendly.

“Once worries of the pollution grew, the boat burning began to be scaled back a lot,” said Gayle Sheeder, senior administrative assistant in the Office of the Dean of Students who has worked at UM since 1966. “Before that, each boat burning was bigger than the last. It was quite the spectacle.”

Not every boat burning has been successful. Last year’s never occurred. A member of the contracted company that assisted with the event was found to be at fault.

“I was incredibly disappointed that during my freshman year I didn’t get to experience one of UM’s greatest traditions,” sophmore Dan Pyott said.

Thousands of members of the Hurricane community have experienced the excitement of the boat burning ceremony. Many hope that this Friday, the mast will break and forecast a Hurricane victory over the Virginia Cavaliers.

November 4, 2009

Reporters

Bryan Sheriff


Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • HurricaneSports

One day left for the youngsters to show University of Miami coach Mark Richt what they can do. One d ...

Former Miami Norland High star Zach Johnson is coming home for his final year of college basketball. ...

They have been feted and adored for years by football fans from coast to coast. But legends Frank Go ...

Remember that “hit list’’ the University of Miami football team had last year? Florida State, North ...

One is a former NBA first-rounder who played 13 seasons after starring for the Miami Hurricanes in t ...

The director of the University of Miami's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, who passed away Ap ...

Business Professor Patricia Abril, and Trustee Stuart Miller receive Faculty Senate's highest h ...

Participants of the ninth annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event on campus pledge to help end sexual ...

A Faculty Staff Assistance Program dance therapy class gets employees on their feet and focused on w ...

A University of Miami political scientist explores what a transition of power in Cuba means for its ...

The No. 17 Miami women's tennis team notched its 10th ACC win of the season with a 5-2 road tri ...

Due to inclement weather expected in the region Sunday, the University of Miami baseball program ann ...

The University of Miami baseball team will host visiting Pittsburgh for a three-game series beginnin ...

Johnson, Mack and McGusty join Hurricanes' program for 2018-19 season. ...

Kasey Crider was named Miami volleyball's associate head coach after three seasons on head coac ...

TMH Twitter
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.