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


ONE COMMENT ON THIS POST To “Boat burning returns to Homecoming Week”

  1. Ann Whitten Lisk says:

    I am delighted to see that Boat Burning has returned to the UM Homecoming festivities. My Dad(Norman A. “Chink” Whitten), for whom the University Center is named, began this tradition as a way for a small fraternity to have a role in Homecoming. One of the fraternity brothers’s family owned the Merrill Stevens Boat Yard at Dinner Key so they got an old boat to burn from them in 1956. In the following years, even as a small child, I can remember being out on a Sunday afternoon car ride and my Dad would spot an old junk boat anywhere between the Everglades and the Keys. The next day he’d go out with out UM students to drag it back to campus where the boat would be patched and painted enough to float for a little while. Good Luck and GO CANES! Sicerely, Ann Whitten Lisk

Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • Error

UM chatter: • One lesson learned in recent years, as one UM official put it: Don’t get your hopes up ...

The unopened Christmas gift that University of Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz recently spoke ...

Joseph Yearby declared early for the NFL draft. Gus Edwards transferred to Rutgers. Trayone Gray is ...

The University of Miami is in conversations about playing the University of Alabama to kick off the ...

He’s all grown up. Yet University of Miami defensive end Scott Patchan is only 20. Two reconstructiv ...

University of Miami students and researchers are blogging during a month-long expedition in the Gulf ...

María de Lourdes Dieck-Assad, a world-renowned economist and former ambassador, fills a new role for ...

Through the U Dreamers Grant, DACA students find essential support as they pursue their college degr ...

UM students talk about their internships up north in a city that never sleeps. ...

Former University of Miami Dean of Students William W. ‘Bill’ Sandler, Jr. passed away on August 6 a ...

RSS Error: A feed could not be found at http://www.hurricanesports.com/. A feed with an invalid mime type may fall victim to this error, or SimplePie was unable to auto-discover it.. Use force_feed() if you are certain this URL is a real feed.

TMH Twitter Feed
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 on Thursdays during the regular academic year.