At historically black colleges and universities, homecoming is nothing short of "soul food" for the alumni who return each year to see old friends, teachers and acquaintances.
For a week, it's a continuing party - a display of pride in a tradition that has made HBCUs' homecomings a family affair.
Beginning Oct. 12, thousands are expected to return to Baltimore for Morgan State University's homecoming week.
"Homecoming is exciting and entertaining," says Janessa Givens, a senior psychology major at Morgan. "There's a lot of entertainment for the entire week. There are a lot of parties that go on after the football game. The alumni and students just show up and see where the parties are.
"Alumni from their early 20s to 30s go to the networking events and parties," Givens says, "while alumni in their 40s and up generally go to the galas and the black-tie affairs."
"Everybody's calling the office," says Avon Prevo, a homecoming committee member. "We are expecting 30,000 people this year and possibly more because [the alumni] make a big deal out of Howard playing Morgan. We always try to outshine each other."
For some, homecoming rivalry and revelry means setting aside friendships.
Friends Dr. Cylburn Soden of Morgan and Dr. Artie Shelton of Howard say they will sit together but exchange few brotherly words during the game.
The men, who met in the Army, share a 30-year friendship.
"Morgan is going to beat Howard, at least I think so," says Soden, a 1968 Morgan graduate.
But Shelton, who graduated in 1968 from Howard, says the Bison will trample the Bears.
"We'll sit together and smack each other around," says the Soden, who is retired.
"Because the schools are so close to each other, within 40 miles, there has always been a good rivalry," Soden says.
And it's not just about football, either, the two say.
It is during the halftime show, known as the "fifth quarter," that each university's band takes the homecoming-game experience to an even higher beat in the battle of the bands.
"I hope that our bandleader steps up," says Shelton, a former snare-drum player in the Howard University marching band. "Howard has some of the best drum majors. The sticking and the drums really excite the crowd."
"Everybody wants to see their band and their cheerleaders get down and put on a show," says Soden.
When the last second runs off the clock and the game's over, it's all about fun though, Soden and Shelton say.
"After the game, we all become friends again because everybody winds up at the same parties. But we really enjoy the rivalry," Shelton says.
The rivalry between Morgan and Howard has been going on for decades.
"What people fail to realize is that these homecoming battles go back to the 1940s and earlier," Soden says.
"It's more than a football game, it's tradition."
Oct. 15: Morgan State University vs. Howard University
Hughes Stadium, Morgan
Oct. 12: Coronation of Mr. and Miss Morgan State University, Murphy Fine Arts Center, Gilliam Concert Hall, 7 p.m.
Oct. 14: Alumni Business Meeting, Recital Hall, Murphy Fine Arts Center, noon.
Oct. 14: Gala XXI, Martin's West, Dogwood Road, Woodlawn, $175 for gala plus reception, $125 for gala only. Entire event is 8 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Oct. 14-15: First Annual Urban Underground Unplugged Festival, Murphy Fine Arts Center, 7 p.m., fee charged. Call 443-885-4440 for more information.
Oct. 15: Homecoming parade, beginning at Chinquapin Parkway and The Alameda, 9 a.m. Class of 1966 homecoming brunch, 9 a.m. All Classes Reunion, McKeldin Center, Alice Parham Ballroom, 4 p.m. Morgan Memories, "Return to the '80s" dance, featuring old-school DJs; sponsored by Class of 1985, McKeldin Center, Alice Parham Ballroom, 10 p.m.
Oct. 16: Alumni Memorial Service, Christian Interfaith Center, 11 a.m.
Note: All activities are on Morgan University's campus unless stated otherwise.
For tickets, call 410-481-SEAT or visit ticketmaster.com.
For more information, call 443-885-3120.
For a list of games at other historically black colleges and universities, go to HBCUnetwork.com.