Here at Penn, athletic traditions have come and gone.
Skimmer started out as an event to cheer on the crew team, while The Line earned its name as hundreds of students lined up to get basketball season tickets.
The toast toss could have been next.
With the student body increasingly apathetic towards Penn Athletics, those in charge made the foolish decision over the summer to stop providing toast at football games.
In case you missed the Franklin Field stop on your Penn tour, the toast toss tradition goes back to the 1970s after the legal drinking age was raised to 21 and alcohol was banned from the stadium. As students could no longer toast a drink while singing “Drink a Highball” at the end of the third quarter, Penn fans got creative and began to throw actual toast onto the field.
For those of us who know more about the Red and Blue than the average Penn student, the toast toss is a sacred tradition. It is the one thing we can boast about to our friends who go to schools where they actually fill their 50,000-person stadiums.
But everyone should care about this tradition being preserved. It’s right up there with Convocation and Spring Fling and Hey Day. It unites us. It gives us a common identity. Sure, you may not know if the football team even won the game. But you will always remember throwing toast.
So for Penn Athletics to even think about not providing toast is disgraceful. Sure, students could bring their own toast and groups could sell toast outside the stadium. But eventually, the tradition would become just another casualty.
Fortunately for Quakers past, present and future, the athletic department quickly changed its mind.
The Red and Blue Crew learned over the summer that students would be responsible for bringing their own toast, though Penn would still provide the toaster. The athletic department wanted the toast toss to be “more organic and more student led,” junior Jonathan Cousins, head of the student fan group, said.
But before the first home game against Villanova, Cousins realized that no student groups had planned to provide their own bread.
“As we got closer, I sort of looked around and realized there wasn’t going to be toast at the football game,” he said. “I thought, ‘I can’t let this die today because we weren’t ready.’”
After a last-minute scramble, Penn Athletics helped accommodate students, though Cousins believed they paid for the bread using money from the Red and Blue Crew budget.
Cousins estimates that the toast costs $1,000 a year. For a student group, that is a hefty burden to take on. For the athletic department, however, it is just a drop in the bucket, especially if it means continuing a cherished tradition.
Due to the perception that the toast toss is wasteful, Penn Athletics is tying it into a larger effort to combat hunger and poverty. According to a statement from the Division of Recreation and Intercollegiate Athletics, they will supply stale bread that would otherwise not be used and will donate $5 to Saint Mary’s Bainbridge Soup Kitchen for every piece of toast caught during the toast toss competition. Additionally, they will encourage fans to bring canned goods to the Homecoming game on Oct. 27 that will be donated to local food banks.
Maybe the athletic department was under pressure to reverse its decision. Maybe they realized they had made a big mistake. Maybe they figured out that they could help the community and keep a tradition alive.
Whatever the reason, our toast toss is here to stay, just the way it should be at dear old Penn.
ALYSSA KRESS is a senior communications major from Abington, Pa., and is sports editor of The Daily Pennsylvanian. She can be contacted at Kress@theDP.com.