The Penn basketball season has already tipped off, and with it the annual tradition of students waiting to buy season tickets at The Line has come and gone. But for most students, this historic tradition went by largely unnoticed.
The Line originated over 40 years ago after Penn students began camping out for hours, and sometimes days, to buy basketball season tickets.
For the first few decades of The Line, the basketball program was incredibly successful, competing for the Ivy League title almost every year and making deep runs into the NCAA tournament, which helped make The Line an extremely popular yearly event.
“You walk into the Palestra and they have these huge posters about the history,” College senior Jake Cohen said. “People realize the history behind Penn basketball and how good of a program we’ve had. Because we really do have one of the most historic programs.”
But over the last few seasons, interest in the team has dropped off and The Line has shortened considerably. It got so bad that one Daily Pennsylvanian writer described the event last year as “an awkward birthday party for children.”
Penn Athletics took the criticism and disappointing results into consideration for this year’s event, as they decided to scale The Line back and moved it from a Friday night to the Saturday morning before the team’s intrasquad scrimmage. College freshman Debbie Schwartz sees advantages of the move.
“I just think it’s a big time commitment, and this is an academic university. People are very focused on their work,” Schwartz said. “People don’t want to waste their Friday nights waiting in a line.”
And Schwartz has a point. Student season tickets were still on sale until last Friday, so there was little incentive for students to spend their Friday waiting in line for something they could buy at any other time. Other steps must be taken to increase demand for season tickets.
One of the common suggestions is that the actual team needs to improve to past levels of dominance, consistently challenging for a conference title and a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
“I went last year because everyone wanted to see Zack Rosen and those guys. This year I don’t really know any of the players,” College sophomore Sasha Huynh said.
College sophomore Alain Kilajian agreed that a more successful team with star players would result in greater attendance and excitement at games.
“It would be awesome if there was a whole lot of hype for it,” Kilajian said. “If we were like a state school and everyone was like, ‘Woo basketball! We’re killing it!’ then that would be good.”
However, Cohen disagrees that an improved Penn team by itself would get more fans waiting in line for season tickets.
“Look at the final game against Princeton [last season],” he said. “That was a real tear-jerker, I thought. That was a great season-ender, but that wouldn’t have made a big difference. People would come to the big games, but not the other ones.”
For Cohen, Penn basketball is severely limited by not being able to bring in the best recruits in the nation. He believes the team should play more big-name non-conference opponents.
“If Penn were playing Pitt or Duke at home, I would totally have gone to those games,” Cohen explained. “But last year they played Pitt over Thanksgiving break and played Duke away. Why would anyone come to see a game against UMBC? Even if we lose to the bigger teams, those guys are top caliber.”
Many students, like Cohen, also lament the lack of school spirit at Penn that results in low turnout at athletic events. The student body has a far greater desire to camp out for Spring Fling floor passes than for Penn basketball tickets, and some students are frustrated by that.
“It’s actually really depressing to see that school spirit is so low,” Cohen said. “Because at most schools, school spirit is represented through sports and that is how you get the school to come together. So I think it’s too bad.”