If I told you that Penn could be a great place to be a college sports fan, how would you react? You would probably laugh at me, and for most people, this statement doesn’t hold up. But for me, it’s completely true.
With Penn’s Early Decision results being released this past weekend, it brought me back to my decision to ultimately apply ED to Penn. In the end, it was down to two schools: Penn and Duke. Penn had pretty much everything I wanted over Duke: a nice campus, near a large metropolitan area, the right distance away from home, the Ivy name, and more. But there was one thing that Duke had over Penn: athletics.
Sports were then, and continue to be now, one of the most important parts of my life, and it was natural that they would be important to me in choosing where I went to college. Of the caliber of schools I was looking at, Duke was perfect in terms of athletics. It’s a school in a Power Five conference with perennial title contenders in several popular sports and lots of school spirit. While Penn Athletics certainly has its perks, it just can’t match up to that.
In the end, I chose to apply here to Penn. In addition to the other factors, I was mollified by what several current Penn students had told me: you find other things to fill your time. But in my year and a half experience so far here, it just hasn’t been true. Despite being at a place that does not have reputation of being a sports school, I have thrown myself into Penn Athletics all the same.
Even though it might not be the same quality of play or as large of a stage, I have devoted myself to following this athletic program, both as a journalist and a fan, just as I would have had I attended Duke. One of the first things I sought out to do on campus last year was to join the sports section of The Daily Pennsylvanian so I could immediately get a closer look at our teams and athletes. I’ve been to countless games, meets, and matches, both as a reporter and a fan, and I continue to keep track of the vast majority of our teams here. Just because we’re not packing 2,000 people into the student section for every basketball game doesn’t make my experiences with Penn Athletics any less special.
And the fact that not everyone is as invested in our sports teams has not made my experience worse — in fact, it has done quite the opposite. Because there are fewer people who are engrossed Penn sports, I’ve had the ability to experience what they are all about first hand. I’ve met coaches who are nationally recognized, athletes who can hold their own on national and international stages, and really had the chance to see how college athletics at a Division I school truly function.
Looking back on my biggest hesitation coming into Penn, I realize now that I had nothing to worry about. I’ve certainly had a different experience with college athletics here than I would have had at Duke, but that doesn’t mean my experience is any worse. I’ve gone to a few games at Cameron Indoor and stood in the student section, and the experience is like no other. But to be completely honest, I don’t need that to make my college athletics experience complete.
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