QuakerDays
Accepted students at Quaker Days in 2016. Credit: Julio Sosa

Many people think that the Ivy League was created as a conglomerate of colleges full of brilliant minds. Not to sound harsh, but that’s false. 

The Ivy League was formed as an East Coast football association. Nothing more, nothing less. That would make you think that the pride we take in our sports teams would be off the charts. That’s not the case at all.

While some Ivy League students wear sweatshirts with their school’s logo or rant about how unique their Ivy League is on meme pages, they don’t attend sports games to more actively express their school spirit. This may be because a lot of the Ivy League teams are relatively weaker than teams in other conferences, or maybe because of an uneven distribution of good and bad teams within the league. That’s not the case for Penn, though.

Penn’s sports are strong across the board. We have sprawling stadiums and state-of-the art sports facilities. Our teams are made up of top tier athletes. Their results are nothing short of fantastic. Our Men’s Basketball team made it to March Madness for the first time in 16 years, our Women’s Track and Field team won its first Ivy outdoor title for the first time in 30 years, and the Men’s Fencing team won a share of the the Ivy League title again for the third year in a row. Those are just a few of our victories. 

Despite that, Penn doesn’t have the same level of school spirit as state schools like the University of Michigan and Ohio State, or even other private universities like Notre Dame or the University of Southern California. So why don’t Penn students support the Quakers?

It might be that these sports-savvy schools make athletics an integral part of the culture of the school and the city. For instance, the University of Michigan has a undergraduate student body that’s almost three times as large as Penn’s. At other schools, like Louisiana State University, upwards of 90,000 fans — many of whom are not students — attend games. The majority of these games happen at night to accommodate people’s schedules. Many of the schools are also in suburban or rural areas that use sports as an attraction.

This could be the subject of a whole other article, but our Quaker mascot endows us with a lot less pride and a lot more embarrassment than would almost anything else. 

Aside from some unavoidable things (unless we change from Quakers to something more appropriate — like snakes — it’s unavoidable), there are less valid reasons that Penn students give for not supporting our teams. Many would say that we have too much work to do. Others will say that we’re off-campus too often on weekends to attend. Still others might say that they have little to no interest in sports.

These are vapid excuses, especially considering how close the athletics facilities are to the Van Pelt or Fisher. It’s not that hard to go once or twice each semester to a game or tournament that’s two blocks away. It’s also an easy way to support your friends and peers on different sports teams. With a student body that’s as busy as ours and that hasn’t made school spirit a priority for years, it’ll be hard to push them, but it's possible.

Penn Athletics’ current rewards system allows students to accumulate points, which can be redeemed for prizes like hats, shirts, and other Penn memorabilia, by attending games and tournaments. This attempt to get students to attend Penn games is not that effective. It transforms sporting events from experiences into a meaningless point system that allows you to obtain pieces of sporty apparel that will probably sit in the back of your closet. 

Instead, Penn should consider what college students like most: food. There are a plenty of local restaurants and businesses in Philly that don’t get nearly enough traction. By working with these restaurants to have them offer free or discounted food to students on a budget, we could incentivize plenty of students to at least see what’s going on at a tournament. Food and socializing go hand in hand, especially on the weekends. Offering food at Penn basketball games or fencing tournaments or tennis matches would motivate as many people to support our school’s athletics program as it motivates them to attend summer analyst info sessions.

By showing pride in the sports at our school, we can differentiate ourselves from other Ivies and become more than just the most “insecure” Ivy out of the eight. At the moment, most people outside of Penn associate us with Wharton, even though there are plenty of other strong academic and extracurricular aspects of our school. Our athletics program is one of them.


ALEX SILBERZWEIG is a College sophomore from New York, studying mathematics and economics. Her email address is alexsil@sas.upenn.edu.

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