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Football v. DuquesneToast throwing at the end of the third quarter. Football v. Duquesne Credit: Alex Small

Once upon a time, Penn students would shout “Hey Rowbottom!”, gather en masse — particularly after football games — and tear through West Philadelphia, lighting fires, sending bricks through windows, pulling down trolley wires.

In comparison, throwing toast onto Franklin Field seems tame.

These early 20th-century riots are thankfully a thing of the past. But countless other Penn traditions have gone the way of the Rowbottom, to the point where toast is about all we have left.

The ol’ Push Ball Fight?

Tossing back a real highball?

Throwing streamers at the Palestra?

All of them are toast.

Much of what defines the legacy of Penn involves our athletic tradition, one that has mostly faded away because of silly things like laws.

So when people call for an end to the toast toss for whatever reason, they lose sight of what defines the Quakers: tradition.

“I hate the fact that there’s some traditions that have taken place on this campus, not just athletically but otherwise, that don’t exist anymore,” said Director of Athletics Steve Bilsky, who knows first hand, taking part in many of them as a Penn basketball player, graduating in 1971.

And he’s rightfully protective of his — and our — pasts.

Yes, bread is wasted every year on the order of 20,000-30,000 slices each season, according to Penn Traditions.

But food-waste problems on Penn’s campus run much deeper than the five football games at Franklin Field. Consider a survey of consumer food waste the University conducted in Penn dining halls one snowy February week last semester:

Student volunteers in each of the four locations asked students to scrape remaining food into buckets. The ensuing waste was then weighed at each meal for five days, according to Laurie Cousart, Director of Sustainability for Business Services Division.

The result: five days of waste totaled 2,858.4 pounds.

Saturday, roughly 70 pounds of toast were swept up and sent to a composting facility. Over five home games in season, students throw near 350 pounds of bread — an eighth of what the same students toss each week in the dining halls .

While the fact that the University funds most of the thrown bread may seem like a waste of resources in an urban and poverty-stricken community, the school also donates an equal amount of cash to food banks, in addition to holding food drives at games.

Some may consider the toast toss a joke — a glorified pun based on ‘Drink a Highball,’ but it’s much more. Penn students have given up a lot, from riots, to drinks, to streamers.

Giving up the toast means throwing away a football tradition that not only dates back to the 1970s, but to when the first plays were called a hundred years earlier.

CALDER SILCOX is a junior science, technology and society major from Washington, D.C., and is Sports Editor of The Daily Pennsylvanian. His e-mail address is

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