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St. Joseph's beat Penn 47-44 on Saturday January 26, 2006 in the Palestra on a night where the Big 5 celebrated its 50th Anniversary. Penn fans throw streamers after Mark Zoller's three point shot to start the scoring for Penn. Credit: Fred David

In an effort to reach back to its roots and bring some much-needed buzz back to the Palestra, Penn is resurrecting a Big 5 tradition which was banned by the NCAA in 1985.

In those days, fans threw colored streamers onto the court after their team’s first field goal. That tradition cascaded out of control when Princeton fans started throwing black and orange marshmallows, only to be followed by other schools launching heavier, more dangerous objects.

Out of a concern for safety, the NCAA ordered officials to assess technical fouls to any team whose fans threw foreign objects — including streamers — onto the court.

Though the threat of on-court sanctions quickly put an end to the practice, 25 years later, red and blue streamers will once again cover the Palestra floor — however the tradition has been modified.

As part of a wholesale marketing effort, Penn Athletics will distribute streamers to student season-ticket holders after every men’s basketball victory. The fans will then throw the streamers in unison during the singing of “The Red and The Blue.”

“This is a campus where if we can increase the number of sports-related traditions we have, it really can’t hurt given the fact that we’re trying to really address school spirit,” said senior associate director of athletics Alanna Shanahan.

As senior forward and team co-captain Jack Eggleston succinctly put it, “Anything that encourages student enthusiasm, school spirit and presence at the games is going to be great for the program.”

In response to dwindling attendance and atmosphere at the Palestra over the past three years, players and fans have shown support for a number of creative marketing endeavors that are intended to build student support around the athletic community.

Aside from the revival of the streamers, other changes include the introduction of tailgating before home football games, a mandatory New Student Orientation picnic at Franklin Field and a revamped approach to the Line.

Although Shanahan said that the Penn athletic department has always emphasized school spirit, she conceded that student leadership has helped make it easier to implement initiatives this year.

“We’re always focusing on trying to get Penn Athletics to understand what students look for and what students want,” junior Red and Blue Crew member Jayson Weingarten said.

“Bringing back the streamers speaks towards wanting to put a lot more energy into the program … and to all the different interests that fans come to the game for.”

Whether or not streamers will make a tangible difference is still up in the air. While the popularity of the tradition in the 1980s is promising, it will need to resonate with a new generation of fans.

“We’re just going to have to wait and see what overall student reaction is,” Weingarten said. “My gut feeling is that students will really go for it initially, and I think that it will catch on.”

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