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Wharton freshman, Serge Barron reads Maxim magazine as he waits in the 39th spot on his first "line". The Line takes place over a three day time span and is designed so Penn students can get choice season tickets to the basketball season.

Ticket line at Palestra turns chaotic: Several injured in ‘near riot.’

Student leaves with concussion, but no tickets.

Ticket price hike called a financial move.

Sounds like a fight for Spring Fling floor passes, right?

Rather, these were the headlines on Nov. 1, 1993, the Monday after season basketball tickets went on sale.

For current Penn undergrads, it is unimaginable that hundreds of students would line up hours before basketball tickets go on sale in order to reserve their seats — that type of devotion is reserved for a headlining act.

But for the alumni who watched the Quakers win championship after championship, there wasn’t even a question that they would fight to get the best seat, no matter how long they had to wait outside — it was 12 days in 1982.

After years of students lining up for tickets, the tradition was eventually coined “The Line.” Since then, the event has evolved. As recent as 2009, Penn Athletics would release a secret location where students had to go to get a number, which dictated when they got to pick their seats. A few days later, everyone would sleep over at the Palestra and hang out with the team.

But the Quakers haven’t won an Ivy title since 2007, and after just 50 students attended last year’s Line, the Red and Blue Crew knew it was time for a revamp.

“It feels like it’s been forced,” junior Jonathan Cousins, head of the Red and Blue Crew, said, adding that students generally have a negative perception of The Line.

So Saturday morning, The Line will return to its beginnings — no secret locations, no sleepovers, just a line.

“It’s scaled back. It’s more organic,” Cousins said. “It’s sort of back to where it was, and I think that was the place we had to go to get student interest back in the program.”

Penn Athletics will begin selling season tickets at 10 a.m., just before the annual Red and Blue scrimmage, which is open to the public.

“I think this year, we tried to listen a little more to what the Red and Blue Crew had to say and what they wanted,” Director of Athletic Communications Mike Mahoney said.

Both the Red and Blue Crew and the athletic department will be around on Friday night to see if anyone shows up early to snag a spot in line, though with homecoming this weekend, they aren’t sure how many students to expect.

But for those who are willing to wait for hours outside the Cathedral or set their alarm a little earlier than usual, they will take part in a tradition that goes back more than 40 years.

And the Red and Blue Crew is hoping that Saturday’s Line will reboot that old tradition.

“If we get to a point where we’re doing well enough — once we pass that threshold where the campus understands that we’re going to be competitive every year — I think they’ll come back to it more,” Cousins said.

As the team continues to improve and student interest rises, Penn Athletics could turn to a “Midnight Madness” format, as many other programs do in honor of the first official practice of the season.

But for now, the future of The Line will depend on what the students want, which in turn depends on the success of the team.

“The Line may be on a hiatus for now,” Mahoney said. “But ultimately, we would love to see it come back. We’d be more than willing to be a part of that, but I don’t think you can force the tradition on the kids if they don’t want to do it. So you hope that they want to do it on their own volition.”

There likely won’t be a “near riot” on Saturday and students probably won’t consider their seats in the student section as “their own thrones in the Palestra,” as Quakers did in 1982. But it is an opportunity for Penn students to keep alive a long and cherished tradition and begin to define it for future generations.


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