If two teams play for the 229th time, but there is no one there to watch it, does it really happen?
On Jan. 11, Penn basketball will search for its 126th win against Princeton all time, but thanks to the game being scheduled during Penn’s winter break, very few students will be able to attend the historic rivalry game.
And that is just terrible.
The Penn-Princeton rivalry spans all of the Ivy League’s sports but has always had extra meaning on the hardwood, where the Quakers and Tigers have been the class of the Ancient Eight, alternating runs of dominance over the last half-century.
“The history between the two teams is documented,” coach Jerome Allen said before last season’s first meeting. “We try to take the approach of … it’s the first game of league play, so it’s extremely important.”
And fans have responded in turn to the importance of the annual meeting at the Palestra, making it a must-attend event as they cheer, make noise and rock Puck Frinceton shirts.
But Penn Athletics has sent a clear message with the scheduling of the game: Why bother?
Why bother going to a game that brings together both die-hard fans and average fans? Why bother promoting school spirit and a chance for students to come together at one of basketball’s most historic arenas?
Some may make the argument that fans wouldn’t attend the game anyway, that Penn basketball is no longer relevant on campus with its recent title drought and with overall student apathy towards Penn Athletics.
“I think with any program, the more successful you are, the more desirable you are,” former Penn and current Temple coach Fran Dunphy said about Penn basketball. “It would be nice if the fans came out to the Palestra every night, just like they come out to Temple University every night.”
But last season, despite the game meaning nothing for both the Red and Blue and the Tigers, 4,814 people still joined the two squads in the Palestra.
And when Princeton visited two seasons ago as both teams began the Ivy season with title aspirations, 6,835 fans packed into the Cathedral to witness Penn’s most recent victory in the rivalry.
But if the meeting at the Palestra comes during winter break, surely the season’s second matchup — at Princeton — would be at a time when fans can bus over and attend in March?
Not so fast, as the final game of the year for the Quakers takes place in Princeton during Penn’s spring break.
Cutting off easy access to the two Penn-Princeton games via bad scheduling is truly unacceptable.
It is not an excuse that Penn has to fit the game in around Princeton’s reading days. That’s true, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t schedule the first matchup between the two squads in February, which was done as recently as the 2010-11 season.
It is a simple solution to something that causes both Penn Athletics and Penn basketball’s brand on campus to dwindle in meaning.
Because if you want the 250th and 300th meetings to mean anything to students, you need to make every game in this historic rivalry count.
And losing matchups 229 and 230 to winter and spring breaks puts the Quakers behind the eight-ball.
STEVEN TYDINGS is a Wharton sophomore from Hopewell, N.J. and is senior sports editor-elect of The Daily Pennsylvanian. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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