I’m excited about what’s happening in Penn Athletics, and you should be too.
This past weekend was an extremely successful one for Penn athletics. Over the weekend fans saw women’s basketball punch its ticket to the Ivy League tournament, track and field have a strong showing at Heps, men’s basketball triumph over Harvard, women’s lacrosse take down Johns Hopkins, and men’s lacrosse knock off No. 1 Duke.
While this weekend was incredible, not enough attention has been given to the fact that Penn Athletics has a deep history of excellence and celebrated traditions.
From the Penn Relays, the oldest and largest track and field competition in the country, to Franklin Field, the stadium that played host to the Philadelphia Eagles for almost a decade, Penn Athletics has been witness to a number of historic events.
Penn has had a number of impressive athletes suit up in the Red and Blue, including John Heisman, the man whom the award for the most outstanding college football player is named after. Though an abundance of tremendous athletes have come through each program, I want to focus on the most storied program in particular: men’s basketball.
The men’s basketball program has churned out generations of accomplished men on and off the court. These generations of former players attained great heights. The program ranks 18th all-time in NCAA Division I wins with 1,747 and leads the Ivy League in several categories, including all time Ivy League wins. Penn also holds the league's longest win streak in history at 48, and the league’s lone Final Four appearance in 1979.
Lifelong Penn Athletics fans have been created over time as a result of this rich history both within the basketball program and Penn athletics as a whole. There are many dedicated fans who follow the team around the country, bringing unwavering support and energy to the team on and off the court.
Of those fans, I must point out two in particular, Jill Szporn and her husband Monroe Szporn (C’71). Season ticket holders since 1981, these two have missed fewer than 10 men’s basketball games over the past 10 years.
Beyond basketball, you can find these two in the stands cheering on just about any Penn Athletics program. These two embody the passion our athletics department has evoked out of the fanbase, a fanbase so historically passionate that students used to extract the goal posts from Franklin Field and toss them into the Schuylkill River after big wins.
Penn’s other historic athletic building, the Palestra, is known by most as the “Cathedral of College Basketball.” Since opening on January 1, 1927, the Palestra has been the home gym of Penn men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball, wrestling, and Philadelphia's Big 5. The building hosted a game in the inaugural NCAA Tournament in 1939, and has played host to more college basketball games than any other gym in the country.
The Palestra has seemingly endless amounts of rich history, and I encourage everyone to walk a few laps around the concourse to read about some of those historic moments. Now, the team has the opportunity to add to that history by winning its next two games, thus raising its 24th Ivy League Championship banner.
As a Philadelphia native it was invigorating to see the student body rally around the Philadelphia Eagles on their way to a Super Bowl LII victory. Now the student body has the chance to rally around teams of our own. Let’s bring some of that same excitement and energy to the teams that represent our University on the field and court everyday.
Many famous athletes have competed in Franklin Field and the Palestra over the years. From LeBron James, to Usain Bolt, Wilt Chamberlain, and Kobe Bryant, a number of legendary sports figures have graced the sidelines of our arenas. But vastly more important than those who have competed at Penn for a mere game or event are our alumni, classmates, and friends who have donned the Red and Blue.
Let’s recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of our peers. We have an incredible opportunity to both learn more about Penn Athletics and give our support on March 10 and 11 as the second annual Ivy League tournament tips off in the historic Palestra.
If you can make it out, join the Penn Band and the Red and Blue crew in the stands as we cheer on our basketball teams as they compete for an NCAA tournament bid. Come be a part of more Penn Athletics history. Go Quakers!
Jerome Allen is a Wharton Senior and the co-founder of the Wharton Sports Business Summit. Comments on his column can be direct to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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