My first Penn men’s basketball game was in 2005, when the Quakers played Boston College in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in my hometown of Cleveland. I attended with my mom, a 1986 College graduate, and my grandfather, a 1955 Wharton graduate. Throughout the game, they told me magical stories about watching the Quakers play at the Palestra. I was hooked: a Penn basketball fan for life.
Since I arrived on campus as a freshman in 2016, I’ve been extremely fortunate to live through the resurgence of Penn men’s basketball. This resurgence, led by coach Steve Donahue and the current senior class, has exceeded all expectations and should only continue this season. My first three years have seen some incredible moments: the Ivy League Championship in 2018, the upset of No. 17 Villanova last season, and late-season runs in 2017 and 2019 to clinch a spot in the Ivy League Tournament. I have also had my fair share of disappointment: the missed free throw in the Ivy Tournament against Princeton in 2017, the No. 16 seeding in the 2018 NCAA Tournament, and the ill-fated decision to take Ivy Madness away from the Palestra.
While some students saw poor student attendance at basketball games as a sign that they also shouldn't attend because “Penn isn't a sports school,” I instead made it my personal mission to bring as many of my friends as possible to the basketball games.
Unfortunately, I won't have many opportunities to fulfill my mission this season. The Quakers only have seven home games while students will be on campus. If Penn Athletics has a goal to increase student attendance at basketball games, this season’s schedule is a major swing and miss. Every game on the home schedule against Division I competition is a team that Penn plays every season either in Ivy or Big 5 play. The lack of home games against regional competition, like Lafayette in 2016 and 2018, or against a Power Five school, like Miami (Fla.) in 2018, is unfair to both players and fans alike. While Ivy League scheduling and the academic calendar are largely out of the hands of the athletic department, having just one home game before winter break is inexcusable.
The most disappointing part is that for the third consecutive year, Penn will host Princeton over winter break. My dad, a 1984 Wharton graduate, tells stories of sleeping outside the Palestra to ensure he got the best tickets for the annual Princeton game during his four years. Instead, this year, students will be off campus the night before the game, and most will not even know the game is happening.
If you’re reading this and you’ve never been to a Penn basketball game, make it a priority to catch one this season. We only have a few chances all year.
Jacob Cohen is a College senior from Cleveland. Comments can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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