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Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Penn hoops holds 'The Line'

By Eamonn Brennan

The Pennsylvania men's basketball team has fallen on some hard times. A traditional Ivy League power with one of (if not the) most storied and idyllic arenas in all of sports, the Quakers last won the Ivy League in 2007. In the four years since, the program has posted records of 13-18, 10-18, 6-22 and 13-15. Penn improved last season, and hey, you never know, but it's clear these are not the good old days.

As is usually the case when a program, even a storied one, falls on hard times, Penn is having a few issues getting its students excited for the upcoming season. The Quakers have a tradition, called The Line, in which students line up for tickets (makes sense, right?) at Penn's season-opening event in the hopes of securing right of first refusal on Quakers' once-annual NCAA tournament seats allotment. Now that said tournament appearance is no longer guaranteed, fewer students are showing up for The Line, and some -- or at least Daily Pennsylvania student columnist Calder Silcox -- believe The Line is getting just a teensy bit awkward:
For the last several years, attendance at The Line has declined precipitously. The scene Friday night at the Palestra was aptly described as an awkward birthday party for children -- people standing around with not much to do in a venue far too large for the actual attendance. But how did it get like this? [...]

It’s time to end The Line.

Athletic Director Steve Bilsky won’t. He’s too concerned with preserving the tradition -- and there’s something admirable in that. But it’s time to stop kidding ourselves and cut our losses. Organizers have tried tinkering with the event for several years with no success.

At one especially low point in the action Friday night, a Penn Athletics marketing director sat down on the Palestra bleachers and said, to no one in particular, “Three weeks of work and only 50 students,” his face the epitome of disappointment.

I feel bad for said anonymous administrator, and I can understand why a low turnout for The Line could just feel depressing, and Silcox's column seems to come from a place of love  ... but I'm with athletic director Steve Bilsky. Some traditions fall by the wayside. That's OK. But some are worth holding onto. Besides, it's not as if Penn hasn't been to a tournament in, like, 20 years. It was just 2007! Sure, things aren't great now, but they could be good again soon. And when they are, The Line will still be there -- the way traditions are supposed to be.

Also, Penn students? I know you're busy being studying, and I understand the principles of supply and demand, but please do the folks in the athletic office a solid and show up for next year's Line. It seems like the nice thing to do.