The University of Pennsylvania Quakers men’s basketball team took on Penn State Brandywine at the Palestra on Saturday, and I was in attendance. I took my dad, who actually played for Penn State Brandywine back when it was Penn State’s Delaware County extension campus. I figured getting to see my alma mater whoop the basketball team my dad used to play for would almost make up for the fact I have never beaten him at basketball.
The game went about as I expected, although no one was able to explain to me exactly why a Division I school was playing a non-NCAA school that plays in an athletic conference comprised entirely of Penn State campuses. My dad was amused that Brandywine had three coaches. “When I played, we had one coach and our games were at the Chester Y,” he said (several times, I think). We talked about this while Penn went on a long 44-3 run; the Quakers had 57 points at halftime.
It was then that I realized we were 43 points from a free lunch.
When I was a student at Penn, there was a promotion: If the basketball team scored 100 points at home, every fan in attendance got a free cheesesteak at Abner’s, a cheesesteak shop a few blocks from the Palestra. I confirmed that the promotion, while no longer announced at games, remains in existence.
It actually happened twice when I was a student, and I remember it vividly. When Dan Solomito hit a three-pointer to give Penn 100 points against Dartmouth in 2002, the fans literally rushed the court even though Penn won by 38. Two years later, Pat Lang—who ended his collegiate career with a 100 percent shooting percentage—hit a corner three to put Penn over the century mark against Harvard. This important info will be burned into my brain for the rest of my life.
And maybe I’d get to see one more! The second half was played mostly by backups on both teams, but Penn continued to be on pace for 100 points. But things stalled late in the game. The Quakers missed a breakaway dunk. But after a steal they had a 3-on-1 with a chance to go over 100 points and... they turned it over.
Penn would get the ball one last time, but the Quakers would just dribble it out for the 99-40 win (the biggest in school history). Afterward, Penn coach Steve Donahue told The Daily Pennsylvanian he didn’t know about the free cheesesteaks at stake:
“Is that still in place? Yeah, I probably would have [gone for another shot] just for that sake, that’s a promotional thing,” Donahue admitted, before making a prescient vow.
“You know what — we’ll do it again.”
This marks Donahue in complete contrast to former Quakers coach Fran Dunphy. In 1996, Penn committed a pointless foul to get the ball back and scored 100 points against Lehigh on a Nate Allison tip-in in the final seconds. Dunphy was pissed: “I don’t want to ever get in a situation where you’re forcing things to get culinary satisfaction.”
Penn fans—and really, the City of Philadelphia—can be happy that Penn’s current coach knows the importance of free cheesesteaks.