Crew and Athletics Traditions

School Colors

There are several stories concerning the origin of Penn’s colors, the Red and the Blue.

One tale explains that George Washington, having been invited to a Pennsylvania Commencement to receive the first presidential honorary degree, donned his best uniform -- blue tunic trimmed in red. Mention of his attire was the first official recording of colors at a Penn function, and the use of red and blue continues as a mark of deference to our Founding Father.

Another legend, perhaps more plausible, concerns an early track meet at Saratoga, N.Y., between Penn, Harvard and Yale. When asked by the meet’s officials what colors would be representing the Penn faction, the Pennsylvania captain replied, “We’re going to be wearing the colors of the teams we beat" -- Harvard Crimson and Yale Blue. We shall assume that Penn was victorious, and thus loyalty to the red and blue was sworn.

A third idea claims that the colors came to be as a merge between William Penn and Benjamin Franklin's family crest. Just as the University's crest is a combination of the two gentlemen's, the Red and Blue are said to be a combination of the two as well.

In all seriousness, the University of Pennsylvania has used different shades of red and blue at different times over the past century. Yet the University has been faithful to a resolution adopted by the Trustees on May 17, 1910: "The colors shall be red and blue...The colors shall conform to the present standards used by the United States Government in its flags." These are the colors used today.


Penn's mascot is The Quaker. Penn's sports teams are nicknamed the Quakers after the religion adopted by William Penn, who established Pennsylvania as a Quaker province. Today, Quaker is at Penn football and basketball games cheering on the student athletes. In the 1920s, a proposal was made to change the Quaker mascot to the Penguin, but the students found the animal was too weak as a representative.

Toast Throwing

Toast throwing is one of the most unique sporting traditions at Penn which crowds of Quakers fans perform as a sign of school pride. After the third quarter of Penn football games at historic Franklin Field, the spirited fans unite in the singing of “Drink a Highball.” As the last line is sung, “Here’s a toast to dear old Penn,” the fans send toast hurling through the air to the sidelines. Legend has it that this tradition began back in the mid-1970s, and after a couple of games where thousands of pieces of toast covered the track, a group of engineering students modified Penn’s motorized turf cleaner so it would be able to pick up larger pieces of trash. These days, it is belovedly called the “Toast Zamboni” and is a permanent fixture at Penn football games.


Streamers were a Big 5 tradition in which the team that scored the first field goal threw their colored streamers onto the floor of the Palestra.  The game was then paused while the streamers were cleaned off the floor.  As Big 5 basketball was no longer exclusively in the Palestra, and as other schools experimented with more dangerous items thrown onto the court, the streamer tradition was banned by the NCAA, along with all other objects thrown onto the floor during play.  In recent years we have revived the tradition and now throw streamers onto the floor after every home Quakers win, at the conclusion of the Red and the Blue.  The band also upholds the tradition by throwing ripped up paper confetti in the air after Penn's first field goal.


Rollouts are another tradition from the Big 5 in which opposing student sections write messages directed towards the other team in spray paint on large pieces of butcher paper.  These messages, often edgy, are then rolled out at the top of the student section and passed down to the front during timeouts. 

The Penn Band

The Penn Band, which proudly deems itself as the most dedicated and school spirited group on the Penn campus, has been a bastion of music and mirth at the University of Pennsylvania for the past 105 years. Win or lose, the members of the group are diehard fans of the athletic teams they support through performance. The organization is an extremely active one, performing several dozen times from late August through late May during each academic year. Unlike many collegiate band programs, the Penn Band is a volunteer organization -- no scholarships, stipends or academic credits are offered to its 100-plus members.

The organization has a rich performance history. The Band was the last organization to be conducted by the great John Philip Sousa. The Penn Band was the first collegiate marching band to ever march in the Macy's Day Parade. Past performances during the group’s storied past also include the Rose Bowl, the 1954 World’s Fair, and the Miss America Pageant Parade. The Band has also performed for former Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, as well as former Vice President Al Gore. Recent Penn Band tours have included performances at Disney World’s 20th Anniversary, Universal Studios Florida, and the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournament, not to mention the countless football halftime shows it has put on for the past 105 years.

Penn Songs

The Red and Blue
lyrics by Harry E. Westervelt '98, music by William J. Goechel '96

Come all ye loyal classmen now,
in hall and campus through,
Lift up your hearts and voices for
the royal Red and Blue.
Fair Harvard has her crimson,
Old Yale her colors too
But for dear Pennsylvania
We wear the Red and Blue.ChorusHurrah! Hurrah! Pennsylvani-I-ah!Hurrah for the Red and Blue!Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!Hurrah for the Red and Blue!

Fight On, Pennsylvania
lyrics by Ben S. McGiveran '23, music by David B. Zoob '23

Fight on,Pennsylvania
put the ball across the line.
Fight, you Pennsylvanians
there it goes,across this time.
Red and Blue we're with you,
and we're cheering for your men.
Then fight, fight, fight, Pennsylvania,
fight for Penn!

The Field Cry Of Penn
arranged By Morrison C. Boyd '13

Hang Jeff Davis on a sour apple tree,
Down went McGinty to the bottom of the sea,
She's my Annie and I'm her Joe,
So listen to my tale of -

WHOA! Any ice today, lady? No?
Gitty up.

Penn-syl, Penn-syl, Penn-syl-va-nia,
Penn-syl, Penn-syl, Penn-syl-va-nia,
Penn-syl, Penn-syl, Penn-syl-va-nia,
Oh, Pennsylvania.

Drink A Highball

Drink a highball at nightfall, be good fellows while you may.
For tomorrow may bring sorrow, so tonight let's all be gay.
Tell the story of glory of Penn-syl-van-i-a;
Drink a highball and be jolly;
here's a toast to dear old Penn!

Cheer Pennsylvania
by C.W. O'Connor

Cheer Pennsylvania, cheer evermore!
We're here to see the Red and Blue score and score!
And when we give a resounding 'Hoorrah, hoorrah' ,
Ever loyal to old Pennsylvania.

Hail! Pennsylvania
by Edgar M. Dilley 1897

Hail! Pennsylvania, noble and strong;
To thee loyal hearts we raise our song.
Swelling to Heaven loud, our praises ring;
Hail! Pennsylvania, of thee we sing!
Majesty as a crown rests on thy brow;
Pride, Honor, Glory, Love before thee bow.
Ne'er can thy spirit die, thy walls decay;
Hail! Pennsylvania, for thee we pray!
Hail! Pennsylvania! guide of our youth;
Lead thee thy children on to light and truth;
Thee, when death summons us, others shall praise,
Hail! Pennsylvania, thro' endless days.

courtesy, Penn Athletics and The Penn Band