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“AFTER 27 YEARS: DAVID 59, GOLIATH 55,” read the ‘Prince’ headline following Princeton’s shocking victory against Arizona last Thursday. The last time Princeton was in the last sixteen of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament was 56 years ago, when the team was coached by Butch van Breda Kolff ‘45. Put simply, Princeton students and fans don’t have an opportunity to cheer sports teams on a national stage very often.
The NCAA basketball tournament, known colloquially as “March Madness,” is a unique, exciting display of the best of college sports. Unlike other college tournaments, such as the College Football Playoff, March Madness is inclusive to all Division I schools, with the winner of every conference receiving an automatic bid, leaving an environment fertile for upsets and “Cinderella stories” like those of St. Peter’s, UMBC, and Florida Gulf Coast University in recent years.
Ivy League teams are no strangers to major upsets in the past. Pete Carril’s backdoor plays defeated the mighty UCLA Bruins in 1996, the Harvard women completed the first 16-1 upset in tournament history over Stanford in 1998, and a ferocious Yale defense out-rebounded the Baylor Bears in 2016. Despite the history of upsets, in the past 45 years, an Ivy League team has only reached the Sweet 16 three times: 1979, 2010, and now. This is a historic moment for both Princeton and the Ivy League as a whole. Thus, it is incumbent upon Princeton’s leadership to ensure students can witness school history.
At the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) meeting last Sunday, student leaders discussed the potential of bringing Princeton students to Louisville to cheer on the Tigers. In discussing USG’s overall budget, President Stephen Daniels ’24 claimed the total cost to bring students to the game would be around $20,000, a third of the $60,000 unallocated USG budget. While a trip for students to Louisville would be “cool,” as Social Chair Avi Attar ’25 described it, USG eventually decided to spend the money on campus-related programming.
Allocating money towards “school spirit on campus,” while still helpful to students, is not the best use of the funds. With the spread of Pay with Points, Princeton students have the opportunity like never before to engage with restaurants and shops on Nassau Street and beyond campus in the town of Princeton. Thus, there remains little incentive for students to participate in programming such as Tigers in Town when they’re afforded similar opportunities through Pay with Points.
On the other hand, attending live games provides students with a sense of school spirit that is difficult to replicate through other activities. When students attend games together, they develop a sense of camaraderie and community that is vital to campus culture. The excitement of a live game is contagious and can create lasting memories that students will cherish for years to come. As much as we hope our recent success continues, we may not have another chance to see Princeton in the Sweet 16 soon.
In addition, USG hasn’t been afraid to spend large amounts of money for events not directly on-campus in the past. In the fall of 2020, USG notoriously spent $80,000 to have Jason Derulo give a Zoom Lawnparties concert. While one could argue that Zoom and Princeton’s campus were synonymous in 2020, we would argue a mass gathering of Princeton students in Louisville consists of far more of a “campus environment” than thousands of individuals on screens at home.
During the Fall 2022 semester, the Classes of ’24, ’25, and ’26 Student Governments allocated funding for a bus headed towards Yale, allowing students to watch the Princeton football team play to potentially clinch the bonfire. Student interest in an Ivy League regular season game was evident, so USG delivered on their constituents' desire. Now, Princeton is playing in a basketball game on the national scale, but there is no assistance to help students make the 700-mile journey to Louisville — an expensive flight or arduous drive for college students. With the unique opportunity of Friday’s Sweet 16 matchup, USG is balking at spending the necessary funds.
A vibrant student section on a national stage increases the public perception of Princeton’s student body as caring about athletics. Princeton students can be — and are — passionate about both academics and the success of our athletic teams, and a strong presence in Louisville would enable us to show it. While Princeton was ridiculed on social media for having a student body apathetic towards sports, having strong support in a nationally televised, prime-time game has the power to change that narrative, showcasing the strength of Princeton’s fanbase to millions of viewers.
Sending students to the Sweet 16 game is an opportunity 56 years in the making — it would allow Princeton’s student body to showcase our support for athletics and increase school spirit. By sending students to the game, the USG would be investing in the school's culture while building stronger relationships between students. Although we’re still dancing into the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, we should be sure to celebrate and support the basketball team to the fullest extent before it’s too late.
Jacob Davis is a first-year from New York, NY. He can be reached at email@example.com. Max Hines is a sophomore from Pound Ridge, NY. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.