It has been a Big 5 tradition since the 1950s for students of the various schools to bring long signs containing fortune-cookie-like statements, insults and other messages to unfurl and pass down the student section for the delight of the crowd and disdain of the opponent. Throughout the hey-day of the Big 5, where games were played in double-headers at the Palestra, student sections would arrive prepared to trade barbs via these signs. Four of the Big 5 schools have maintained that tradition.
Villanova students, however, have not. It isn't really their fault though. There has long been a policy at the Pavilion that banned signs from the on-campus arena. Roll-out signs are nearly impossible to get past security and on the few occasions where the student section begins to unfurl one, it will rarely be passed more than a few rows down before event staff will come and rip it apart.
There are legitimate reasons to ban signs. Signs can be offensive, and no school wants to be responsible for an "f-bomb" getting on television. Signs can also block the view of some patrons when held up -- but that is less of a concern for the student section, which unanimously participates in the roll-out, which is long and thin and only blocks a student's view for a few seconds as it passes over their head.
The last time a roll-out appeared on campus it was during the filming of College GameDay's morning show last year. Students were not only permitted to bring signs, but were encouraged to do so for that show. Signs were inspected as the students entered to ensure nothing improper would be shown on TV.
Meanwhile, just this season, numerous signs have entertained fans at Big 5 games involving other schools.
Penn students rolled out a sign at their Temple game stating, "Congrats on the Big East," a subtle jab at Temple's ongoing angst over being left out of the current round of Big East expansion. They followed that with, "Temple: Where you go to pray that (maybe) we will employ you."
It is always best when an opposing student section also brings signs to roll-out, when possible. Penn students reportedly came armed with roll-out signs to their game at the Pavilion this month, that were confiscated by security (St. Joes students have managed to sneak the signs into the Pavilion in the past). One of those signs read, "JayVaugn Pinkston, redshirting or orangejumpsuiting?"
Last night at the Temple game, the students rolled out a total of 8 signs, making fun of everything from the reported Villanova opposition to Temple joining the Big East, to Villanova's plan to play football games at PPL Park. "PPL Park Football Futbol Stadium," is the type of jab that gives the fans in attendance a good laugh in the middle of a game.
Villanova takes plenty of those jabs via roll-out sign, but students are not allowed to return the favor. For a school that has worked so hard to try and overcome the accusation that it tried to kill off the city's Big 5 basketball tradition, why outlaw participation in a big part of it?
Fans complain about the effect of the "wine and cheese" crowd on the atmosphere at Pavilion games, but atmosphere is driven by the student section. It is also driven by traditions. The Cameron Crazies have developed a tradition at Duke that creates one of the best college basketball atmospheres out there. The Big 5 used to be up there with those schools on Tobacco Road for atmosphere, but the dismantling of Big 5 traditions has diminished that greatly.
Should Villanova change the sign policy at the Pavilion? Who would be hurt if the students could roll out a well-placed insult joke at the expense of a local rival?