Dancers Stand for 46: Why The Arbitrary Number?
THON began as a 30-hour dance marathon back in 1973. Because the philanthropy’s inaugural year was so successful, the time was extended to 48 hours the following year. However, THON 2007 was cut down to be 46 hours long. The reason? It might surprise you.
According to Daily Collegian archive articles, in early 2006 then-President Graham Spanier spoke with the Big Ten Conference to make sure that no basketball games would be held in the BJC during THON weekend. During those talks, the Big Ten asked if it would be possible for the BJC to be ready to host a game Sunday night.
Then-THON Overall Chairperson Evan Jacobs said the decision to cut THON to 46 hours was not due to a push from the administration, but instead was the choice of the THON Overall Committee. The Committee was faced with the decision to either hold THON in Rec Hall (thus accommodating fewer spectators) or sticking to the decision to move THON to the BJC and shaving a few hours off at the end to allow enough time for the building to be transformed and ready to host a basketball game.
The Daily Collegian archives also note that there were other things considered in the decision to shorten the time length of THON.
“[2007 Overall Chairman Mike] Funk said dancer health and safety were also factors in the decision to shorten THON. The shortened schedule will allow participating students to have more recovery time, such as a few more hours off their feet and more time to sleep Sunday night. The shortened schedule will help out academically in the days following THON.”
There were considerations to start THON earlier in order to be able to hold it the traditional 48 hours, but the 2007 Overall Committee decided against it.
The decision to trim THON down to 46 hours and hold it in the BJC was a good one for spectators and Four Diamonds families alike. The Daily Collegian wrote, “THON officials chose to move THON 2007 to the BJC because it will better accommodate the large crowd THON draws to State College every year. Because of overcrowding, the doors to Rec Hall were closed four times during THON 2006.”
Closed doors to THON? That sounds familiar! The decision to stay in the BJC also allowed Four Diamonds families easier access to dancers, as well as the ability to remain in the same building throughout THON weekend, something they couldn’t do in Rec Hall.
For now, it seems pretty certain that THON will stick to its 46 hour timeline in the BJC, but with its ever-growing size, a change will have to come eventually. THON is quickly outgrowing the BJC.