Dick Jerardi of the Philadelphia Daily News reported yesterday that the number of Big 5 games played at the Palestra could be growing, as soon as next year.
You can read the full details over at Philly.com, but here’s the gist:
One doubleheader each year, with each team forfeiting as few home games as possible. One of the five teams will obviously need to sit out each year. The Big 5’s executive director, Steve Bilsky, also envisions a banquet, alumni game, and other festivities that would be great, but feel a little less likely to actually come to fruition.
This is certainly better than the current set-up. Big 5 games played anywhere else just don’t feel right. Despite that, I still think there’s a way to make this double header even better.
My blueprint comes not from the Big 5’s past, but from another city and another sport: The Beanpot.
Right now, Boston’s four major hockey programs are engaging in the 63rd annual Beanpot tournament. BC, BU, Northeastern, and Harvard meet on the ice for a hefty amount of bragging rights. (*cough My alma mater BC has won the last 6 in a row cough cough**). The Beanpot champs look down on the rest of the city until they are unseated at the Boston Garden a year later.
To me, this is the perfect set-up for the Big 5.
Four of the city’s teams meet at the Palestra for a doubleheader. The next night, the winner’s square off for the right to be called Philly’s best. And what of the fifth team of the five? The championship game would be preceded by a consolation game with the ultimate reward on the line: Loser sits out the tournament next season. (The only flaw here would be choosing who sits out year one. How about last place in the previous year’s Big 5 standings? Or historical records? Or any of the other 5,000 ideas that would make sense?)
Give it a snappy name like The Big 5 Challenge or the Dr. Jack Ramsay Cup and watch students, alumni, and hoop fans of all kinds flock to University City every year.
The only drawback to a set-up like this would be asking what happens to each team’s previously scheduled Big 5 games. You could still schedule around the tournament or, God forbid, a few of the Big 5 schools played each other more than once. Sure, it sounds odd, but why not? Would it kill Villanova to replace games like Delaware and Bucknell with more against their fellow Big 5 members?
That aside, I can’t think of a better way to inject life back into the back the one of the best elements of Philadelphia’s sports scene than a little friendly competition. Well, maybe not too friendly.
Shane McNichol is the founder, editor, and lone contributor at PalestraBack.com. Follow him on Twitter @OnTheShaneTrain.
(Header photo: Josh Einbinder-Schatz of CityofBasketballLove.com)