A rivalry in decline: Does anyone still care about the Big 5?
The Temple News 12/20/22
The Big 5 is as passé as DVDs, Blockbuster’s and 8 tracks. Its heyday was back in the 1960s and 1970s where Palestra Big Five games were sellouts complete with noisy student sections, raunchy rollouts and streamers after the first basket. The building rocked back then.
Today’s Big 5 games are played with the passion of a CYO game.
The Big 5 has become the Big 1. At a recent Big 5 doubleheader featuring LaSalle vs Temple and St Joe’s vs Penn, only 3300 people showed up. Watching the games on TV, I noticed that as the camera panned the crowd, that many in attendance were alumni of decades past, a lot of gray hairs. The squeaks of sneakers on the gym floor were louder than the desultory cheers of a largely disinterested crowd.
It’s been a long time since a Big 5 school other than Villanova could attract or recruit a five star prospect. Past coaches were colorful and respected recruiters and strategicians. They could take unheralded players, many who were local stars, and create disciplined and competitive teams. It’s hard to know or remember the names of the current Big 5 coaches especially since Jay Wright has retired.
Fran Dunphy is the current dean of Big 5 coaches with his current stint at LaSalle and past head coaching jobs at Temple and Penn. If he can hold out a few more years, he could land a potential future job at St Joe’s. (St Joe’s has not had a winning season since 2015-16 season.)
Pro teams, in the distant past, would scout for NBA eligible players in Philly but there is only one potential draft prospect and he predictably plays for Villanova (Cam Whitmore).
One does not see much hope for the NCAA tournament with the exception of Villanova but they need quite an improvement to achieve the Sweet 16 if they get in. Shown below are current records:
St Joe’s 5-6
The Athletic has reported that representatives from the Big 5 schools plus Drexel have been meeting on plans to revive the Big 5 spirit and rivalries.
I wish them luck and offer this piece of advice:
To generate fan interest, you need exciting and competitive teams. To field competitive teams, you need outstanding players. To attract outstanding players, you need outstanding coaches and facilities. To interest and hire outstanding coaches, you need $$$, plenty of $$$.