To those that don’t know,
the Philadelphia Big Five is college basketball.
This is no exaggeration, either; there is nothing in
college sports more special than Big Five basketball.
From the outside looking in this doesn’t seem
to be so. Let’s face it, the teams are not national
powers and only one of them, Villanova, even plays in
a “Power Conference,” the Big East. However,
to understand the greatness that is the Big Five you
have to look back at its storied past.
The Big Five, which consists of the University of
Pennsylvania, LaSalle, Temple, St. Joes & Villanova
(we’ll get to Drexel in a minute) was formed in
1954 in order to take advantage of the rarity that Philadelphia
possesses - five major universities with great athletic
programs all within a 20 mile radius of each other.
No other city in the nation can match this. And can
you believe there was a time when all five of these
schools were regulars in the National Top 25? There
are even a few national titles on the resume of the
Big Five. For close to five decades now the Big Five
teams have waged war with each other every year providing
college basketball with some of its greatest moments.
It’s more than just good basketball, though.
The Big Five is almost like a fraternity. The coaches
and players all know one another, the players play summer
leagues together, and the coaches are all local guys
who seem to be great friends. The coaches will do almost
anything to help each other out. For instance, when
Drexel opens its new arena in 2005 St Joe’s Head
Coach, Phil Martelli, agreed to be the Dragon’s
opponent. He said he was doing it as a favor to a friend.
If Coach Martelli and the Hawks couldn’t make
it, rest assured another school from the City of Brotherly
Love would gladly accept.
So the Big Five has great history, great teams and
camaraderie between programs that is unmatched in college
sports, is there anything else? Well just one thing,
and that is that most of the games are played at the
Palestra. The Palestra at UPenn is without a doubt the
single greatest arena to watch a basketball game, anywhere.
If you have never been to a game at the Palestra do
yourself a favor and walk the two blocks south and check
one out. If you happen to catch a classic match-up like
UPenn & St Joe’s you’ll witness one
of the greatest atmospheres sports has ever seen, and
don’t worry about getting a bad seat, there aren’t
any! John Feinstein of Sports Illustrated was quoted
as saying “The Palestra is to college basketball
what Fenway Park and Wrigley Field are to baseball.”
Now what about Drexel? Well like the name says, it
is the Big Five. Drexel is asked to play in the Big
Five Classic every year and we generally schedule at
least three of the five teams, however we are not officially
a member of the Big Five. The scheduling of college
basketball these days is not an easy thing and asking
all five of these schools to find an extra spot for
Drexel every year as well as asking Drexel to fill in
two more of its out-of-conference schedule with more
Philly teams is not easy to do. Also the Big Five is
all about history - a history that Drexel does not have.
However it is not all gloomy, for now we do get to play
three of the five teams, four of the five last year
thanks to an NIT bid against Temple. And in the future,
should Drexel continue to improve its team, its fan
support and its facilities, the name could be changing
to the Big Six. Until then, we’ll just have to
prove we belong on the court and in the bleachers.
For more information, visit the official
Big 5 home page.