For 60th birthday, Philly’s Big 5 revives doubleheader tradition Wednesday

A storied Philadelphia basketball tradition is getting fresh legs this week.

On Wednesday, the Palestra will host a Big 5 doubleheader, with Temple taking on La Salle, followed by St. Joe’s and Penn in the late game.

 

Twinbills at Penn’s famous arena were the norm in the early days of the Big 5 competition, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this season. But after the other schools built their own on-campus facilities, doubleheaders faded out of fashion. Villanova rounds out the group, which plays each year in a round-robin format.

First year Penn Quaker coach Steve Donahue grew up on those doubleheaders, and is excited to have his chance to take part.

“I don’t think there is anything like it in college basketball, where you can find four major Division I teams playing under the same roof on the same night. It is incredible, four sets of fans, rooting their hearts out for their program,” he said. “It is very unique.”

Wednesday’s game will be the first Big 5 doubleheader since 2004. Nationally ranked Villanova has won bragging rights for the past two seasons, and can lock up a third straight undefeated run with a win over Temple next month.

“I think we have something so great here in the city,” added Donahue. “I would love us to do anything we can to preserve it. I think all the coaches feel that way. Going forward, we are going to try to make the Big 5 as good as it has ever been, if not better.”

Donahue wouldn’t say if the tradition of fans throwing streamers after each team’s first basket will make an appearance at the Palestra. The NCAA made a rule change, requiring referees to call a technical foul on the team whose fans rain down crepe paper. In recent years, the coaches have told their players to simply step over the free throw line, so their shots won’t count.

BELOW: Streamers hit the court during a Big 5 game between La Salle and Temple in 2014.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.