Amid Palestra downer, Big 5 may have a TV future

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St. Joseph’s decision to move its Big 5 games out of the Palestra next season may not sit well with college hoops purists, but it’s hard to blame the Hawks.

They’re just trying to win games.

For the first time in Big 5 history, St. Joe’s will play Philadelphia rival Villanova at Hagen Arena, then do the same with Temple during Atlantic 10 play. The Owls have won nine straight meetings between the two. ‘Nova has won 11 of the last 14. And last season, St. Joe’s was 0-5 vs. the Big 5.

Coach Phil Martelli figures this gives the Hawks a chance to boost waning fan interest and win a few. If the fans aren’t there, what’s the point?

“I’m making a real concerted effort to get that student season-ticket body back to a thousand strong,” Martelli told the Philadelphia Daily News. “It impacts our play. It impacts our recruiting. It impacts the image of the program.

“I am loud and clear on my love of the Palestra. I’m loud and clear on my love of the tradition, Philadelphia basketball. At this moment in time, if somebody wants to say that this is a selfish act or it’s two-faced, at least they’re talking about us.”

However, the future of the Big 5 appears to be bright.

The Daily News also reports that a local businessman is leading an effort to have Big 5 schools – St. Joe’s, Temple, Villanova, La Salle and Penn – have a tournament-style, made-for-TV event with New York City schools such as Fordham, Manhattan, Iona and Columbia. (I’d hope St. John’s also is involved.)

The hope is to attract corporate sponsors, then get the whole thing on TV, possibly on ABC or NBC.

That, fellow hoopheads, would be delightful TV. Games in the Palestra, Madison Square Garden and other venues, featuring basketball-first schools? Sign me up.

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