The Palestra to host doubleheader in January to commemorate Big 5’s 60th anniversary

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When it comes to rivalries in college sports, the majority of them tend to focus on two programs that play on a frequent basis. That’s what makes the Big 5 different, in that it matches five programs in the Philadelphia metropolitan area (La Salle, Penn, Saint Joseph’s, Temple and Villanova) who meet annually with the winner being crowned “league” champion for that particular year.

And with the Big 5’s 60th anniversary coming in 2016, it was announced Wednesday that the Big 5 will bring back an old tradition for one night in January.

The old tradition: a doubleheader at The Palestra, which through the years has hosted many Big 5 games (including many that didn’t involve the Quakers before teams began hosting their home games on their respective campuses). The games will be held January 20, with La Salle hosting Temple and Penn hosting Saint Joseph’s.

“The Athletics Directors wanted to do something very special to celebrate this unique achievement,” Big 5 Executive Director Steve Bilsky said in the release. “We thought nothing would capture its history better than a competition to be held in the famed Cathedral of Basketball.

“The fact that we were able to pull it off in a very challenging college basketball scheduling environment is a credit to the AD’s, coaches, and conference commissioners, all of whom displayed tremendous perseverance and flexibility.”

The last time there’s been a doubleheader involving Big 5 teams was back in December 2004, with Temple beating Villanova, Penn taking care of La Salle and Saint Joseph’s falling to Drexel. Drexel, which wasn’t a Division I member when the Big 5 was created (they didn’t move up until the 1973-74 season), is also a city school but is not part of the Big 5.

This plan to bring back the Big 5 doubleheader, if only for one day, will be a fun “flashback” in a sense to what the rivalry used to be. That’s something that was lost once being in a conference took on greater importance in the 1980’s, which impacted the way in which some programs scheduled in non-conference play.

While it may be difficult for the Big 5 to go back to the days of consistent doubleheaders at The Palestra for that reason, hopefully this leads to the powers that be considering an annual doubleheader for future seasons.