May 2330, 1996
Move Over 'Nova
A Drexel senior thinks the Big Five hoops tourney would be wise to boot Villanova.
By Scott Farmelant
Drexel senior Adam Blyweiss has a message for the Villanova University's men's basketball squad. Yo 'Cats, leave the Big Five.
It's heresy to 'Nova fans, but Blyweiss, via his "Revive the Five!" senior project in Drexel's corporate communications program, concludes the Wildcats have outgrown the city's and arguably the nation's greatest college basketball tourney.
If the Villanova Wildcats ditched the league, says Blyweiss, his school could move into the Big Five fold, the tourney could return to a round-robin format, and glory would return to Philly college hoops.
Blyweiss' rah-rah scholastic exercise titled "Revive the Five!" is also flexible. Should 'Nova wish to stay in the Big Five, which the Main Line college vows to do, no problemo. Says Blyweiss, bring on Drexel and voil, The Big Six.
While Blyweiss, a corporate communications major and avowed sports junkie, awaits his ultimate fate, i.e. his final grade, others are ready with their marks. The outgoing senior, say those who should know, has a great idea. Even if it will never come to pass.
Gene DeFilippo, Villanova's athletic director, stresses his school's commitment to the Big Five. But DeFilippo, who has only skimmed Blyweiss' report, lauds the senior for supporting the Drexel team. DeFilippo says the Drexel Dragons, who went 28-5 this past season, can compete with Philly's finest college teams.
"Do I think [Drexel] is ready?" DeFilippo says. "You know it. Drexel has an excellent, excellent program. [Drexel coach] Bill Herrion has not done a good job, but an excellent one. I have the utmost respect for Drexel. They proved they can play with anyone."
"Any idea to include Drexel [in the Big Five] is a good idea," adds John Chaney, Temple's sage basketball coach. "But Philadelphia is the worst city in the world to do away with tradition. You cannot find 15 people who are involved in basketball in this city who are willing to accept the idea of change [in the Big Five]. To try and reinvent it or re-establish it, these people will fight it. They're saying no."
Drexel coach Herrion welcomes Blyweiss' message but seems resigned to a future without change.
"I'm going to be honest, I don't get too involved with [Big Five politics]," Herrion says. "It's just out of our hands here. From our standpoint, we would do anything to be a part of the Big Five. But it's way more important for Drexel to play [Big Five] schools than it is for those schools to play us. It's really out of our hands so you don't worry about it too much."
Nevertheless, if the Big Five phones, Drexel will be in the league without a second's thought.
"The Big Six?" Herrion says. "We'd welcome it with open arms. If [the other schools] ever invited us to be a part of the Big Five ... we've got to come to the party."
In a sense, Drexel is more Big Five than Villanova. In the coming '96-97 season, the Dragons will face St. Joe's, LaSalle, and UPenn (the latter match-up has not happened in nearly 80 years) while 'Nova is slated to play just St. Joe's and UPenn.
As Blyweiss stresses in his report, the Big Five's decisions to reduce the league schedule and to hold on-campus games have yielded huge gripes from the public.
During 1955-86, member schools LaSalle, UPenn, St. Joseph's, Temple and Villanova played a round-robin tourney, with each squad meeting once a season inside the Palestra, UPenn's on-campus gym. In '86, the schools agreed to move games away from the Palestra (where the first team to score littered the floor with streamers) in favor of the on-campus setting. By May 1991, the league pared the round robin to a two-game round format. That meant Big Five schools played each other just once every two years.
Does anybody care about the watered-down Big Five anymore? Chaney suggests not.
"Did you see who won the Big Five this year?" Chaney asks. "The mayor used to have the champion down to City Hall and give out a trophy every year. But I don't think he gave out one last year. We won and we weren't even called. The City of Philadelphia's attitude towards the Big Five is one of indifference."
Uh, coach, didn't Temple also win the '95-96 Big Five title with a 2-0 record?
"I think so, but I don't know," says Chaney. "I'll have to look it up."
Chaney's words help explain why Blyweiss took on the Big Five. Sure, Blyweiss needed a senior project to graduate. The main thing, though "the first thing that I wrote down on scraps of paper," Blyweiss says was to restore the tarnished Big Five while getting Drexel into the fold.
Though the impact of Blyweiss' work will likely be blunted by the city's entrenched basketball bureaucracy, Ron Bishop, an instructor in the humanities and communications departments, salutes Blyweiss for "one of the best senior projects" he's seen at Drexel.
"Adam really dug in and came up with a workable implementation plan," says Bishop, Blyweiss' project advisor. "It's really up to the member schools to react to it and see if they want to take Adam's work and put it into action."
On Monday, June 3, at 3:30p.m., Blyweiss will present and defend his project in Rm. 4011 of Drexel's MacAlister Hall, 33rd and Chestnut streets. The public is invited to attend.