Jay Wright a Proponent of New Big Five Classic - "It's Something We've Been Talking About for Years"
It’ll be Temple vs. St. Joe’s for the Big 5 title on Saturday, following a pair of ridiculous Wednesday games in which the Owls outlasted La Salle in three overtimes and the Hawks upset Villanova on the road. That gives us some JUICE going into the inaugural Big 5 classic tripleheader, which now looks like this:
Nova lost to both Penn and St. Joe’s in pod play, so they open against Drexel at 2 p.m. at the Wells Fargo Center. It’s La Salle and Penn in consolation game 1, then Temple/SJU for the title.
Jay Wright is enjoying retirement and won’t be coaching in the tripleheader, but he’s a proponent of the event and excited for it.
“I love this,” he said on Monday’s episode of Crossing Broadcast. “It’s something we’ve been talking about for years, and to finally put this together, I think Dan Hilferty was a big part of this, and to have Comcast-Spectacor behind this is really good for the city of Philadelphia and good for the teams. It’s hard for traditional Big 5 fans to understand, that as college basketball changed, and TV contracts changed, it’s so difficult to schedule these games. As much fun as the games are, it can actually affect your next game sometimes, or your previous games. It was actually sometimes hurting Big 5 teams, where you had to put this game in on Sunday, you’ve got a league game on Monday, but it’s a Big 5 game and you’re emotionally invested, then you come to your first league game and you’re not ready. That’s a little bit of an exaggeration, but it did happen sometimes.”
Wright noted that Big 5 games would get lost in the scheduling process, diminishing the significance and awareness of local competition.
“I know we would sometimes play Temple in February,” he continued. “Because it was Temple’s home game and ESPN had the rights, and they would dictate that’s where they wanted the game, which was great to get it on ESPN, but Temple would be playing Houston right before us, we’d be playing Connecticut, it would be crazy. And then, you didn’t know who the Big 5 champion was, because you never knew when it ended or when it started. We always wanted this to be a positive for the teams and a positive for Philadelphia basketball. Now, you’re gonna know who the Big 5 champion is. It would end sometimes and no one even knew that the Big 5 season ended. You’re gonna know who the champion is. You’re going to get to see everybody. And as we build this thing, everybody in the Big 5 should make money off this tournament for their programs. In the past, everybody lost money on Big 5 games, because the schools all invested in these games but lost money.”
When we had Fran Dunphy on the show a few weeks ago, the veteran Philly native and coach spoke about the idea of Philadelphia providing so many sports and entertainment options in 2023. There are four pro teams in the city limits, the Union in Chester, concerts, restaurants, and events, but the figurative attention pie doesn’t expand. It remains finite.
Wright is keen to that idea of oversaturation, and the thought that the Big 5 needed to evolve and find a new way to carve out a city niche.
“This where I applaud Dan Hilferty, because he has started to build this and promote this,” Wright said. “There used to be a director of the Big 5. That was back in the day, when you had doubleheaders at The Palestra, and teams were making money, and it was a good business venture, too. But now there is no organization of the Big 5, it’s just the athletic directors or the schools. We could keep building this thing, where you’ve got a TV contract, where teams are making money, they share the revenue, or we add Coaches vs. Cancer to this, where we benefit cancer research in the city – and really make this thing a big event. To Fran’s point, you’d have a Big 5 game, let’s say Temple/Villanova, the winner of that game is Big 5 champion, and the game was in February, and the Sixers had a game, and Flyers had a game, and St. Joe’s was playing Dayton for first place in the Atlantic 10, and no one even knew (about the Big 5 title). If this is the same weekend, and we know when it is, people know that’s what they do on that weekend, over time I think it could really become a great event in Philadelphia.”
Here’s the full interview with Jay: