Tom Muldoon, the former long-time head of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, proposed an interesting new twist in Big 5 play. He hopes that the Big 5 schools -- Villanova, Temple, Penn, La Salle and St. Joes -- will take the court against five Division 1 schools from New York City. Those New York schools would include Fordham, Columbia, Manhattan, Iona and one other (possibly St. Johns).
If he is successful, the tournament will take place in fall 2012.
Muldoon's supporters include Phillies owner David Montgomery (a Penn alum); Dan Fitzpatrick, the CEO of Citizens Bank (a La Salle alum); Davd Reznick, a Temple booster; Villanova's Bob Melchionni; and John J. Griffin, a donor of St. Joes Athletics. Reportedly other prominent figures are also involved.
They hope to secure a sizeable contract for the broadcast rights to the event, which would certainly get them in the ear of any university president or athletics director. Talks have already been underway with ABC and NBC, two networks that reportedly have a lot of connections to the Philadelphia area.
A meeting is set up for next week for the New York schools at the under-construction Barclays Center -- or somewhere nearby, presumably. Muldoon and his associates will try to persuade the New Yorkers to take part in his event and maybe look for their aid in recruiting a fifth school.
The real question is: Will anyone care?
The Big 5 has become notoriously non-competitive in recent years. The winner of the Villanova/Temple match-up is all but guaranteed to hang on and win the round-robin. Meanwhile, none of the New York schools mentioned have proven to be consistent powerhouses or even strong television draws over the past few years. Barring the addition of St. Johns, you can be sure that the New York schools are unlikely to put up much of a fight.
That's not to say that this concept can't work, but New York City needs to reestablish it's college basketball passion first. New York doesn't have a Big 5 that play each other in a round robin each year. There are local rivalries, but nothing formalized like in Philadelphia. The Big 5 is a formal arrangement and a brand for Philadelphia hoops that isn't matched by anything in New York.
Instead of rushing into a hastily-thrown-together tournament in 2012, the New York schools should establish their own Big 5, and build a reputation and following to grow the game again in the city. The Manhattan/Fordham rivalry used to be on par with the Holy War in Philadelphia, but after a long period of local apathy for the game, few even know how heated it used to be.
2011-12 would have been the perfect time to start something like that locally, with the NBA lockout appearing to be ready to carry through the season, but just announcing its creation may be enough to stoke local interest.
Once New York has it's own Big 5, then we can talk about a New York/Philadelphia Challenge -- not a tournament, but a Big East/SEC or Big Ten/ACC style arrangement where the two groups play a five games, and rotate opponents every year.
The plan as proposed, however, seems contrived and one has to wonder if the fans will really take to it.
(Hat-tip: Mike Miller/NBC)