Villanova gets blamed for the downfall of the Philadelphia Big 5 by fans of the other Philadelphia schools, by reporters, and even by the former Governor of Pennsylvania. Whether Villanova was culpable or not is a matter for another day. The Big 5 has been beaten up and bruised a bit over the years, but it lives on as an annual round-robin city series.
Villanova fans are largely characterized as anti-Big 5 by Philadelphians, and that may be partially because so many Villanovans are not from Philadelphia. While some Villanova students hail from the Philadelphia metropolitan area, many come to the Main Line from New York or Boston, or from further afield, and the tradition of a city round-robin just isn't ingrained in the culture of many (any?) other locales.
Even the players may question the Big 5's relevance when they come from further away.
Not Maalik Wayns, though.
The Philadelphia Daily News' Mike Kern spoke to Wayns and his friend, Ramone Moore of Temple, in a preseason question-and-answer session. Wayns had a bit to say about the Big 5 tradition.
"When you're from Philly and you're playing in the city, playing in the Big 5, you know it means way more to you than it does to a guy who comes from New York to play (here), or something like that," Wayns told the Daily News. "So every game in the Big 5, you know it's just, whether you're playing against a Xavier or like I play against Syracuse, it's just as much significance.
"I care about Big 5 a whole lot, watching it growing up. It's just as important to me, even more important, because you've got to see those guys throughout the summer, the year, (even) the rest of your life. We hang out together, so it's like bragging rights really."
While some Villanova fans decry the Big 5 as weak scheduling, the Wildcats' non-conference strength of schedule is about middle-of-the-pack for a Big East team this season. Games against Temple are tough and hard fought and teams like St. Joes and La Salle have given Villanova a challenge as well in recent years despite finishing at or near the bottom of the Atlantic 10.
As much as many of us dream of a day when Villanova could schedule UNC, Duke, Michigan State and UCLA in the same December, it would seem more likely that the end of the Big 5 would see more Monmouth's added to the schedule. A10 schools replaced with MAAC and NEC programs would hardly be an improvement, but would certainly be more likely for a major conference program seeking to run up its win total before taking some losses in conference play.
The Big 5 is a tradition for Philadelphia. While Villanovans are not necessarily born into that tradition, shouldn't those November and December games against cross-town rivals baptize the Main Line fan into it?
Perhaps what it would take, is a return to the Palestra double-headers. Splitting the crowd at mid-court and watching as dueling student sections unfurl their roll-out signs insulting each other, questioning players personal habits and on occasion, saying something nice about their own school, used to be the hallmark of the Big 5 contest.
That tradition was lost when Villanova and Temple (yes, Temple was making the same move), broke off from the round robin series in 1991 in order to play a more "national" schedule and seek out bigger television exposure. The double-headers were no more and games were scheduled on campus sites. Even when the round robin contests began anew in 1999, the unique character of playing Big 5 games in Palestra double-headers were gone.
Somewhere along the line, the Villanova students may have forgotten how to make a roll-out sign as well. The only roll-out sign spotted in the Villanova student section last season was a St. Joes prank, reading, "the Hawk Will Never Die."
If the Big 5 is going to mean anything to Villanovans, the school and it's fans must re-embrace the tradition and the rivalry.